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Employee Survey Best Practices

11 Lessons Learned

This article summarizes actionable lessons learned from a comprehensive survey conducted by Quantisoft that examined employee survey practices. It contains lessons learned and actions you can take from 21 organizations, ranging from Intel and American Express to Asbury Automotive, Connecticare, Norwalk Hospital, Hubbell Incorporated, New York Life, Citigroup, Atlanticare and Tusculum College.
The current economic downturn has changed the world dramatically. It's a new ball game for every organization. Now, more than any time in the past 60+ years, current feedback from employees and customers is essential for knowing where we are, where we need to be, and for planning our organizations' futures. Conducting effective surveys provides information and insight for making informed decisions, driving positive change and significantly increasing profit and organizational sustainability.
If your organization conducts surveys, or if you are thinking of conducting a survey, this article will help you achieve excellent results and avoid pitfalls often encountered while conducting surveys.

Survey Best Practices -- Increasing Your Survey Expertise

As a survey company we are often asked questions about survey practices:
  • What is the best way to conduct surveys?
  • How can we get the highest possible response rate?
  • Should we use a survey company, or should we try to use a self-use online survey service?
  • "You are a survey expert. How would you conduct our survey?"
The questions we receive are many and varied.
While we have extensive survey experience and expertise, we decided to conduct a survey to identify employee survey best practices at organizations we do not conduct surveys for. The findings of the survey validated our own survey experience and produced interesting and useful information and insight about employee surveys.

Survey Best Practices -- Lessons Learned

  1. Types of Employee Surveys

    Participating organizations are using a wide range of employee surveys to gather information and insight for making better decisions and making informed changes. Types of surveys they conduct include:
  2. Survey Frequency

    The most common frequency for conducting surveys is annually.
  3. Satisfaction with Survey Companies vs. Self-use Survey Services

    Organizations that primarily use survey companies are significantly more satisfied with their survey process than organizations primarily using self-service online survey services. The reasons survey companies are providing greater satisfaction and value than self-service survey services include the expertise and experience provided, receiving survey reports quickly without the need to take time to generate graphs and other reports in-house, objective analysis of survey results, more focus on implementing changes, greater support and involvement from management and other factors.
  4. Effectiveness of Survey Practices

    Organizations primarily using survey companies rate the effectiveness of key survey practice significantly higher than organizations using self-service online survey services. The survey practices with the largest gaps in effectiveness ratings are receiving support from managers, producing timely useful reports, communicating survey findings, developing implementation plans, analyzing survey results and achieving results from surveys.
  5. Importance of Survey Practices

    Survey respondents identified the "most" important survey practices as:
    • keeping responses anonymous
    • conducting follow-up surveys
    • time taken to complete survey
    • analysis of survey data
  6. Survey Response Period and Response Rate

    Responding organizations strive to achieve a high survey response rate. A 2-week survey response period is most popular. A third week typically generates a higher response rate. 60% of responding organizations typically have a survey response rate of 60% or greater.
  7. Primary Survey Approach

    Online/Web surveys are the most often-used approach. Organizations are learning ways to end the use of paper surveys, even for employees that do not use computers to perform their job. 70% of responding organizations use Online/Web surveys as their primary approach, 20% use paper surveys as their primary approach and 10% use Online/Web surveys supplemented with paper surveys as their primary approach.
  8. Reasons for Conducting Employee Surveys

    The top reasons for conducting employee surveys include:
    • identifying performance improvement opportunities
    • assessing employee satisfaction and engagement levels and trends
    • part of ongoing measurement process
    • identifying causes of employee turnover
  9. Surveys Achieving Their Objectives

    Some organizations are achieving very strong results from surveys while others are falling short. Key factors for achieving survey objectives include:
    • management support for conducting surveys and implementing changes
    • using a survey company
    • executing well on all of the survey practices
    Surveys generate significant quantitative and qualitative results when designed and executed well, followed up by effective analysis and implementation of changes identified by surveys.
  10. Using Normative Benchmarking Data

    Survey respondents prefer to benchmark their survey results with survey results from other organizations. However, they are not comfortable using benchmarking data unless they can be sure the data enables "apples-to-apples" comparisons. Important for making valid benchmarking comparisons include:
    • similarity of organizations being benchmarked
    • similarity of survey questions/wording
    • common time frame for when survey data was collected
    • other factors
  11. Survey Best Practices

    Knowing and consistently following best practices is very important for successfully conducting surveys and achieving results. Organizations that fail to follow best practices for all survey practices fail to achieve the full potential results from surveys.

Actions for You to Consider -- Conducting Better Surveys

  1. Share the full Employee Survey Best Practices report with people in your organization who are responsible for conducting surveys, and with managers that can benefit from conducting surveys. To receive a free PDF version of the "Employee Survey Best Practices Report", send your request to
  2. Compare your organization's approach for conducting surveys with the best practices, lessons learned and other information and insight included in the full report available from Quantisoft. Identify and implement changes your organization can make to achieve greater results from surveys.
  3. Consider conducting surveys to gather information and insight for increasing your organization's competitiveness and bottom line in this difficult economic environment. Beyond the usual employee satisfaction/engagement surveys, other types of surveys can enable your organization to:
    • identify ways to increase sales
    • identify and manage risks more effectively
    • gather feedback for reducing costs and increasing quality and customer service levels
    • enhance your organization's "going green" profile
    • get more value from employee benefits dollars spent and much more.
  4. The world has changed dramatically during the past year. The information and insight gathered from surveys conducted just a few months ago may no longer be valid. Update previous surveys now to gather current information and adjust action plans to reflect the "new reality".
  5. Make sure to focus your organization's surveys on gathering actionable information that will positively impact employees, customers, the environment and your bottom line.
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