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Employee Survey Best Practices

Suggestions from 21 Companies

"An organization's ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage."
Jack Welch, Retired Chairman & CEO -- General Electric
This article presents verbatim suggestions and comments gathered in a comprehensive survey about employee survey best practices conducted by Quantisoft. The full survey report includes best practices, key survey findings, lessons learned and actions you can take from 21 organizations ranging from Intel and American Express to Asbury Automotive, Norwalk Hospital, Citigroup, Atlanticare, Connecticare, Hubbell Incorporated, New York Life and Tusculum College.
When surveys are conducted effectively following best practices, employee, customer and other types of surveys can achieve very significant results.

Survey Best Practices

The survey asked respondents to provide their organization's "best practices" for eight specific survey practices. Following is a sample of the "best practices" and other suggestions identified by the 21 survey respondents:
  1. Designing Surveys and Questions

    "Our survey is all about driving business results, alignment of goals, employee engagement and creating/maintaining a high performance organization."

    "Designing surveys to get lots of comments and suggestions. This feedback identifies hidden problems and opportunities and helps to understand what changes are needed."

  2. Distributing Surveys

    "Web based, kicked off with multiple communications from senior management."

    "Online surveys are the way to go, hosted by our survey company. No more paper surveys."

  3. Increasing Survey Response Rate

    "Taking action on the survey from year 1 will increase the response rate in year 2."

    "Having a survey company conduct the survey so that employees feel confident HR and senior management won't be able to identify who said what in the survey responses."

  4. Producing Useful Reports

    "Speed is the key. The survey company gets us hundreds of graphs, charts and comments reports very fast."

    "...Developing the questions is greatly driven by the data we want to get back for analysis."

  5. Analyzing Findings/Results

    "First, have the survey company analyze the results. They can provide objectivity and bring experience from other organizations to the analysis and in recommending actions. Then have your managers analyze the results as they relate to their departments. Have HR and other support departments such as IT analyze survey results that they need to take action on for the entire company."

  6. Communicating Results

    "Make sure everyone in the company sees the results. Meetings to communicate the results work best. Senior people need to see all of the results. Summary results are OK for most other people. Of course, managers that need to take action need to have access to all of the survey results that pertain to them."

    "Senior leaders should not only discuss results but should also talk about what they personally plan to do to drive change. Keep it away from being an HR initiative."

  7. Creating Implementation Plans

    "Get managers involved and make sure they include the issues that pertain to their areas. The survey company got us on the right road. The recommendations in their analysis and summary report were very useful."

  8. Achieving Results from Implementation Plans

    "We tie our areas that need improvement back into our yearly goals. Everyone here knows that their survey feedback drives our company wide goals for the following year."

    "It is important to hold managers accountable for taking action and reporting on results in their department.""

General Comments

The following comments provide an explanation for the ratings and insight about how to conduct effective surveys and avoid survey pitfalls:
  • "Make sure to tell employees that their responses will be carefully considered and acted upon where appropriate and possible, and then make sure to follow through and take action."
  • "It is important that our senior management team sees unfiltered survey feedback from employees (and from customers as well). Without it they are not getting the real story. They are too removed from day to day things they need to hear and see."

Reasons Your Organization Achieves Results from Surveys

The following are illustrative reasons why responding organizations achieve results from surveys:
  • "We take it seriously, it is supported at all levels of the organization, we take action."
  • "Asking questions that might provide feedback we are afraid to hear but that we need to hear."
  • "Our Chairman is committed to the employee survey process as well as his leadership team. We have a process in place that ensures all managers and employees hear the survey results and, in some instances follow-up focus groups are conducted to further qualify responses as well as include employees in the brainstorming and action planning process. All departments are required to submit action plans identifying 2 to 3 things they will be addressing over the next 12-18 months."

Reasons Your Organization Fails to Achieve Results from Surveys

The following are some of the reasons respondents gave for failing to achieve results from surveys:
  • "Our survey work is not well developed, sponsored and the results are not acted upon. We need to develop a better survey and execute it more universally. It requires better senior level sponsorship and better, more automated results reporting."
  • "They do not put enough thought or structure around groups created to address the issues uncovered as part of the surveys."
  • "Not coordinated across the whole business. Lack of manager competence in developing plans and enacting them."
To receive a free PDF version of the complete survey report, please send an e-mail to requesting the "Employee Survey Best Practices Report".
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