Enterprise Surveys: 10 Tips For Listening at Scale
By Bradley Wilson - September 20, 2021
While some employee survey best practices are relevant for organizations of all sizes, enterprise surveys present special challenges and opportunities. Large enterprises are often multinational and have matrix structures with tens to hundreds of thousands of employees. These factors add additional layers of complexity to survey design and analysis as well as survey administration.Though the design and deployment of a good enterprise survey can be complicated, the insights that leaders stand to gain from employee responses are invaluable. Enterprise employee surveys are powerful tools that enable leaders to better understand the experiences and perceptions of people in all areas of their organization. This understanding empowers leaders to make more informed decisions with greater speed and confidence.
At Perceptyx, we’ve had the opportunity to partner with many of the world’s most admired companies in developing and deploying complex global employee listening programs. Survey fundamentals are always important – like ensuring that the questions we ask are actionable, behaviorally observable, and clearly written. But when we work with enterprise organizations, there are some additional factors to consider in order to position everyone for success.
In this article, we’ll present 10 tips for conducting effective enterprise surveys, and look at enterprise survey questionnaire design.
For tips on listening to employees in organizations of all sizes, download the free Perceptyx guide, Continuous Listening: Developing The Right Strategy For Your Organization.
Enterprise Surveys: 10 Tips For Success
These enterprise survey tips will help teams set up their survey projects for success and increase the positive impact of their work.
- Demonstrate inclusion. The enterprise employee survey gives everyone a voice, and inclusion can be overtly and visibly communicated in the way the survey is designed and deployed.
- Make sure the survey communications, data collector (survey), and results are available in each of the languages spoken within the organization.
- Provide respondents the opportunity to answer open-ended comment questions in their preferred language. Use technology to translate, and group comments by theme for effective meta-analysis of enterprise survey data.
- Ensure the data collector and online reports are responsive and work across platforms to provide the best user experience regardless of where and how respondents interact with the survey (desktop, tablet, smartphone, etc.).
- Consider organizational identity. If your organization consists of multiple brands or operating companies, consider how employees identify with the company. Do they consider themselves employees of the parent company, or do they identify as employees of a sub-unit?
- If the company is made up of multiple brands where employees do not identify with the parent company, consider using dynamic text in the survey to ask if people would recommend their brand (by name) as a great place to work, instead of asking about the parent company.
- Consider aligning the branding of the data collector and reports with the brands that exist within the organization to reinforce that identity rather than using a single, generic enterprise-consistent style.
- Align the survey content and analysis with both organizational needs and people strategies. Enterprise survey questionnaires can meet the needs of many stakeholders within the business, but this poses another challenge, especially with a common trend toward shorter surveys.
- Identify a core question set that measures the employee experience, organizational culture, and engagement. This is “future-proof” and has questions that will remain relevant for years down the road.
- The core survey questions will provide valid and reliable measures of change over time because they remain consistent.
- Beyond the core question set, consider including some hot topics that may only be relevant for a year or two but will provide timely and relevant data for leaders.
- Some current hot topics our clients are exploring include adapting to hybrid work environments, support of employee wellbeing, and organizational change.
- Consider integrating organizational and performance data into the analysis. This can help leaders make connections between the employee experiences within the organization and the business outcomes that are priorities for the organization.
- Leverage business unit questions, but use them sparingly. Survey questions should be relevant to all respondents. A neutral response of 30% or more on a scaled survey item is a good indication that the question may not be clearly written or it may not be relevant to all respondents.
- Business unit-specific questions are a subset of questions (typically three to five) that are asked only of people within a specific business unit or other group. Survey platforms can automatically display these questions for some respondents while others remain unaware of their existence.
- These branched questions are an opportunity to ask employees about initiatives that are relevant to their experience but are not appropriate for the core question set.
- Be aware of the Pandora’s Box that can open when business unit leaders are given this opportunity, and be prepared to hold the line on the number of survey items unique to each business unit.
- Establish context. Data that exists within a vacuum is difficult to interpret. Survey data always exists within the context of the organization, culture, and market. Leverage internal and external comparisons for context.
- Internal comparisons include cross-group comparisons. This is where a core question set is helpful. If business units have unique surveys, it is difficult to make comparisons across groups at a given point in time.
- Trends are also a form of internal comparisons. Maintaining a core question set, especially around culture and engagement, will allow leaders to understand how experiences and sentiment change over time. (Using the Perceptyx technology for more robust employee lifecycle analysis can take this to the next level.)
- External benchmarks provide even greater context. While leaders within the business can compare to the enterprise overall to understand similarities and differences in their scores, executive teams and board members can benefit from comparisons against external benchmarks. They help provide context in terms of “normal” scores for any given quantitative survey item. Percentiles can provide even more granularity for the comparisons.
- Provide timely access. One of the biggest mistakes companies of all sizes can make is collecting survey data and then going dark on employees. Unfortunately, this silence sends this message loud and clear: “We asked for your opinion, but we don’t care enough to follow up.” This is the opposite of what you want to communicate, so don’t allow silence to send the wrong message.
- While full analysis of enterprise survey data can take some time, follow up quickly with employees to thank them for their participation, share some initial results, and manage expectations for next steps, action planning, and further updates.
- Employees do not naturally connect the dots between the feedback they provide on surveys and improvements that happen as a result. Incorporate the survey results into ongoing communications and encourage managers to foster ongoing dialogue so the feedback becomes part of the culture as opposed to an event that happens in isolation.
- Use dashboards, toolkits, and online reporting portals to ensure results get back into the hands of managers as quickly as possible. This gives them the opportunity to review results with their team and involve them in the action planning process, so planning is something that happens with employees’ participation, rather than something that happens to them.
- Rethink response rates. For a research project where we want to establish a connection between variables, data from a few hundred respondents would be sufficient. An enterprise survey, however, is more than just research. We want employees to have a voice, and we want to communicate inclusion, so we need to encourage and enable participation. Among Perceptyx clients, response rates on enterprise census surveys of 75-85% are typical and dramatically increase reporting capabilities.
- When organizations achieve higher response rates, 80% or more of their employees remember their participation in the survey. Their investment of time in completing the survey increases their buy-in when it comes to action planning based on the results–because they know their voice was captured in the data.
- The goal should not be 100% response; participation is still optional. If leaders or managers strive for full participation, they may be tempted to engage in negative behavior like singling out employees who they believe have not responded.
- The Perceptyx platform can send reminder emails to survey invitees without making them feel singled out or identifying any individual’s response status to their manager.
- Clarify expectations for reporting and data access early in the project. If the survey is a pulse to give the CEO a sense of sentiment or feedback on a new initiative, then a smaller sample can suffice. But if we want managers to get access to results from their team, we need more participation.
- An effective communication plan will create awareness and anticipation for the survey.
- Follow through after the survey. The best way to encourage participation in the future is to show the organization values feedback and will do something with it.
- Work smarter with comment data. Leverage sentiment, thematic analysis, and word frequency tools to help interpret comments.
- Some executives pride themselves on reading every comment. In smaller organizations this can work, but with enterprise organizations, the total word count from open-ended comments can be greater than the length of War and Peace. Using tools and technology is not just efficient, it can provide a better picture of what people are saying than reading all comments start to finish.
- Be aware of bias, especially when reading comments. We naturally latch on to comments that reinforce our previously held beliefs or ones that we strongly disagree with. It’s possible that neither is a representation of most respondents’ feelings. There is value in understanding an individual's perceptions and lived experiences – but we need to minimize the temptation to generalize those feelings to a broader population unless we are seeing similar comments multiple times.
- Segment data and use comments for context and color. One powerful trick to use when working with enterprise survey data sets is to first filter the data by scaled survey response and then focus on the comments.
- If resources are a challenge within a specific group, focus on comment responses from the group that disagreed or strongly disagreed that they have the resources they need. Those respondents’ recommendations to improve the company will be more likely to present specific ideas and suggestions about resources. Filtering allows digestion of just a few dozen comments instead of hundreds or even thousands.
- Add context to the comments. Filtering first can provide context for comment review. Knowing that a comment came from a high performer who is questioning their future with the company is very different from reading similar feedback in a different context.
Although there are unique challenges and complexities associated with conducting enterprise surveys, these tips will help you collect and identify the most relevant data for solving business problems and making improvements. To make the task easier, it’s critical to select a survey partner that understands the complexity of your enterprise survey – and a survey platform that can handle the unique challenges of enterprise surveys.
See the way forward to the perfect survey strategy for your organization.
The Perceptyx survey platform gives you the flexibility to develop a listening strategy that fits the needs of your organization. Combined with support from our analytics experts, our platform can help you keep your finger on the pulse of your people’s perceptions, so you can provide the support they need to be engaged and productive – no matter where they are in your organization.
Request a demo to see how we can help your organization develop the perfect listening strategy for your enterprise.