The Perfect Survey Strategy

By Perceptyx - January 19, 2021

In a video presentation for the recent Perceptyx Innovations Conference, Brett Wells, Director of People Analytics at Perceptyx, discussed the perfect survey strategy. 

His conclusion: There isn’t one. 

Because no two companies are exactly the same, no two listening programs should be exactly the same. Each organization has its own challenges and problems to solve; their individual survey strategy should address the issues unique to them. In this presentation, Wells enumerates the most important themes for developing the perfect survey strategy for your organization. If you’d prefer to watch the presentation rather than read, click on the video above.

Start With A Purpose

It’s easy to conduct a bad survey, and difficult to conduct a great one. For this reason, it’s important to incorporate research-backed principles into the design of your survey strategy to guide you in the right direction and get the most benefit from your program. Given the relative ease of surveying with the tools now available, it’s critical to first understand why you want to conduct a survey. These days, the what and how of survey administration is much easier to answer than the why—but without the why, the survey lacks strategic purpose and value. 

Many struggle to answer why they want to survey. But this basic question is crucial to the success of the survey and the organization’s ability to use the data to enhance organizational effectiveness and employee engagement. Without a clear purpose, a survey becomes a “check the box” exercise—not a strategic driver. 

Asking the following questions will help you determine what information you need to gain from surveying:

  • Why do we want to conduct an employee survey?
  • What business problems are we trying to solve?
  • How does the survey support and inform our strategy going forward?
  • If we had the answers to these questions, what would we do with the information? What decisions would we make differently if we knew the answers to these questions?
  • What are the goals of the organization, as communicated to employees and investors? 

It’s important to understand the business strategy and long-term goals and plans before designing any questions; the questions you ask should provide answers to support the strategy. 

Next, ask questions that can help you identify and address business barriers:

  • What is the market like?
  • What are the needs of our customers?
  • Who are our competitors, and what are their product and service offerings?
  • How are we performing on attracting, engaging, and retaining employees?
  • What are the leadership capabilities of our workforce?
  • What will our workforce look like in three to five years, and how will their skills differ from our current workforce?

For tips on taking action in response to survey feedback, download the free Perceptyx Insights Brief: If You Ask, Ask, Ask, Then You’d Better Act, Act, Act.

Secure Buy-In

Interview key leaders and stakeholders to find out what insights from employees are most important to them, so you can craft questions that will provide answers they need. Also, educate stakeholders on the survey—what it can do for them beyond tracking engagement. Sharing this information, the communications plan, and the timeline with leaders and stakeholders secures buy-in and participation for your survey program. Summarize the why, what, and how of the program so everyone is on the same page. 

Survey Program Themes 

There are a number of different types of surveys; the types you include in your program, and how often you survey, should be a function of why you are surveying and what you need to know about. Focus on asking the right people the right questions at the right time in the right way to get the answers you need. 

Design your program by choosing from the following themes, and the survey types that support them: 

  • Communication: A continuous listening program to fine tune the employee experience relies on a variety of survey types—census, pulse, and lifecycle surveys might all be part of a continuous listening program.
  • Census: Annual census surveys provide an overview of the experience throughout the entire organization, and a rich data set for tracking and comparisons.
  • Lifecycle: Lifecycle surveys listen during the “moments that matter” in the employee experience—onboarding, promotions/transitions, and exits—to identify ways of improving the experience in every stage of the life cycle.
  • Pulses: Frequent pulse surveys take the pulse of employee sentiment to identify barriers to engagement and improve the employee experience. Pulses are also useful for exploring on a deeper level issues identified in census or other surveys.

All these survey types come together to inform the employee experience framework, which flows into a positive flywheel effect: People participate to the extent that they perceive their participation will help them attain their desired measure of success. The act of asking for feedback, and then following up with specific, appropriate actions, communicates to employees that their voices are being heard and they can make a difference.

Instead Of Ask-Ask-Ask, Act-Act-Act

Many organizations have questions about how often they should survey. The answer to that is you should survey as often as needed—if you can take action. Research from the Josh Bersin Academy shows that organizations that surveyed through the COVID-19 pandemic and followed up with action were more than two times as likely to meet financial goals as organizations that neither surveyed nor took action.

Other research asked organizations about their satisfaction with their listening strategy, and found the biggest pain point (52% unfavorable) was the action planning process. While no two listening strategies are identical (nor should they be), Perceptyx recommends action planning for all organizations. Again, if all you do is ask, surveys become a check-the-box exercise instead of a means of supporting business strategy and driving improvement.

We have developed an evidence-based method for taking action, which is simple but has a big impact—and works with all listening strategies. The 1,2,3 model for action planning and implementation is effective for spurring behavioral change and improving engagement at the grassroots team level:

  1. Choose one issue to focus on for action.
  2. Take two actions to address the issue.
  3. Communicate three times about the action taken and how it relates to employee feedback. 

Analysis of our research database bears out the importance of action. Of organizations that surveyed frequently but did not consistently take action, only 8% saw an increase in engagement, while 74% of organizations that surveyed and consistently took action saw engagement increase—and scored almost 80% above average on engagement. 

Key Survey Strategy Takeaways 

When designing your survey program, these are the key points to consider:

  • Focus on the why—the reasons for seeking feedback.
  • Action is more important than having the perfect survey strategy.
  • Follow the path of act, act, act.
  • It’s never too late to borrow best practices from the best performing companies.
  • Start measuring the value of listening and acting.

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—even during challenging times. Request a demo to see how we can help your organization develop the perfect listening strategy for your needs.

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