Customer experience has been a popular business topic for a while, and rightly so. Without customers, you don’t have a business. The same can also be said for employees. Employees are a main driver for your brand, revenue, and profitability. Yet many organizations don’t monitor or evaluate their employee experience as carefully as they track customers.
The tipping point
If you own or manage a small business, you can talk to your employees one-on-one to gauge how they feel about their role and hear their perceptions of the workplace environment and operational structure. Once you pass the level of around 50 employees, however, you should conduct more formal employee research to truly understand their expectations and perceptions.
Employee research methods
Many organizations utilize employee surveys to understand employee engagement and satisfaction. Surveys provide several advantages, including:
- Easily-analyzed data
- Results that can be trended year over year
- A private way for employees to share feedback
- Quick and efficient administration
It is important, however, to consider which method is best for your organization at any point in time. It may be that focus group discussions will reveal more insights or help you better understand an employee-related challenge or opportunity. We have conducted numerous employee focus groups, and it is often surprising what emerges in those discussions. These can be topics that may not have been foreseen in the development of survey questions. Individual interviews can also be helpful, especially with those in management positions who may be reluctant to share their viewpoints in the presence of others. A more robust, mixed-methods approach can provide key data and rich insights, and this approach may be especially suitable if it’s been a long time since employee research was last conducted or if there are important workplace challenges you are trying to understand.
If your organization has questions about your benefit packages or is considering making changes to those, analytical tools such as MaxDiff (also known as “best-worst scaling”) analysis or conjoint analysis can help you determine which combination and level of benefits is most appealing to your employees. For example, you may want to know if increasing the 401k company contribution is of more value than reducing the monthly premium on the health insurance plan, or you may want to know if new, younger employees have different benefit plan preferences than long-term staff so you can adjust your recruiting messaging.
What to measure
There are many factors that influence an employee’s ability to perform, their commitment to the organization, and their satisfaction at the end of the day. From our experience, these are important areas that should be explored in your employee research:
- Communication between departments, supervisors, C-suite, etc.
- Tools and knowledge needed to execute job
- Respect, trust, fairness, and honesty within organization
- Understanding and support for organizational vision, values, and goals
- Likelihood to recommend to others seeking job opportunities
- Reasons for staying with organization
- Perception of performance of colleagues, supervisor, departments, and company as a whole
No matter which research tools you use, include an opportunity for employees to bring up their own ideas or issues. These open-ended comments often contain valuable insights or suggestions.
Gaining the most value from your research depends on strong participation and buy-in from your employees. From our observations, there are several things you can do to increase the thoughtful participation by your employees in any internal research effort. These include:
- Communicate the value of the research to the whole organization and that honest employee feedback is key to growth and success for all
- Share top-line results after the research is completed with all employees – this is critical
- Have a plan ready for how management and representative groups of employees will dive into the results and develop action plans based on it
- Communicate progress or changes made as a result of the research
- Provide time during the workday for employees to participate in the research
- Consider having a third party administer your employee research – we always see this increase participation levels because employees feel confident that their personal feedback is not accessible to others in the organization; it most likely increases honesty
Every organization or company is unique. Don’t rely on cookie-cutter approaches to your employee research. Take time to consider what is best for your organization and customize a program that will be embraced by employees and deliver actionable findings.
Contact Linda Kuster, President, to learn more about maximizing your investment in employee research: email@example.com or 319-364-7278, ext. 7104.