Employee Satisfaction and Your Bottom Line: Tips for Surveying Employees

sameer bhatiaThere may have been a time when employee satisfaction was low on the priority list for organizational leaders, but that time is past.  A wealth of research [1] exists that links the satisfaction of employees to customer satisfaction and the profitability of the organization.  But how do organizational leaders find out if their employees are satisfied?  How do they get beyond a façade of compliance and truly find out what is happening in the “water cooler” conversations? With the advances in technology, it is now easier than ever for employers to survey employees.

Employee surveys can be created with one of many online survey generators, and various software programs will even provide statistical analysis of the results.

The information gained through employee surveys can inform organizational policy and procedure, resulting in happier employees and, ultimately, happier customers.

However, if the survey is not crafted with care or used properly, the results can be disastrous.  To create a better, more valid, employee survey and to get the desired results, employers should consider the following when administering an employee survey.

1. Employees will only be honest if they are assured of confidentiality.

Even if employees are unhappy at work, they often are not going to jeopardize their paychecks to make waves.

Even if they have good ideas for how operations can be made more effective and efficient, they will comply rather than risk making a supervisor angry.  If employers want to obtain accurate results, employee surveys must be conducted with an assurance of confidentiality.

Often, it is advantageous for the leader to have an outside consultant administer the survey and compile results.  Another option is to have a team leader or mid-level manager collect data and compile results.

Employees often feel more comfortable with online surveys that they can complete at their leisure while carefully considering their answers than with surveys that are completed face-to-face during a meeting.

Employees should not be asked to put their names on an employee survey, and should only put departmental information if the department is large enough to ensure that results are still anonymous.

2. Presentation is half the battle.

Employee surveys must be presented in a positive, non-threatening manner.  If employees think the results will be used in a punitive manner or that leaders will attempt to figure out which employees had negative remarks, they will not be honest.

Leaders should pay careful attention to how the employee survey is presented.  For example, a leader can focus on how results will be used to improve organizational efficiency or to improve her own leadership behaviors: “I am interested in your honest feedback because I want to continue to improve as a leader.  I also think those who are on the front lines of the organization have the best information to provide related to improving how we do business.”

If employees think you are genuinely interested in their feedback, not to punish them but to truly improve, you will gain a wealth of information that can improve the organizational climate.

3. Do not give an employee survey if you do not plan to use the results.

If you hear nothing else, hear this.  One way to ensure that your employees are unhappy is to ask for their feedback and then ignore it.  When employees think you are going to listen to their honest input, and then you do not, your actions tell them that you do not value them.

Regardless of the feedback, you must act on the results.  Even when the feedback reveals that employees are unhappy about things over which you have no control, such as government regulations, you still must address the issue.  One method of honoring feedback is to discuss results in a staff meeting.

As you walk through results, you can take the time to discuss “next steps” for the organization.  Perhaps there are some areas that you can easily change, such as putting the coffee closer to the station where employees check-in each morning.  Perhaps there are areas that need the attention of a study group, such as changing organizational policy related to vacation time.  There are sure to be other areas over which you have no control.

It is okay to acknowledge that, and explain why you cannot change that aspect of organizational policy.  Employees often do not realize the legal and policy constraints under which leaders work.  Just being open, honest and responding to their concerns goes a long way.

4. Adhere to principles of good survey design to get more valid results.

It is beyond the scope of this article to give complete information on designing a valid survey, but just be aware that while technology has made it easy to create an employee survey with a few clicks of a mouse, there is more involved than that if you want to obtain valid results.

Employee surveys should be organized logically and clearly, progressing from less intrusive questions to more.  You must also ensure that questions are clearly worded and do not lead to ambiguous answers.  It is always a good idea to give the survey to a small group before a large-scale administration.

This will allow you to gain feedback on which questions should be revised to lead to more accurate results.

Remember that administering an employee survey may generate information that is hard for you to hear.

Employees often see leaders and leadership behaviours in a much different light than the leaders do, and that is the idea behind an employee survey.

If you are truly concerned about your employees and their satisfaction, an employee survey is your tool to tweak the climate and culture of your organization to improve employee satisfaction and, in the end, customer satisfaction.

[1] For a meta-analysis of studies linking the satisfaction of employees to customer satisfaction see Brown, S.P. & Son, K.L. (2008).  A meta-analysis of relationships linking employee satisfaction to customer responses.Journal of Retailing, 84(3), 243-255.

sameer bhatiaSameer Bhatia is founder & CEO of ProProfs.com which is a leading provider of online learning tools for building, testing, and applying knowledge.

Through its Survey Software, ProProfs offers marketers and trainers powerful-but-simple features without requiring them to download or learn expensive software.

Sameer has a background is in technology with a Masters in Computer Science from USC (University Of Southern California) and is an ed-tech industry veteran. You can find Sameer on Google+ and Twitter.


  1. Employees make a company and their views to be considered are the best way to get the most out of them. I use http://www.sogosurvey.com/Survey-Types/employee-satisfaction-surveys/ as a sample survey for my company. SoGoSurvey is one of the easiest tools available online. Low on complications and very affordable.