Anyone who’s been a manager has experienced this scenario: Your best and brightest employee enters your office, they close the door and you hear the dreaded words, "I'm giving my two-weeks notice."
You try to wrap your head around the information: Do they want a higher salary? Do they want to rotate projects? Do they want new professional opportunities? You quickly realize you don’t know what the real issue is or how it got to this point.
Managing people is one of the toughest aspects of leading a business, yet it's also the one you can never let slide. This is why I’m a strong proponent of honest, candid employee conversations. If someone is having a tough time, I want to know—but I also know that not everyone feels comfortable shedding light on uncomfortable subjects.
This is where employee surveys come into play. Surveys offer your employees a portal to voice their problems, frustrations and concerns without the discomfort that a face-to-face conversation with you can bring. But if you really want your surveys to be effective, there are five critical things they must do:
1. Maintain anonymity. Confidence comes from knowing it's safe to speak up. Let the complaints remain nameless, and you’ll get the meaty information no one will tell you to your face.
2. Keep it short and simple. Don't let a long, grueling survey become one of the complaints. Your staffers are just as busy as you are, and they want their time to be respected. Ask enough questions to give them a voice, then get out of their way so they can do their everyday job.
3. Share the results. After you get those survey results, it’s time to share back. Schedule a meeting to review the feedback with your team. And I mean all of the feedback, even the rough stuff. Sharing what you've learned shows that you’re listening and encourages your employees to continue giving candid responses.
4. Take action. Take the grievances seriously, and act as quickly as possible to solve the problem. Read between the lines and find the right solutions. When you act on feedback, it shows your team that you're committed to making positive changes to their workplace.
5. Play to win. Periodically send out additional surveys to understand your business's cultural trends. A company that sends one survey is playing for points; a company that sends a survey every month is playing to win.
I encourage you to take surveys in your workplace regularly. Whether you use a free or a paid survey tool, just start surveying. You’ll get amazing feedback that can drastically and positively change your workplace.
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