By: Liz Sheffield
High-performing companies recognize that engaged employees and a strong culture are both keys to achieving business results and retaining talent. Today’s engaged employees want to understand the organization’s mission, vision, and values. Effective core values communication also creates an environment where employees feel they are contributing to the organization’s goals, creating a sense of purpose and connection to the company.
These factors all contribute to high levels of employee engagement; however, another critical factor that contributes to engagement is providing a way for your workforce to feel heard. Employee satisfaction surveys offer a powerful way for a workforce to offer feedback and for employers to hear the truth about three critical factors which contribute to organizational productivity and success.
Organizational and Individual Responsibilities
Business Dictionary defines internal communication as, “The sharing of information within an organization for business purposes.” (1) However, in many organizations, the systems and processes to communicate important information are haphazard at best.
Organizational updates are communicated when a CEO or business unit leader shares the new strategy with their executive team. Those executives then share the information with the directors in their departments, who are expected to share the information with their managers, and so on. While the intentions for communicating organizational updates are good, the process may not deliver the intended results. According to a Future of Work Study, 80% of workers want to know more about how decisions are made in their organization.
Not only do messages not trickle down, but employees often find themselves without the organizational updates and information they need to do their job. Studies show that employees spend on average 20% of their hours searching for information necessary to do their jobs effectively. (2) While we know today’s workforce wants to understand organizational goals and feel a sense of shared responsibility for their work, they may not receive the necessary communication to do so.
A simple question on an employee satisfaction survey can highlight if those communication issues exist in an organization. For example, a survey question such as the one below will help evaluate if employees have the information they need:
- Do you receive timely communications about upcoming initiatives?
You can also ask participants to respond by rating their agreement with statements such as:
- My manager consistently provides updates about company goals.
- I have access to the information I need to do my job well.
- I understand how my responsibilities contribute to organizational goals.
Feelings of connection
A large part of fostering job satisfaction in the work environment involves creating opportunities for meaningful relationships between colleagues. One study found that millennials expect and crave a sense of connection at work:
- 71% want their colleagues to be a second family.
- 88% want to work in more “social” workplaces
Defining connection at work can be confusing; it means many different things, depending on the person. HR teams and leaders do their best to create a sense of connection, but it’s tricky. What works for one employee may not work for another. It’s also challenging to foster relationships within a remote work group that’s distributed around the nation, and in some cases, the globe.
In these situations, an employee satisfaction survey provides a means by which you can ask these telling survey questions related to feelings of connection.
For example, a survey question such as the one below will help identify if employees feel connected to the organization:
- Do you feel a sense of belonging within the organization?
You can also ask participants to respond by rating their agreement with statements related to feelings of connection such as:
- I have a best friend at work.
- My manager shows a genuine interest in me and my interests.
- I look forward to coming to work.
While it may be hard to define connection, you’ll sense a difference in your workplace when employees feel connected. They’re more likely to have positive conversations and “can do” attitudes when faced with challenges. When they’re connected, they feel inspired to deliver a higher quality of work because they are dedicated to the company. In terms of results, you’ll see a much greater return if employees share a sense of connection with your organization.
The Human Resources Dictionary defines job satisfaction as, “the extent to which an employee feels self-motivated, content and satisfied with their job.”
There are many contributors to job satisfaction but the most basic ways to evaluate whether or not employees are satisfied is to determine if they find meaning in their work, if they feel appreciated and if they have the necessary tools. Your employee satisfaction survey can capture this information by asking survey questions such as:
- Do you find your work meaningful?
- Do you feel your contributions at work are appreciated?
- Do you have the tools you need to do your job?
Understanding job satisfaction at the team, division, and organizational level is important to ensure you don’t lose valuable employees. If someone has a low level of job satisfaction, regardless of the reason, it’s much more likely they are actively searching for another job.
On the other hand, if the majority of employees in your organization have high levels of job satisfaction, it’s more likely they’ll stay for longer and they will actively contribute to your organization’s goals and long-term success.
Job satisfaction is a critical part of an employee’s tenure with an organization, as well as their motivation to remain loyal to an organization. If survey results indicate low job satisfaction numbers, an HR team can dig deeper to identify issues and changes which should be made to enhance the employee experience.
Trust in leadership
Trust and transparency must be established from the top down if an organization hopes to inspire success. Research indicates that 45% of employees say “lack of trust in leadership is the biggest issue in work performance.” (5)
“A workplace atmosphere that lacks psychological safety—the belief that engaging in risky behaviors like voice will not lead to personal harm—can manifest a variety of damaging outcomes: delayed identification of obstacles due to fear of challenging authorities,declining morale, lack of idea exploration and others,” according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). (6)
In an open and transparent organization, employees feel comfortable speaking up or asking leaders to explain their actions. Conversely, in a less open organization, employees may fear retribution if they express concerns. An annual employee satisfaction survey provides an opportunity for employees to raise leadership issues if they exist.
Survey questions about trust in leadership reveal essential truths, again you can ask participants to respond by rating their agreement with these statements, with one being low agreement and five being very high agreement:
- I believe in our leadership’s approach to achieving goals.
- I trust my manager and company leaders.
- I feel comfortable providing feedback to management.
Fairness and openness are vital elements in any successful organization. Employee satisfaction surveys demonstrate leadership commitment to a fair work environment. They also help inspire a sense of trust in the employees who are allowed to contribute their thoughts, ideas, and feedback, via the survey.
Take action based on results
Once you’ve gathered feedback using an employee satisfaction survey, you must take action based on the results. The leadership team should review the results to look for any common themes or areas of concern.
As Gallup notes, “Rather than seeing these conversations as a tool for improving performance, managers sometimes view them as one more item on their ‘to do’ list. That’s a serious mistake, because neglecting survey results is a proven way to undermine engagement. Employees doubt the motives of managers who ask for their opinions, then don’t do anything with them.”
Start your follow-up process by reviewing the results and asking these questions:
- In what areas are you doing well in terms of employee satisfaction?
- Are there areas that cause you concern?
- What can we do to improve in those areas?
When you identify areas for improvement, identify what you’d like to change and by when. Then put together an action plan for how to address and resolve the issues you’ve uncovered. If you have several areas of concern, create a committee or task force that can focus on each area.
As part of this follow up, communicate to employees about what you heard and how you plan to address the feedback. Continue providing updates throughout the process to validate their contributions and commitment.
Employee satisfaction surveys are a key part of any strategy that’s focused on growing and adapting to employee needs. Employees take satisfaction surveys because they want to be heard. Even if leaders can’t act on every piece of feedback received as part of a survey, just knowing that leaders are listening can make all the difference when it comes to engaging your workforce.