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Survey Writing Tips to Get Honest Feedback from Your Employees

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When was the last time you sent out an employee survey? How many responses did you get? If not a lot, there is a good chance that the reason was the survey itself.

The way you write the survey really matters to get honest feedback from employees and make the workplace better. Not just the survey questions, but the style of writing can also be an important factor in getting answers.

In this post, find four essential writing tips to make your surveys more engaging and give you more of the valuable employee feedback.

1. Avoid Leading Questions

A leading question is a question that encourages a specific answer, e.g., “Don’t you love our new coffee machine in the office?” It’s used mainly to confirm a piece of information, which is totally inapplicable if you want to get honest feedback.

A better option of the just-mentioned question would be:

“What do you think of our new coffee machine in the office?”

In this case, you’re not putting words in the survey taker’s mouth and encourage an honest answer.

Another “classic” type of undesirable leading question starts with “Do you…” For example, the question “Do you have any problems with your manager?” prompts the survey participant to questions their relationship with their manager.

Instead, try an open-ended option like, “Could you describe your relationship with your manager?”

Always check your surveys for leading questions before sending them out. It can be easy to forget and add a couple of them accidentally and affect employee engagement with the survey.

2. Avoid Addressing Two Subjects in One Question

Having two subjects in the same question can easily confuse your employees and cause inaccurate feedback. These questions are often called “double-barreled,” and they reduce the quality of the answer given by survey takers.

Here’s an example from a recent employee survey at an academic writing services company that employs 150+ people:

“How satisfied are you with your compensation and wellness policy?”

It’s a great and meaningful question, but there’s a small risk that the employee won’t understand what exactly the employer needs to measure. Moreover, the survey taker might focus on one part, say, compensation, and provide a detailed answer. As for the second part, they can limit their response to one short sentence.

To get honest feedback from employees, focus each question on a single subject.

Pro tip: Avoid double-barreled answers to questions in case you write multiple-choice questions. For example, if the survey asks, “What is your biggest work motivation?” an answer “Positive work environment and my colleagues” would be double-barreled.

3. Keep Each Survey to Less than Ten Questions

One major reason why people avoid taking surveys is the time it takes to complete them. Even if it’s your employees, they still can skip questions they deem too complicated (especially if there’s a bunch of them). In some cases where they experience issues like work-from-home burnout or
stress, they can even skip entire surveys.

The advice of HR experts on this also differs. The Society of Human Resource Management, for example, says that a general employee survey can contain up to 75 questions, which translates into 30 minutes of answering.

To have the best chance of getting honest and detailed feedback from your employees, limit your surveys to ten questions. This applies to all surveys, be it a weekly or an annual.

Pro tip: Display the number of questions and the time estimate at the start of the survey. It will help your employees to manage their time expectations and avoid unnecessary frustration and incomplete answers.

4. Always Include Questions About Work Environment

Almost every employee survey should collect feedback about the work environment. In order to create and maintain a productive and safe work environment, you need to get regular updates on potential issues, successes, or new ideas.

Here are some examples of questions to consider.

I. In your opinion, how safe is the current work environment at the company?
II. What do you think is the best thing about the work environment in our company?
III. How, in your opinion, can your manager be a better leader to you?
IV. Did you notice any workplace issues in the past week/month?
V. Do you feel valued?
VI. Do you feel recognized for your contributions?

Feel free to customize these if you feel there are more opportunities to learn. Just remember to limit the number of questions to ten to avoid overwhelming the participants. One good idea is to make a “work environment” section in each survey with a few related questions. The rest could be questions about other workplace matters.

Conclusion
Employee surveys are a great way to collect workforce feedback on a regular basis. It’s the duty of every employer to ensure the best possible work environment, so asking for feedback directly can be an effective tool to meet the needs of employees.

This blog post was reprinted with permission.

About the author: Daniela McVicker is a career specialist and a content editor at the AllTopReviews website. She enjoys sharing her experience with students and job seekers who want to improve their chances of getting their dream job.


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Fired in real time: A little bit pregnant

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Image: Bob RosnerOne phrase comes to mind as I started calling my friends to tell them that I had been fired, “a little bit pregnant.” I’m a guy, so please remember, this is a metaphor.

I’ll explain. The American Dream isn’t just big cars and summer houses. No, at it’s heart is the belief that everyone has a chance to be successful. Put another way, there is an essential fairness or rationality that is the foundation of how the world of work works. As an equation it might go something like this, hard work = success.

I don’t think I’m alone when I admit that when I’ve seen people around me fired or laid off I’ve leapt to the opposite conclusion. That on some level, they deserved it. Okay, now that I’ve gone down this path, please tolerate one more equation, failure = failure.

That’s where being a little bit pregnant comes in.

I think most people assume that when you are fired you might not be 100% at fault, but you are at least a little bit guilty of something. Hence, anyone fired is at least a little big pregnant.

This not only helps to explain what happened to anyone who is fired, it also helps to justify why you still have your job. Because you clearly aren’t a failure.

I’ll save you the gory details of my firing, but I believe it wasn’t because I wasn’t doing my job. No, there were plenty of people at my old company who fit in that category. In fact, I’ve never worked anyplace where more people would say in normal conversation, “What exactly does he do for us?” Really, I heard people say that about at least 20% of the employees.

No, I was fired because I actually tried to do my job.

I was initially hired as a spokesmodel for the company, however, if you knew what I looked like that reference would be even funnier.

My role was to talk about the product with customers, the media, etc. However, what I quickly discovered was the marketing and sales function wasn’t broken, it was non-existent. So I filled the vacuum by creating a new name for the company, a marketing plan, sales collateral, I suggested product modifications based on client input and I started making sales calls. In addition to this I spent my first two months playing company therapist, going office to office to get people pointed in the same direction. On occasion, I even got in harms way between two warring staffers.

The responses to our sales calls varied from “like” to something bordering on adulation. But five months in I realized that we were 0 for 30. Yep, we’d made thirty sales calls and had not sold our product to one client.

I know what you’re thinking, I should have been fired for sheer sales ineptitude. Ironically, this would have been much easier to handle than the reason that I was actually fired for. Much easier.

I spent a long weekend thinking about how we could end this horrific losing streak and I realized that there were a number of contributing factors. First, with no clients, every company we talked to had to decide if they wanted to become our guinea pig. We also didn’t have examples of real companies using our product. So we needed to connect the dots for our customers. Finally, I came up with a visible and credible organization that would agree to serve as our launch client and could connect the dots for potential customers.

Guinea pig, no longer an issue. Connect the dots, check.

I put this in a report for my boss. Needless to say I learned that you should never present a report to your boss entitled “0 for 30.” However, not in the way that you’re probably thinking.

My boss didn’t seem to be bothered at all by our lack of sales. His first response was to say, “No one has said ‘No’ to us so far.” He felt that it all was just a matter of time before we’d land a series of major sales.

The stunner was when he said, “You can’t ever use the phrase 0 for 30 again. Not within earshot of me or in any emails.” Here is the clincher, “Because it will hurt the feelings of all of the staff members who’ve worked so hard on the product.” He concluded, “And I don’t ever want a potential investor to see the phrase ‘0 for 30.’”

Feelings? And that the only way that an investor would learn that we didn’t have any customers was because they read an email by me?

Two weeks after presenting the 0 for 30 report I was fired for not getting along with staff. Two staffers were mentioned by name.

My a-ha: Mine was probably more of a mercy killing than a firing

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via [email protected].


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