Category All, Best Practices 10 Mistakes to Avoid During Employee Communication Surveys Employee surveys are essential tools for communication with your employees. Without surveys, leaders can’t tell the pulse of their workforce, solicit candid opinions and transform their organizations. August 14, 2023 By Ivo Jurcic Employee surveys are essential tools for communication with your employees. While surveys are always designed with the best intentions, they can have key design flaws that keep internal communicators from gathering actionable insights from their employees. This article will let you in on the 10 biggest mistakes that happen during employee communication surveys, and tell you know how to avoid them. Biggest Mistakes of Employee Communication Surveys 1. Asking Leading questions during Employee Communication Surveys When line managers or HR want to quickly gather employee opinions on a specific topic, they sometimes unwillingly ask leading questions. This is a common methodological error that unfortunately results in inaccurate or unreliable data. Leading questions are phrased in a way that suggests a particular answer, or influences employees’ opinions instead of communicating the question clearly, so that the respondents may answer sincerely. By doing so, they undermine the integrity of the survey results. Ultimately, they serve only the bias towards a particular answer, instead of gathering opinions. Relying on the subset of biased data misinforms managers and HR and produces the opposite of the desired effect. Here’s an example of a leading question: Considering the excellent feature updates of our app, how likely are you to support it? The problem with this question is that it presupposes that the feature updates are excellent and suggests engagement with it. The correct phrasing would be: What are your thoughts about the feature updates of our app? The latter example offers space for quality insight that can be derived into actionable feedback. Before sending out a survey to employees, it’s imperative to check the questionnaire for biases first. There should also be one more checkup after the answers have been collected to make ensure the answers were not biased. 2. Asking Too Many Questions in Surveys Employee communication surveys should be focused, easy to understand, and considerable of respondents’ time. Chances are, the survey will disrupt the respondents from their current assignments, which is why there shouldn’t be too many questions to fill. Survey fatigue is a common symptom of an over-surveyed workplace; it occurs when respondents become disinterested in the survey due to the length or complexity of the questions. When that happens, respondents will rush through the survey, providing incomplete or inaccurate responses. As a result, the survey initiator will end up with reduced response rates and possibly compromised data quality. According to the American Association for Public Opinion Research, long surveys are associated with lower response rates and nonresponse biases. To avoid asking too many questions and causing survey fatigue, internal communications should: Prioritize key topics and ask the most important questions at the beginning of the survey Keep the survey concise and remove redundant questions Offer appropriate incentives if the survey is long and can’t be shortened Time how long it takes to complete the survey and strive for brevity Let’s talk about the next common mistake. 3. Forgetting to Thank Your Employees As much as some professionals don’t want to admit it, filling out surveys takes away time from employees that is usually spent on more pending assignments. Providing well-thought answers and insights is even more time-consuming. When employees dedicate their time and effort to follow up on surveys and provide genuine insights, they should be thanked for it. One of the biggest mistakes that survey initiators make is forgetting to send heartfelt thank-you notes to employees that sent their input. This lack of etiquette is problematic because it discourages employees from taking future surveys seriously. Imagine an employee allocating 20 minutes of their time after work or during peak hours to candidly fill out a survey and getting no recognition for their participation. It will hardly come as a shock if the same employee rushes the survey next time. Make sure to always send a thank you note and recognize employees with a consistent track record of completing surveys. 4. Failing to Share Survey Results or Biggest Takeaways Employee communication surveys are essential tools for understanding your workforce. They reveal underlying problems in organizational health and help leaders make the right decisions for improvement. Companies with strong feedback culture are champions at providing transparency and reasoning behind their survey process. They act on the feedback and share their and findings with the rest of their employees. On the other side of the spectrum are companies that make the survey process feel ambiguous. They don’t share what they’ve learned. Or follow up. The lack of action makes people feel like the survey was for nothing. Or worse yet, like the results are being kept from them. Companies should do better. When the survey is completed, internal communications should share the results of the biggest takeaways with employees, so they can see what the organization has learned after the survey, and ideally, how the insights be used for improvement. This will alleviate employees of the negative sentiment, helping them realize how the survey will benefit them. 5. Not Using a Variety of Different Question Formats A common problem of employee communication surveys is that they often rely on only one or two different question formats. Unfortunately, not having any variety of different question forms can be detrimental to the effectiveness of the survey and may lead to incomplete answers. In fact, according to a report from the Harvard Business School, surveys with different question formats produce a better understanding of employee motivations, frustrations, and aspirations. You need a variety of questions to capture the full scope of employee experiences. Repeating the same format over and over again doesn’t deliver. For instance, using only one question format, such as close-ended yes/no questions vastly restricts the range of responses you can gather. Employees can only give binary answers and are forced to leave out otherwise insightful thoughts. Additionally, repeated use of the same question format contributes to survey fatigue, which causes employees to lose interest in the survey and rush the questionnaire. Similarly, relying heavily on open-ended questions can exhaust employees. Instead, survey designers should include different question formats that capture more insights, but without reinforcing survey fatigue. 6. Lack of Transparency About the Survey Process The lack of clarity behind the process creates a negative sentiment. It subtly tells that something is wrong, or else management wouldn’t inquire so much into employees’ everyday experiences. After all, people talk. If there is a bad impression, employees are likely to share their speculations and unwillingly influence the morale for the worse. The best way to shake off that feeling is to provide transparency. Let employees know in advance why the survey is being drafted and what are the expectations from the process. Before the survey is sent to employees, the project leader should send an email to all the stakeholders and give context to increase trust, remove any misconceptions about the process, and encourage employees to participate. 7. Failing to Include All the Deskless Workers in Surveys Failing to include all the deskless workers in surveys is by far one of the biggest mistakes during survey communication, especially for organizations with a mixed workforce. It leads to severely negative consequences, both in terms of culture, the quality of data, and loss of opportunity for improvement. Let’s unpack this argument together. First off, excluding deskless or field-based employees from the survey process, due to oversight or otherwise, effectively creates a culture of exclusion. Underrepresenting a significant portion of the workforce creates an incomplete picture of the employee experience. It also effectively shows their opinions or insights do not matter. This is not a sentiment any organization should project. Second, the point of employee communication surveys is to provide a comprehensive understanding of the workforce. If you exclude deskless workers, you’ll end up with a limited data set that does not accurately reflect the state of the workforce, nor does it capture their perspective. This can potentially lead to misguided decisions and poor management. And third, deskless and on-site employees have invaluable insights into customer satisfaction or operational knowledge. Capturing their unique perspective is essential for identifying areas of improvement. 8. Not Promoting the Survey on Time Not promoting the employee communication survey on time is one most common mistakes survey initiators can make. Often, surveyors assume their requests are straightforward to comply with; they create a 15-minute survey, send a department-wide email, and wait for the answers to arrive. What happens next? Low participation rates. What’s the problem with this approach? Well, if employees are not informed about the survey well before the deadline, they can’t fit it into their busy schedule or treat it as a priority. Mentioning it in company correspondence doesn’t effectively raise awareness. It creates a sentiment that the survey is one more additional task to be completed on top of dozens of other assignments. If an employee isn’t fully engaged to begin with, they’re less likely to participate in the survey. This limits the participation rates, resulting in fewer responses from employees. On the other hand, if the survey is promoted at the last minute, employees will rush with their responses, providing incomplete or superficial answers. Promoting the survey several times, and weeks before the deadline allows surveyors to properly communicate the importance of the survey and its goals so that every employee can fit it into their schedule. It’s a strong practice to track your survey response rates so that surveyors can dedicate more effort to promotion in case the rates are low. 9. Not Enabling Automated Notifications Automation software is by far and wide one of the greatest innovations for surveying employees. This statement doubles down for companies with large workforces. Survey automation enables HR and management to send pre-scheduled, personalized, and targeted messages to employees well before the survey process begins so that every stakeholder is made aware in advance. Automated notifications can be scheduled to remind employees several times over about the deadline, so they don’t miss out on the chance to give their insights. They also maintain engagement with employees and ensure consistent, standardized communication. By enabling automated notifications, organizations can reduce the time it takes to manage the entire survey process and remove possible errors. To embrace automation in their survey process, companies need to invest in efficient employee communication solutions that support company-wide communication and mobile notifications. This keeps every employee notified, regardless of if they’re deskless or office-bound. The best example of automated notifications is SMS nudges that remind employees to complete a survey and forward them to the surveying site. Source: Square 10. Sending the Survey on a Separate Platform from your HRIS The lack of a proper survey delivery system is one of the biggest roadblocks for high survey participation rates. Sending your survey on a separate platform fragments the employees’ user experience, making the process more difficult and negatively impacting participation rates. For instance, when employees switch between different platforms, they need to remember various login credentials, navigate through different UIs, and juggle between different channels. If anything, it’s frustrating. Instead, companies should aspire to provide a streamlined survey experience where workers can seamlessly communicate and finish surveys. A single access point provides a consistent, and more secure experience where sensitive survey data can be safely stored. To ensure strong employee survey participation and reduce administrative burdens, organisations should integrate internal communication solutions with their HRIS. Conclusion In this blog post, we’ve included the 10 most common mistakes internal communicators make during the employee survey process. Unfortunately, discovering a methodological error early on is rarely the case. More often than not, key stakeholders are made aware later in the process when the survey is already concluded. That’s why it’s imperative to have a reliable internal communication solution early on and stay ahead of possible roadblocks along the way. Reflect on what you’ve learned today and think about the employee communication survey practices of your organization. Until next time.