Employee survey methodology: Know your options

Employee survey action plan

Employee survey methodology: Know your options

What’s the right approach for your survey?

Online is the employee survey methodology of choice for most companies. And it’s not too hard to understand why; the ease and flexibility of running surveys makes it a popular approach. And, to be honest, if you’re looking to carry out a full employee satisfaction survey, an online platform will be tough to better.

But for some companies and industries, an online survey isn’t the best – or even a viable – option. As with many other aspects of devising an effective employee survey, choosing the right methodology (or methodologies) for your business context is a key consideration.

What makes online the favoured survey methodology?

How long have you got? The right online survey affords great flexibility. You can choose how you want people to access the platform – for example, by using an open link, a unique link, or a QR code. You can pre-load employee demographic data and recipient lists, change options, add questions, route questionnaires and report on the results afterwards.

In a nutshell, running employee surveys online makes things much quicker and easier – for administrators to set up and launch, for employees to take part, and for managers to review and report on the results.

When might online NOT be the right survey methodology?

You probably can’t rely solely on an online survey if your company employs a large number of workers who are not desk-based or who work remotely. Two of the industry examples that we find commonly face such issues are retail and manufacturing companies. This is due to both typically having large swathes of employees who are based on the front line, in shops or factories, and who don’t have easy access to a PC at work. Having said this, even in these circumstances, an online solution accessible via smartphones should still be considered.

What other survey methodology options are there?

Besides online, paper surveys are the next most common way of reaching large audiences of employees. While they come with some logistical considerations (more on that later), they are often the best way to reach front line or remote staff who don’t have PC or internet access.
Depending on the nature of your employee research, there could be other options. If you’re not looking for a really comprehensive employee survey but more of a ‘snapshot’ view of engagement or satisfaction (or something else), you could go for a pulse check survey or desktop or smartphone app to gauge employees’ views in real-time. Naturally, such approaches and tools will not provide the same comprehensive data. Another option is telephone ‘IVR’ (Interactive Voice Response) technology. This is actually something that has previously been used extensively by one of our clients, insurance group LV=, to get feedback from new employees and also to survey leavers.

Does the survey methodology used affect response rates?

Good question! Companies are, quite naturally, concerned with attaining a good survey response rate. So it’s worth bearing in mind that using different channels will likely have an impact on the number of responses.

In our experience of using different employee survey methodologies for clients, the average responses rates are as follows:

Employee survey average response rates by methodology

What are the considerations for choosing a survey methodology?

The most important criteria to consider when choosing your methodology is, what’s going to make it easiest for our employees to participate in the survey? You need to offer them the channels or tools that make it fast and easy for them give their views. Additionally you must think about what the data will be used for and by whom so that there’s a clear plan for how the results will be accessed, processed and reported on.
For companies where most of their employees are desk-based, operating the survey exclusively using an online platform is almost always favoured. But where this isn’t the case or there’s perhaps a mixture of office and field (or shop or factory floor)-based employees, a different approach will be beneficial.

If you’re planning a new employee survey, ask the following fundamental questions to inform the methodologies that may suit best:

  • Do all of your employees have easy access to a PC?
  • if some employees don’t have such access, could you provide a shared one or a tablet to complete the survey?
  • Alternatively, do they have smartphones they could use for the survey?

If you’re not able to reach all employees online and enable access to the survey via one of these devices, you’ll have to include a paper-based survey option. This can, of course, be offered alongside any online platform may as part of a ‘mixed-media’ survey methodology.

What special considerations are there for paper surveys?

If planning a paper survey, you’ll need to budget for things such as the printing and distribution of the surveys, collation and return of the forms and data entry. And this could all be further complicated and more costly if your survey is translated into multiple languages.

Steven Arbuckle

Steven has great experience of supporting organisations with measuring engagement and devising strategies to improve their employee experience. Connect with Steven on LinkedIn