Your employees are a great source of information about how your company is doing, both internally and externally. Remember, your job is to grow your people. As the CEO, you want to know what your employees think and feel about your organization so you can do just that. One way to do this is with surveys. There are more expensive surveys you can outsource to HR firms to find out what’s “really going on” and you will glean some good information from these. They are usually anonymous and ask general questions about how employees are treated and how they’re feeling. However, some employees don’t believe they’re anonymous, and therefore are not truthful about anything they fear might lead to retribution or punishment. And that’s probably the information you most need to know.
One of the best, and least expensive, ways to survey your employees is to use the “Twelve Questions” model developed by Marcus Buckingham in his book First, Break all the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. This short survey asks twelve simple questions that tell you a lot about how your employees feel about working for you. The beauty of this survey model is that it’s easy to administer, easy to take, and nonthreatening. (You can easily find the survey online by searching for the “Gallup Q12.”)
Typically, it’s enough to survey your employees once a year. However, if you’re implementing a major change initiative, are making a change in ownership or management, or are undergoing any other significant event you might want to survey more frequently.
Two Cautionary Notes on Surveys
Cautionary Note 1: If there is some obvious deficiency or action that should be addressed as a result of the survey, be sure to take action. Communicate what you will be doing, when, how, and why. There will be an exponentially greater negative impact for doing nothing after asking for input, than for asking for nothing and doing nothing. Always communicate what you found out and what you are going to do about it.
Cautionary Note 2: Always have your most trusted individual (usually the HR Director or Manager) oversee the survey and review the results so employees never feel they can’t be honest about a manager for fear of retribution. Once you’ve lost your employees’ trust that they can speak honestly you can never gain it back.
Excerpted from my book, “Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle: The Ten Pieces Every Business Needs to Succeed.” Available here on Amazon.