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Employee survey frequent errors

As the boss, you have to know where problems lie in your company. Are there cases of mobbing? Do your employees suffer from burnout, do they have addictions? In order to make the right decisions, this information is vital for your company’s survival. But how do you get this information? The answer is simple: By conducting anonymous online surveys for your employees and questionnaires.

Opinions differ on the voluntary nature of surveys. I believe that a survey that is 100% anonymous, thus preventing the respondent from being revealed, must be part of an existing employment relationship. This means that the survey should be carried out during working hours, albeit in a limited time frame (3 days max at 20 min. per employee. The employees can be expected to respond

It goes without saying that as a boss or the top management level, you aren’t allowed to participate in the survey. Also: Make sure that at least 5 people take part in the survey. If there a fewer, do not evaluate the survey! The reason being that anonymity isn’t granted if there are less than five participants!

In addition: Keep in mind that even if you have 10 employees or more, you may still well have significantly fewer than 10 answers. This in itself can be a first warning sign for your employees not caring enough about the company they work for! Or they are too afraid to “vote”. In this case, you have to ask yourself: “What else is my team not telling me?”

Error in the employee survey

The worst thing you can do is to not carry out an employee survey because you are afraid of running into headwinds (and believe me, you will!). Fact: A healthy management culture is based on an honest feedback culture – this being the only way to identify and remedy any disruptions in the company, such as mobbing, bullying, burnout, addiction problems and psychological strains. Feedback ensures:

  • Your employees are being given an anonymous voice for their worries, problems, and fears
  • That your employees will build a new relationship with you, based on mutual perception
  • Your employees feel that they are being heard by you, possibly for the first time ever
  • Your employees feel a closer connection to you and your company

It is important that the survey is 100% anonymous – I seriously cannot stress this enough! If there is only a 0,1% risk of employee information leaking out and finding its way back to you, the whole survey’s gone out of the window. Why? Your employees are biased, they won’t be honest, and they may lie to protect themselves from feared reprisals, such as being sacked, thus losing their job and livelihood.

It is ultimately important for both you and your company to know where problems are hidden. However, it is superfluous to know which one of your employees dared to address these problems. I therefore advocate separating the personal level from the factual level. Who cares who said what? By expressing their honest opinions, your employees give you valuable feedback and a great gift!

Don’t abuse this honesty and this trust by going on a “hunt” to find out, which one of your employees fouls your company nest!

Survey fails – know, when to address which topic

The classic situation: A team of employees has already been “going at it” for weeks. The reason: One or more employees have been backed into a corner or some have been causing discord. Maybe they’re even “bitching” about you or colleagues behind your respective backs. The result: The formation of “splinter groups”. Time for a survey. If not now, then when?!

One thing I can tell you: You should’ve considered a survey way before this situation was allowed to arise, never mind escalate! Many bosses think that an employee survey only makes sense well after the horse has bolted. Wrong! NOW is the time for damage limitation! The sooner you nip bullying and evil gossip in the bud, the better. Naturally, this will have an effect on the survey’s results:

  • Surveys that are being conducted on specific occasions distort the results and aren’t useful
  • The survey will now of course be negative, the need to take action is virtually imperative
  • Those surveys are being suspected of “actionism” as a direct result of sporadic surveys
  • And thus, they give the impression that you aren’t really interested

Another important factor for a “successful” employee survey is the choice of topic. It is all well and good to know the truth about your team. But the only way to find out this truth is to ask yourself uncomfortable questions and to integrate these in your survey. Above all, this includes questions about the management and the working atmosphere.

Employee surveys – dos and don’ts

I know that your staff will be annoyed by superficial questions. This, however, doesn’t mean that the survey’s questions should be overly complicated – on the contrary. Also avoid making your questions look like “control questions”. After all, it’s honest feedback you’re after, right? You don’t want your employees overthinking the questions in order to make them “right”.

A questionnaire works best with simple 5-part multiple choice questions. These are answered with “I completely agree” to “I completely disagree”. A commentary field for the employee’s personal remarks can also be useful, but isn’t a must. The following categories should be covered by your employee survey:

  1. How does the employee see himself?
  2. How does the employee view his colleagues?
  3. How does the employee rate the future viability of the company?
  4. What is the employee’s attitude towards his bosses and superiors?
  5. What is the employee’s opinion of the company’s services and products?

The questions should be formulated very brief, concise and simple. Everyone in the company – from the receptionist to the executive secretary – should be able to understand and answer the questions. For the evaluation, it is best to use a pie chart in extreme colours and a corresponding traffic light system. This way, the results can be presented in as vividly a way as possible.

It should also be possible to rate the answers by means of a numerical scale: 0 (“I completely disagree.”) to 5 (“I completely agree.”)

Surveys for employees – uncomfortable questions wanted!

It is vital that you ask uncomfortable questions in your survey. These can be as follows: “There are cases of burnout in our company” or “There are cases of bullying in our company”. Political and social tendencies, such as right- or left-wing extremism should also be questioned. Or would you like your company to omit this from employees with a migration background or even your customers?

Include so-called “negative questions”. These questions interrupt the automatic answering of the “agree completely” scheme. Take “I am worried about my job” as an example. If the employee were to answer this with “I completely agree”, your alarm bells should be going off at full pelt! It means that he or she is actually really afraid about losing his or her job!

The employee, on the other hand, should think about each question carefully and consider exactly what he wants to express. Negative questions support this thinking process since the employee won’t automatically click on the “I completely agree” button. After all, you don’t want a “courtesy survey”. You want to know exactly, what is going on in your company. And this takes careful consideration.

Ask the same questions every year. Try to relate the previous results to those of previous years. Only then will you see, whether your improvement efforts have come to fruition.

Survey of employees – please attach importance to:

Assign a precise value to each question. Align the points according to what is good for the company (and not you personally). If someone, for example, were to answer the question “I am worried about my job” with “I completely agree”, the score assigned to it should be low. Why? This answer is very bad for the company. A good value would be: “I do not agree at all.”/”I completely disagree.”

The survey’s evaluation is a very delicate matter. Who is doing it, who is actually concerned with remedying the situation? The first point of contact is the boss himself. However, he might be biased. My suggestion, therefore, is: You commission an impartial person from the outside. Alternatively, the team can name one of their own to carry out the survey and the evaluation as their own project.

If you have conducted an employee survey or if you have commissioned someone to conduct a survey, deal with the results asap. Please do this in an open, honest, and unsparing way, preferably in front of and with the entire team. Don’t look for the scape goats, but instead, try to address the problems that have come to light and find a solution for eliminating them-

Don’t be afraid of criticism. On the contrary – be happy! Employees, who (still) complain and who point out grievances haven’t handed in their “inner” notice yet. These employees still care about the company. These employees still want to change things for the better and hope that you will join them in this endeavor.

Change can only happen together, as a team. Arrangements from above . as has been the case in the past – no longer work on today’s business world. Therefore, be open to criticism, be open to change. And let’s face it: These are values and virtues you expect your employees to have as well. If you are looking for such a simple online employee survey that is 100% anonymous, call me today for a free initial consultation at +49 (0)40 80 90 31 9016 or leave a message here

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Über den Autor

Kerk Behrens

Mit über 30 Jahren Erfahrung & Expertise in der Gründung und Beratung von KMUs, ist Kerk Behrens Ihr Unternehmensberater. In seinen Blogs stellt er Ihnen Themen & Tipps rund um das Unternehmertum vor.

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