As a business owner, manager or CEO, have you come to realise that information gives you power. Power to make decisions that can revolutionise how you do business. One may say that “Of course we do, we evaluate our customer feedback all the time!” But what about your employees? One may suggest that surveying your employee engagement, experience or opinion is just a way to release stress for the employees, for them to feel heard. But did you know even in that, there is some danger? Employees are the eyes and ears, and heartbeat of your business. If their experience is less than satisfactory, then there is a chance that that dissatisfaction is emitted to the customer experience. We all shudder at the poor customer service we are offered in this country. We all question the quality of pleasantness we receive from customer service representatives or cashiers, and forget, they themselves are on the receiving end of another poor service, that is, management. While the practice has been one way concerning feedback and appraisals, from managers to employees, at some point that direction needs to be flipped.
The benefits of employee assessments (we use assessments here as any qualitative or quantitative study to examine the experiences, desires and needs of employees concerning their workplace) go beyond employees “letting off steam”. The need for employees to genuinely feel heard and appreciated is tantamount. Even in surveying, the opinions, needs and wants must be put into action. Once put into effect, the appreciation of being heard will eventually translate into motivated and pleasant employees and excellent customer service.
We assess employees’ performance, but how and when do we assess management performance? And not only from the higher management perspective, as top management from their point of view may think that the assessable managers are doing a great job. This also applies to organizational policies, procedures, teamwork and even physical work environments. By using the findings of information collected from employees, improvements can be made that will be, in the long-term, beneficial to the company’s bottom line.
The benefits are much more, but all lead to avoidance of a serious issue, employee turnover. According to Finely Dunn “Continued focus on (employee) turnover is of critical importance, because of the direct relation of turnover to improvements in labour costs and guest satisfaction.” By doing assessments on employee engagements experiences, etc., that feeling of being heard, of seeing change and being motivated all translates into keeping great and satisfied workers. And with great and happy workers, your business will have a greater chance of succeeding.
Though the benefits are many, one must be cautious in their approach. Make sure to target, as much as possible, all types of workers and aspects of the work experience. The United Parcels Service (UPS) is a stellar example of this. Though they received great feedback from employees after a 1997 survey, the company neglected to cover how employees felt about the rise in part-time jobs within the company. The outcome, an employee strike months later with this topic at the centre of employee disgruntlement.
Make surveys as anonymous as possible. There are a variety of ways of doing this, from using technology separate from the company servers to hide people identity or hiring external researchers to covertly recruit persons for interviews, external bodies, like Data Minders Business Research. Anonymity is crucial for employees to feel at ease about being honest with little or no expectations of negative repercussions from management. Do not make the survey too lengthy. You want to achieve a high response rate and as much as possible, completed questionnaires. Questionnaires an hour-long do not accomplish this.
In addition to the above, you must act on changes. Think about anytime you poured out your heart to a significant other or relative about the changes you needed to see in the relationship, only to have them say “Yes! Things will be better”, just to wake up to the same. Imagine the hurt you felt. Now imagine that hurt among your employees with a lot of contempt and distrust thrown in. The outcome will be less than favourable with respect to work quality, earnings and profits.
Communicate openly with employees about the study. Update them regularly reminding them about the need for response and use multiple forums to “market” the study, for example, emails, bulletin boards and voice notes.
The core thing to take away is that your employees have a voice, and like any other human being, like managers, their voice needs to be heard. Employees keep the grills warm, the floors clean and the computers on. While some managers may see employees as replaceable, think about the cost and effort of looking for a new hire, when your current hire started out as being excellent at what they do but only lost quality for an unknown reason. Think of the cost of training new employees and the required adjustment period of a new hire into the workspace. Though research is indeed a task, the valuable information will not only benefit your employees but your business as a whole. And once the practice becomes regular, the resources and effort of doing such studies would become streamlined.
And finally, small and micro-business owners, you may think this discussion is for big business, but it’s not. Even if it is just you and your assistant, get into the habit of being concerned about that assistant’s opinion and feelings. If it is only you in the business, see yourself as both manager and employee and ask “Am I treating myself well?” Starting even while you are small can make a great business practice, employee surveys/assessment, customary while your company grows.