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How often can (and should) we survey our people?

Tony Latter | 27th September 2021

We’ve said that a one-off annual survey isn’t going to cut it when it comes to employee listening. The question then becomes “how often should we be surveying our people?” This is going to vary from organisation to organisation but we wanted to share some ideas with you. We’re helpful like that!

Not Too Little

We won’t dwell on this too much. But for clarity: the reason we don’t recommend only doing annual surveys is they only give you a snapshot of what your organisation looks like at a particular point in time. Organisations are made up of humans and humans change on a regular, if not daily basis. So, any data you do gather is going to go out of date very quickly.

Not Too Much

On the other end of the spectrum, you can gather too much feedback! We see listening strategies fall flat when organisations focus too much on the first stage of the feedback loop (getting feedback) and not on closing the feedback loop. This diminishes trust. Colleagues don’t necessarily feel their feedback has been listened to, and may feel there isn’t a point in participating if action isn’t taken, so lose faith in the programme.

To ensure you’re not gathering too much feedback, you need to think about resources in your leadership and people teams. How much capacity do you have to fully respond to and action feedback? This means thanking your people for their time and communicating the results with them. Even if you are not able to implement changes to address issues that have been raised, you will need to explain why you are not taking action at this time.

Juuuuuuust Right

What we tend to recommend to our customers is a cycle that starts with 2-4 touchpoints across your organisation per year. This doesn’t mean you need to send out quarterly surveys to the whole organisation (although this might be something you build to – more on this in a minute). Instead, you might think about a cadence that includes a variety of touchpoints. You should probably also include continuous listening in your programme but we’ll talk about this in-depth in a bit.

For example, you may choose to complete an annual survey and a 6-month check-in. This could be accompanied by a deeper dive or specific pulse survey, and targeted pulses and interventions throughout the year, these may be sent to certain departments or cohorts. These could be complemented with employee lifecycle touchpoints, at key points in your people’s journey with your organisation for example onboarding and anniversaries.

Building your programme

As we alluded to earlier, you may want to build up to your ideal program. Initially, your people might not be ready to give feedback so often, particularly if it’s something they are not used to. To build trust and buy-in you will need a strong foundation first. As you prove the efficacy of your listening programme you can increase the frequency of your surveys. Some of our customers went from sending out a survey every 2 years, to annually. Or from annual with 6-month check-ins to regular pulse surveys… and so on.

A key part of building up your programme is that you need to make sure that you’re responding regularly to feedback. We call this closing the feedback loop. While we recommend presenting full feedback regularly, you might also consider replying to specific feedback one on one. When doing this you need to ensure that anonymity is maintained.

Continuous Employee Listening

As always we recommend listening to your people when they want to talk to you. (We have lots of tips on how to put employees at the centre of your listening programme) This means having the option for feedback every day, year-round. Our Employee Voice Survey is ideal for this as it allows people to give feedback as and when they want to.

The benefit of continuous feedback is that you can use this data as a weather report. You’ll be able to measure changes in your organisation’s happiness and spot trends in the way your people are thinking, feeling and behaving. This will mean that you can adjust your people strategy accordingly while not reacting to misleading information.

We recommend pushing the survey, which only has one question and a space for free text weekly. This should be done via a channel that works best for your employees, such as email, text or your internal communication tool. It’s important to remind people that the survey is open to them!

Bottom Line…

However often you end up measuring your people, make sure you listen to feedback and respond. If you need to scale back your programme at any time because you lack resources within the people team to take the appropriate steps, that’s fine! Just communicate your plans and actions with your people!

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