We’ve all experienced it. You’re trudging through an onslaught of morning email when the employee survey appears. It’s a rare beast; you haven’t seen it in months. Your employer often goes months without asking for anyone’s opinion on anything. When they finally get around to taking your pulse, it comes in the form of a 50-question monster that’ll take an hour to complete, and you’re in the middle of three projects and have a calendar full of meetings in front of you.
Don’t be the boss who perpetuates this crime. Step back for a moment and consider a better strategy for employee surveys — one that will yield meaningful results on a regular basis and remind your staff that you really do care. Get on board with fielding shorter employee surveys. Here's why:
1. Better response rates: Sending out an epic survey virtually guarantees you’ll get fewer responses. Simply put, if it takes too long to complete (and how long is “too long” is entirely up to the person who’s time is being soaked up by it), it won’t get done. Shorter surveys feel more manageable, and therefore lead to higher response rates.
2. More comprehensive answers: By question #43, no one cares anymore about completeness; they care about getting the thing done already. Your team members are just as busy as you are. Shorter surveys lets you be more respectful of their time. Subsequently, they’re more likely to take more time to answer each one, providing deeper, more thoughtful responses.
3. Easier data absorption: If it takes you five hours to write a 50-question survey, imagine how long it will take to analyze the results. You want to spend a day on it, not three months. There’s no reason tuning into your team should take up the entire first quarter of every fiscal year. Limit the survey to a few essentials and you’ll get responses that are easier to review, understand, and act on in a timely manner. Simply put: ask fewer questions, get fewer answers.
4. Limits survey creep: When you’re shoulder-deep into building a beefy survey, you often end up asking weak and tangential questions. Asking fewer questions all but guarantees you’ll ask the ones that are most important and have the biggest impact. This isn’t a television interview; you don’t need to take the time to warm up the interviewee. Get right to the good stuff. Your staff will appreciate it.
5. Timely action: Spread the questions too thin and you’ll also have a hard time sorting out where to put your energy afterwards. Narrowing the focus of a survey has the added benefit of focusing your reactions. Ask about one aspect of the job in particular and you’ll be able to act on the negative responses without working yourself to death.
So, how short should a survey be? That’s up to you. You know your staff. You know what kind of tine constraints they have. Spend some time finding the right balance. It may take a few tries, but over time, you’ll see what gets reponses and what doesn’t.
We limit our TINYpulse surveys to just one question. Yup, one. Our hope is to make the process so quick and easy that our employees won’t have any reason not to respond.