Employee surveys seem to be the rage these days. These tools can either help you improve your company or waste your time. Their success depends on how you implement them and what you do with the results.

An effective survey will open a window into workers’ minds, letting in refreshing ideas on how to improve problem areas in your organization. Meanwhile, a poorly constructed or implemented survey can do more harm than good by creating unrealistic expectations and highlighting management’s inability to address concerns. Here are seven survey pitfalls and how to avoid them:

1. Magic-wand syndrome. Employers believe that employee dissatisfaction or other issues will disappear once workers voice their opinions. But that is not the case. Your organization must be ready to make dramatic changes or morale will plummet. By surveying workers on issues your company has no plans to resolve or making no changes, you will only decrease morale. The best way to avoid the magic-wand syndrome is to understand that giving employees the opportunity to vent won’t make the problem disappear; management must be ready to take action.

2. Passive workers. The staff believes management is responsible for fixing organizational problems and is waiting for it to fail. Building successful companies requires the efforts of all employees. Your staff must be willing to work with management to improve the company, and organizations should continually solicit input from workers and involve them in resolving problems.

3. Mixed signals regarding confidentiality. To increase participation, employers promise to keep results confidential. But then they require workers to include their contact information to qualify for incentives for completing surveys. Doing so compromises the survey’s integrity and gives the wrong message to your work force. Instead, consider providing a benefit (such as some time off) if a high enough percentage of employees participate.

4. Faulty surveys. Employers ask the wrong questions or offer inadequate response choices, yielding little information. Suppose you asked workers, “How satisfied are you with your job” and the majority responded, “Dissatisfied.” Unless you also learn why they’re unhappy, you won’t know how or where you should make improvements. Focus on your objectives for the survey and construct questions to provide you with the details you need to address your survey goals.

5. Unrealistic expectations. Raising issues that you are unprepared to address is a recipe for disaster. For instance, if you survey workers on compensation, but have no plans to change it, you’ll only frustrate your employees. Workers also think that because of the survey, management will solve every issue right away. Help your staff better understand the survey process by involving them in the survey design and creating a timeline for acting on the results. Be honest with your staff. Let them know that you’ll immediately handle some matters, but others will take more time and you may not be able to resolve some.

6. A one-track mind. Companies ask too many questions about one topic, causing employees to assume that this particular area is more important than others. For example, if the majority of questions are about the company’s pay structure and employee benefits, your staff may mistakenly believe that the organization will be making significant changes in the total compensation program. Address topics equally unless you are looking to focus on one particular part of your business.

7. Failure to benchmark. Businesses ignore the bigger picture. If you benchmarked your results against similar companies’ you might find, for example, that a low score on satisfaction with employee management may be the norm or workers often rate pay as “needs significant improvement.” Comparing information to previous surveys you conducted or against other businesses’ results will provide a broader look at problem areas.

Companies who choose to do employee surveys should do them annually. This will enable you to track your progress. Using a third-party to conduct your survey will provide you with unfiltered information. Regardless of how often you survey your work force, evaluate your process. Ensure it drives business results, generates information you can use to improve your company and gives employees feedback about upcoming changes or ways they can improve the organization. After all, your workers need to know that management is listening when they speak and that change is possible.

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