By Nick Field
Finding out if your employees are happy is a vital part in improving productivity and reducing staff turnover.
Customer loyalty is often dependant on staff loyalty as people like to deal with companies who are stable and nice to interact with, especially in business-to-business transactions. So it should always be a key priority of your business to assess and improve employee satisfaction levels. Happy employees are also less likely to entertain alternative job offers and may actually bring in new potential employees as they tell friends and family how great your company is to work for.
Getting An Insight
You're never going to get a good idea of what your employees think if you don't ask them. Honesty is always the best policy, but often it's the case that employees are scared of telling you exactly what they think. There are various open and anonymous methods you can use to canvas your employees:
• Suggestion box – the simplest form of getting employee opinions, but one that is difficult to get any real insight from. Suggestions are open to interpretation, and although you may get some vague ideas about what your employees want (such as “better quality toilet paper”) you're never going to find out the real issues.
• Online comments – the 21st century version of the suggestion box and a great way of generating discussion. If your company has an intranet, you should look to launch a forum where employees can discuss the various aspects of the business. Employees can then develop ideas and the management team can respond to suggestions for all to see. If you do decide on this method, make sure there is a long term commitment to respond to queries from someone in the HR or management team.
• Questionnaires – These can be conducted at regular intervals and follow roughly the same format so you can get an idea of how your employee satisfaction fluctuates over time. There should be a mixture of qualitative and quantitative questions which allow you to see both general opinions (such as quality of food in the canteen) and individual views (such as suggestions for ways their working environment could be made better).
• Employee committees – Every company should aim to have a group of employees that represent the various parts of the business who meet regularly to discuss the main issues. They should present their thoughts to the management team who will discuss what can and can't be done to improve the satisfaction of employees.
• Q&A – The most natural form of canvassing opinion, but not always the most effective. Putting your managers up in front of employees and getting them to answer questions gives them very little time to research answers, even if some of the questions have been planted.
As well as getting opinion of your employees as a group, you need to focus on individuals and their specific needs.
1-2-1 discussions should take place with their direct line manager, but you should also look to have a process where all employees can approach other people within the business to discuss issues they don't feel they can raise with their usual boss. You should take notice of difficulties in achieving a work life balance, increased pressure and stress levels, conflicts with other employees and any other concerns they have.
Always try and investigate if your employees need extra training. Often people become dissatisfied in their job because they feel they have nothing left to learn. Giving them a new skill to develop could be the motivation they are looking for.
Find out from people what it is they want to get out of their job, what their dream job is and what goals they hope to achieve. Then see what you can feasibly do to help them achieve these goals within your company.
There's no point conducting these surveys if you do nothing with the results. After collating and analysing the results of whatever surveying methods you decide upon, communicate with your employees, either as a group or individually, what you plan to do.
It's unlikely that you will be able to meet all the improvements your employees are looking for but don't just dismiss them out of hand. Your employees need to know that there isn't a bottomless pit of funds to run the business so in some cases they must choose between a weekly bar night paid for by the company and a Christmas bonus.
Nothing gets solved by bottling things up, so make your business an open environment where issues get discussed, and changes actually happen.
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