employee survey cycle

Understanding the Employee Survey Experience Cycle

When employee survey managers benchmark their survey efforts with other organizations, they might be concerned to learn that aspects considered to be highly important in their survey programs differ greatly from those of other organizations. On the surface, these differences may appear to be an issue, but understanding how organizations approach their survey programs can provide a better context for making a judgment.

Based on i4cp's observations of the employee survey programs of our Employee Engagement Exchange members and of other organizations as well, we hypothesize that organizations progress along a predictable path with the evolution of their employee survey programs. We call this the Employee Survey Experience Cycle.

Knowing what this survey experience path looks like can help your organization understand why it is has its current focus on particular aspects of employee survey planning and delivery. It can also help you anticipate future or next-step emphasis areas for your survey program. Understanding the experience cycle may even suggest that it might be time to consider making a change to your survey program.

The Employee Survey Experience Cycle

Looking at surveys across a continuum, we can roughly define three stages:
  • New program - An organization in this stage is relatively new to employee surveys and has done one or two organizational employee surveys, perhaps one all-employee survey and a follow-up pulse survey.
  • Established program - This organization has done two or more surveys, including a survey that had reports spanning two iterations that allow data comparisons to identify trends.
  • Very experienced survey organization - An organization in this stage has completed many surveys.

We refer to the experience continuum as a cycle because organizations with mature employee survey programs periodically go back to an earlier stage in selected survey program areas as a way to re-focus or renew the effectiveness of their programs. For all organizations, it’s useful to see how their survey program approaches compare to others, and understand the kinds of changes that could be considered across the stages of the employee survey experience cycle.

Survey Program Areas

Phases of the Employee Survey Experience Cycle

New Survey Program

(1-2 surveys)

Established Survey Program

(3+ surveys)

Very Experienced Survey Program

(many surveys)

Survey purpose

· Collect and establish a baseline understanding of what employees think.

· Collect "fresh" data

· Trend to prior survey results.

· Target specific areas linked to important business outcomes

· Collect fresh data

· Trend to prior results.

Survey content

· Employee engagement is the major focus.

· Benchmarks to external norms are key.

· Employee engagement is only one of several emphasis areas for the organization.

· Other areas, such as work environment, job satisfaction, etc. are important.

· Internal comparisons are key.

· Items chosen for business impact based on statistical or linkage analysis

· Internal comparisons - improvements/

declines are a major focus.

Length of survey/number and type of survey questions

· Many survey items are used, often 50-70 or more

· Multiple narrative (write-in) questions are included.

· Fewer questions, as items which are less important or non-actionable are dropped

· Fewer narrative items

· Shorter surveys are the norm—around 20 items.

Role of survey vendor

· Vendor-dependent for survey design, survey administration and reporting expertise.

· Executive presentation is critical part of communication to executives.

· Less vendor-dependence - survey program manager has a partner-like relationship with vendor

· The organization has a much better idea of what it wants.

· Vendor provides administration, reporting, action portal, executive results presentation.

· Vendor role is supportive and collegial - the vendor follows the lead of the organization

· Vendor's survey project management is a key contribution.

Survey administration

· Survey planning and logistics are major and consuming concerns - conducting a successful first survey is critical

· Issues with survey administration are treated as critical concerns.

· The organization has confidence in its survey planning and logistics capabilities

· Results analysis and reporting are most important.

· Successful survey administration is expected and routine

· Issues with survey administration are handled without drama.

Approach to deployment of results and action-planning

· All managers receive a data report

· Managers are expected to hold feedback /action-planning sessions.

· Manager-led communication sessions

· Enterprise-wide issue task teams

· Manager-led communication sessions

· Enterprise-wide issue task teams

· Scorecard-style reporting

· Leadership KPI's include use of survey results.

Analysis approach

· Strengths and weaknesses

· Organization and demographic comparisons

· Comparison to vendor-supplied external norms (indices and items)

· Internal and external normative comparisons

· Statistical analysis of data

· Relationships between survey data and business outcomes

· Internal and external normative comparisons

· Statistical analysis of data.