How to Use Employee Surveys to Improve Your Leadership Skills

surveyLeaders are invested in guiding their companies toward success, and this begins with a productive and engaged workforce. CEOs and other high-level executives who are interested in employee feedback often choose to implement employee surveys. While many discount the importance of employee surveys, when done properly they can yield a wealth of information to provide leaders with insight into how to make their companies function better. Moreover, critically examining survey data can help those in high-level positions to understand their employees, which in turn will result in a better work environment.

It’s no secret that engaged employees tend to stay with their employers longer, feel more fulfilled in their roles, have a better career outlook, and feel more engaged overall. Employees who feel valued will be encouraged to work to achieve their full potential, and an open and communicative environment will afford them the opportunity to voice their concerns without fear of retaliation.

Taking the time to listen to the concerns of your employees will not only result in leaders who are viewed in a more favorable light, but it also sends a message to employees that what they think matters. Here, we discuss how to implement effective employee surveys and share tips on which questions to ask and which to avoid.

Do Employee Surveys Really Help?

One study revealed that about 75 percent of employee surveys do not result in greater employee engagement. This could be due to the fact that the wrong questions are being asked of employees, and this lack of specificity tends to yield generic responses. When employees are asked if they are satisfied, this can mean different things to different people. Simply asking employees whether they are satisfied doesn’t get to the core of the problem and, more importantly, doesn’t address what can be done by the company’s leadership to improve the level of employee satisfaction.

Employee engagement surveys that dig deeper into behavioral and motivational patterns have been shown to be more promising. The questions on these types of surveys can be worded in such a way that employees are prompted to reflect on their responses rather than simply check off boxes or respond in a way that they believe management wants them to answer.

How Do Surveys Foster Better Leadership?

checklistSurveys not only help leaders to gauge how their employees feel about their workplace, superiors, and co-workers, but they also help CEOs and other high-level executives to examine their habits and behaviors from another perspective. Objectively examining the results of an employee engagement survey can serve to make leaders more empathetic and engaged, thus solidifying their reputation for being good listeners who truly cares about their employees. Leaders can learn what management styles resonate best with their employees.

As a leader, you are charged with making important decisions in the best interests of your company. However, effective leaders are aware that sometimes a new perspective is needed. Remaining open to suggestions demonstrates that you will consider the input of others.

Some in upper management may be unaware that management styles may vary based on the situation and people. Using responses from an employee engagement survey will highlight those areas that higher-level employees can work on in order to improve the workplace. It may even be beneficial to view the survey responses as a to-do list of what leaders can work on in order to become more effective. Employees who feel comfortable giving suggestions will not only point out areas that need improvement, but they will also be willing to give praise where it is due.

What Questions Should You Ask?

While there are a variety of sources that will provide specific questions to ask on employee engagement surveys, it is a good idea to examine your particular company’s culture and tailor the survey questions accordingly. Publicly shared questions can give you a general idea of what to ask, but the decision is ultimately up to those in management positions or a consulting firm hired specifically for this purpose.

If you would like your employee engagement survey to provide you with genuinely honest feedback, there are a few components that should be present in the survey material. For example, rather than sending out a general survey aimed at all company employees, you might consider issuing different survey questions to specific departments. Doing so will not only provide you with insight into the thoughts and feelings of entry-level employees, but it will also highlight any challenges that middle management faces, as well.

General questions could revolve around specific skills, effective communication, how leadership has performed thus far, and the leadership team’s willingness to take responsibility for the company’s performance. Specific areas to focus on could include talent management and recruitment, as well as the availability and quality of training—both inside and outside of the company.

For CEOs and other executives who wish to truly understand their employees, employee engagement surveys are an excellent tool. Provided that the questions are thoughtfully formulated, the responses can serve to inspire leaders to put forth their best effort and really get to the heart of what makes their companies successful.