Giving employees an outlet
to voice their concerns, and importantly, for managers to act uponthose concerns can result in
employees who feel happy and valued.

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Over the last decade, the workforce has been changing at a rapidpace. From the technology we use to the demographics of workers and the way wecommunicate, these changes have impacted almost everything aboutthe way companies operate – including how to motivate and retaintalent – something that has become critical to the bottom line.

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According to Gallup, disengaged employees have 37 percent higherabsenteeism, 18 percent lower productivity and 15 percent lowerprofitability. And despite a rising focus on employee satisfactionand engagement, today's workforce is feeling burnt out. Deloitte's survey of 1,000 full-timeUS professionals found that 77 percent of respondents said theyexperienced burnout. In a hot job market with historically lowunemployment levels, organizations are seeing their talentedemployees frustrated and leaving for other opportunities.

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Related: Hiring in today's competitive jobmarket

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Companies who find themselves with retention rates that aren'timproving, tense work environments or disengaged workers are likelynot hearing their employees. The reason? It might be outdatedengagement strategies. While the annual satisfaction survey can beuseful for high-level strategy, board meetings and the c-suite,engagement scores can stagnate using this approach. There are moreeffective ways to survey the broader landscape of a company usingcontinuous listening. As our workplaces diversify and we meet theneeds of new generations, methods of surveying employees mustevolve, too.

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Surveys are a useful tool for decreasing burnout anddissatisfaction. Giving employees an outlet to voice theirconcerns, and importantly, for managers to act upon those concernscan result in employees who feel happy, valued and are more likelyto do better work. Before we change how we survey,however, we must change how business and HR leaders think aboutemployee surveys.

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Here are three steps to consider before your next employeesurvey.

1: Identify your problem or objective

Before installing a survey or even a cadence and largerstrategy, business leaders should ensure there is strong alignmenton the problem you and your team are trying to solve and themetrics you are looking to uncover. A lack of alignment can lead tobroad, sweeping questions that are unlikely to produce tailoredresults that drive actionable insights and ultimately company-widechange.

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Often, companies conduct long and generalized annual or biannualsurveys. If managers measure employee experience infrequently, thesurveys may not be as complete, as employees either forget toreport an observation they had months earlier or report itinaccurately. To combat this, create a survey cadence to solicitfeedback more regularly through continuous listening and frequentaction.

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That's just the start. Even if surveys are conducted regularly,whether monthly or quarterly, it doesn't guarantee accuracy. Moreeffective surveys are available on a 24/7 basis and in the placesthat employees access most frequently, whether that's in a breakroom or on an intranet homepage. If employees know they can file aconcern or takeaway at any time, and understand exactly where andhow to do so, the quality of the feedback will improve.

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Finally, it's crucial to deploy a text-analytics engine that cananalyze results and consolidate them into digestible reports. Whencompanies fail to use these tools, they immediately limit thesurvey's potential. Results are only useful if we have the toolsand infrastructure that can translate them into actionablefeedback.

2. Test managers' theories

Managers within different departments have their own hypothesesabout company morale. Those ideas are formedthroughout the days, weeks and months spent with colleagues in thesame department, working day-to-day on projects. Yet managers maynot know what employees experience cross-departmentally, creating adisconnect across the institution. For example, if a manager isasked why resignation numbers are up, he or she may draw differentconclusions than managers in other departments.

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Consequently, managers' lack of companywide understanding canlead to survey questioning that fails to touch upon the coreproblems of the company. Forty-eight percent of employees thinksurveys are not an accurate reflection of reality. That's far toohigh of a number.

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Testing hypotheses by asking questions through broader groupsenables managers to understand more about employee sentiment acrossdepartments. This can only be done if there is enough data to drawthese conclusions, which can mean surveying more frequentlyand improving access to surveys. More feedback can resultin a better understanding of the company as a whole.

3. Design your survey to yield actionable insights (and act onthem!)

Of all the steps, yielding actionable insight is the mostimportant step.

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Conducting surveys shouldn't be a formality; it should besomething HR leaders actively do to learn about your workplace.Tailoring surveys is only half the battle; you must also beprepared and willing to act on the answers. For example, if you'regoing to ask about compensation and annual review structures, youneed to be prepared to do something about it.

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Lack of managerial action is one of the biggest problems withemployee surveys. Only 8 percent of employees strongly agree thattheir employer takes action on survey results according to Gallup.This leads to employees feeling undervalued and ultimately resultsin a decline in the quality of their work.

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Designing your survey to drive actionable insights canultimately lead to improved participation, more specific resultsand a healthier workplace. The impact of positive employee surveyscan echo across an entire organization. But in order to achievethis, managers should put in the effort to design surveys withtheir employees' best interests in mind, then act upon theirfeedback.

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The bottom line is that happier employees not only improveworkplace retention but also impact your company'ssuccess. It's time to throw out the outdated survey and bring inmethods that will actually help you hear what employeeshave to say–and act on it.

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Melissa Arronte is a solutions principal atMedallia.

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