According to the Recruiters Sentiment Study 2016 by MRI Network, 86% of recruiters and 62% of employers believe that the labor market is candidate-driven. In other words, both HR forces and executives know that in order to get the best industry experts on board, organizations have to meet the highest standards of their future hires.
The primary challenge isn’t even in actually satisfying employees’ needs and living up to their expectations, but, first and foremost, in learning and understanding what these needs and expectations are. That is exactly what workplace surveys are held for.
This article unveils the difficulties that HR departments experience with workplace surveys, and explains how dedicated human resources applications can provide it keen competition.
Why annual workplace surveys are everyone’s pet peeve
First-hand accounts of employee experience in satisfaction surveys can help HR professionals shape the understanding of what the workforce values most and least in their company and what they want to be improved. Ideally so. In actuality, annual surveys pose inconveniences to HR experts as well as to employees, such as the challenges listed below.
Quality surveys are difficult to design
While covering a wide range of topics that ensure an elaborate personal impression of the staff, surveys should be simple, concise and take only 15-20 minutes to fill in. Long and complex surveys can scare respondents away and bring the engagement rate down.
The Harvard Business Review ‘Getting the Truth in the Workplace Surveys’ devotes 4 out of its 15 guidelines for workplace surveys to response scales alone. The author explains: scales that ask to express the extent of agreement or that vary from question to question (‘very useful/not very useful’, ‘very efficient/not very efficient’) slow employees down and provoke bias. Since even such peculiarities can influence results, they have to be carefully taken care of, which requires even more time and effort.
Irrelevant questions produce skewed results
Making surveys relevant for each employee in particular is another challenge. Questions need to be tailored to employees who perform different tasks, work in different environments and have different job tenure. Only when a survey is composed and analyzed with basic relevancy factors in mind, the results can be considered credible. Otherwise, more than 500 people can answer (or not) a question that, in fact, concerns only 50 employees, thus plain out skewing the results.
Employees don’t believe in anonymity and cop out
Needless to say, employees can give honest answers only when they are confident in a survey’s anonymity. Nowadays, however, when most annual surveys are computer-based, workforce is well aware that their machines leave digital fingerprints and, knowing that they can easily be tracked down, staff backs out. Results from such surveys will be overly low or high, defying the proper bell curve of averageness.
For HR experts, it has become hard, if not impossible, to convince their workforce in anonymity, even if they use third-party software and servers that rule out the possibility of identifying an employee. To achieve maximum credibility, HR staff even go to such length as to organize paper-based surveys.
Revealed once a year, problems get noticed too late
Surveys, especially if they are paper-based, take time to analyze. More time passes until the statistics reaches line management, who then need even more time to plan their actions and deal with the complaints or frustration. In the meantime, problems (especially those that had appeared long before the survey took place) can escalate to the point of no return and result in staff turnover, a strike or any other major crisis.
Addressing challenges with mobile-enabled feedback
Quick daily feedback can help HR managers continuously keep an eye on the emotional state of their workforce and always be on the same page with their employees’ demands. As a mobile feature, feedback can be as quick and easy as mere 3 taps on the screen.
The feedback feature can be implemented as a stand-alone mobile human resources app or as a part of a complex enterprise app, with separate UI and functionality for the HR staff who design surveys and the workforce who answers them. This app can turn into a worthy alternative to complex annual surveys with all their downsides.
Short, plain and flexible
A feedback screen can pop up on a mobile screen automatically at a certain time or once an employee leaves their company’s grounds. The user will most likely prefer to complete the form while in the elevator, going through a parking lot or commuting back home. From 3 to 5 quick questions are just the right amount that will manage to grasp a tired employee’s attention at the end of the day. For some, rating their experience may even become a way to put work matters to rest and drop the curtain for the day.
The HR management can introduce feedback forms in cycles, each with a different set of questions for every weekday, thus covering various issues and getting about 25 answer categories a week. Alternatively, they can make questions repeat bi-weekly or even monthly. The longer the cycle, the more issues can be communicated. However, long cycles take more time to build statistics and can, therefore, hinder reaction from the HR or line management side.
Answering methods can be customized, yet, to comprise an effective survey set, consistency in response-types is strongly recommended (see the HBR guidelines mentioned before). So, if 4 questions use ‘yes/no’ ticks and the last one has the ‘never/always’ scale, the administrating console of the human resources application will offer the manager to rephrase the odd one.
Tailored by category
The feedback HR app can contain the categories of position, age, experience, race, gender, or any custom one. These categories will let the HR force comprise different sets of questions, target them to different groups of employees and process the results with the category differences in mind.
For instance, a question regarding the absence of any sort of discrimination will only appear on the devices of respondents who identified themselves as belonging to sexual, racial or religious minorities. That way, the results will be gathered from the target employees only, and the calculations will be truly credible.
Anonymous and in-house
With mobile software and its in-house backend, organizations won’t need to outsource survey services to third parties, which is at times indispensable in order to convince employees in anonymity and raise their survey engagement. Since the HR app’s server is the first point reached by completed feedback forms, it can be set to automatically erase all ‘digital fingerprints’ before transferring the data to category folders of other HR tools.
Demonstrating this process live, right in the HR department’s office, would be more convincing than any words. Anonymous feedback will help HR managers build trustful relationship with the entire workforce, get the most credible results and see the real picture of their staff’s satisfaction.
Regular and prompt
The advantage of short but daily feedback forms (that are processed by a separate analytics module and, as the cycle repeats, gradually build up a dynamic graph) over rare, complicated and lengthy surveys, is obvious. Besides, mobile feedback provides the opportunity to identify problems as they emerge and act almost immediately.
Once a decrease in the workforce satisfaction is spotted, HR experts can not only talk to the line-managers but also adopt their survey questions to a particular issue and figure out its root causes. A text box at the very end of the form can even let the most engaged employees express their suggestions on dealing with an unsatisfactory situation.
For both the workforce and HR managers, annual workplace surveys have been challenging enough to maintain. Instead, organizations should opt for customizable, daily, brief feedback forms that fit right into employees’ mobile devices and integrate with an HRM system. By directly addressing the issues of design, relevance, anonymity and timely reaction, mobile app developers can pave the way to a new understanding of feedback, helping HR professionals and staff managers prove that they do care about the opinions of each and every employee in the company.
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