Employee Survey Personalisation: Designing Better Surveys

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To take a more personalised approach to employee experience, you’ve got to start with a more personalised approach to surveying. We spoke to our Director of People Science, Ryan Tahmassebi, for a download on employee survey personalisation: what it is, why it’s so effective and how you can start to do it yourself…

What is employee survey personalisation, and why should organisations do it?

There are two elements of employee survey personalisation:

  • Building a survey around your people and their unique circumstances.
  • Segmenting the data you gather by motivating factors, not just standard demographics.

 

When you’re writing a survey, you need some consistent questions that show whether the actions you’ve taken since the previous survey have been successful (e.g. “I feel proud to work for this organisation”). But you also need questions that drill down into what specific challenges people are facing and what actions you should be taking next. To do the latter effectively, the survey needs to be personalised to your employees and their circumstances.

Obviously, you can’t send each person their own individual set of questions. But you can focus on the themes that are of particular interest to anyone who works at your organisation—like how they feel about the recent merger, or last month’s wellbeing initiative, or the new CEO—rather than trotting out all the same-old unfocused, litmus-testing questions.

And because the questions are more relevant to people’s lives, they’ll be more likely to take the time to respond to the survey—something we saw across all of our customers who sent out Covid-related surveys at the start of lockdown, where response rates were notably high.

“It’s about making sure you ask questions that resonate with people, questions that are relevant based on what’s happening in their roles and what’s happening in their lives.”

Ryan Tahmassebi, Director of People Science at Hive
Ryan Tahmassebi BW Square

Once you’ve got the results, you’d usually break them down by demographic, like age group, location, job role, gender, etc. While those breakdowns do a good job of showing how each group of people is feeling, they don’t actually tell you much about why. But if you break down the results by motivating factors—like childcare responsibilities, career aspirations, commute length, etc—then you start to see how those motivators affect individuals, allowing you to better understand how to support them. In short, you end up with a much richer and more actionable dataset.

“You could know a lot of people who fall into those same buckets but have a very different outlook on the world of work; they have very different wants and needs, and very different motivators.”

Ryan Tahmassebi, Director of People Science at Hive

This sort of segmentation is nothing new; it’s common practice in customer surveying. Marketeers survey like this to try to understand who their customers are and what’s most important to them, so they can tailor the product, service or marketing strategy accordingly. But in employee surveys, the goal often seems to be slightly different. Rather than seeking to understand how to make things better for people, it’s about finding out how the organisation is viewed by its workforce. 

In other words, the focus is on the whole, not the sum of its parts—kind of contradicting the purpose of an employee survey.


But what about benchmarking?

There’s no denying it: employee survey personalisation makes benchmarking harder. If you’re asking about a specific event or a challenge that is unique to your organisation, you won’t be able to compare your results against anyone else.

But should that matter? If you survey your employees for them, rather than for yourself, surely there’s no real need to benchmark.

While it’s nice to think that you’re doing well versus the rest of your industry, it’s not as important as actually finding out what your people’s biggest challenges are and how you could help.

“Benchmarking can give us an idea of how we stack up against other organisations, but unless we hit these standards that we set for ourselves, we’re always going to be striving to improve.”

Ryan Tahmassebi, Director of People Science at Hive


How do you personalise employee surveys?

The key to employee survey personalisation is inclusivity. Nobody is able to empathise with an entire employee-base, understand exactly what is important to them and then write a survey that focuses on all the key topics. But by including employees from different levels, departments, backgrounds and circumstances in the survey-building process, more or less everyone can be represented.

In practice, that would look like a focus group (or ideally, a number of focus groups), featuring representation from the senior leadership down to the frontline employees, new starters to lifetime workers, Baby Boomers to Gen Zs—all with a range of motivating factors. 

Together, the group would discuss what’s most important to them as individuals, what challenges they face, and what hopes and frustrations they have. From that insight, you can accurately craft a question set that addresses what matters most to your people. 

“Because if it feels like it’s been designed and pulled together in one part of the organisation, then naturally, other parts of the organisation are going to feel like that survey’s been done to them and they haven’t had the chance to input.”

Ryan Tahmassebi, Director of People Science at Hive

But it doesn’t end there. The same tactic can be even more powerful when it comes to action-planning. Imagine that your survey revealed that parents in your organisation wanted more flexibility. Why not ask some of those parents to be part of the driving force behind that change? Let them help define what the goal would be, and take a leading role in making it a reality.

Ultimately, the primary goal of every employee survey should be to inform the action that will make employees’ working lives better—and the best way to do that is through personalisation. Anything else (temperature checking, benchmarking) should be secondary. 

To find out more about how Hive can support you in employee survey personalisation, arrange an intro with one of our friendly advisors. 

And if you want to read some more surveying pro tips, check out these other resources:
 
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