Use of Online Surveys for HR Continue to Grow
By DH Communications, Inc.
No longer confined to paper-based surveys, HR departments
and companies are using new technologies to conduct increasingly
more sophisticated surveys online. These surveys include employee
satisfaction, upward or "360" evaluations, and the
performance review process. Open-ended questions, multiple
formats, and complex branching tools mean HR professionals
have the potential to gather more insight about employees
than ever before.
Indeed, because technology is so much better than it was
five years ago, and because costs continue to drop, companies
are reaching out more than they ever were for employee feedback.
Says Charlie Watts, Global Practice Leader for Organization
and Employee Research at HR consulting company Towers
Perrin, "We see two trends emerging: One, companies
want more employee measurement and two, they are using data
gleaned from employee surveys to make a business case for
Online surveys make sense, especially for larger companies
with employees based across the U.S. or around the world,
where administrating a paper-based survey would be cost-prohibitive.
According to Watts, online surveys offer companies a number
of advantages including:
Lower Costs ‚ Initial setup costs, when compared
to paper-based surveys, are higher, but the savings is seen
with the elimination of printing, postage, and data entry.
Faster response times ‚ Online surveys eliminate
the need to wait for responses to arrive back via postal
or interoffice mail.
Higher response rates ‚ Companies are seeing higher
response rates ‚ sometimes as high as 75 ‚ 80%.
Convenience ‚ Employees and employers both find
electronic surveys easy-to-use. Online surveys also lower
errors and save time as they eliminate data entry.
Another benefit: Anonymity
Contrary to popular belief, online surveys can also offer
employees complete anonymity. Packer
Thomas, CPA and Business Consultants recently conducted
an upward evaluation of all its employees including Principals,
Managers, Supervisors, Firm Administrator, and Office Managers.
Invitations to take the online survey were sent by email,
with a two-week deadline to complete it. Reminders were sent
to those who didn't respond after the first week. (Only the
survey administrator knew how responded and didn't.)
Reports Kim Scheuermann, Director of HR, "Results were
wonderful. We received a little more than half the responses
by the end of the first week." The key benefit of the
survey, according to Scheurman, was it offered employees complete
anonymity. "Results were tallied in categories by staff
level, for instance, 'Managers and Supervisors,' 'Seniors
and Associates,' etc. To maintain anonymity, if one category
had less than three staff respondents, results were reported
in a category called, 'All Other.' We also eliminated the
traditional open-ended question at the end. Employees could
take the survey either at work or from their home computers
and no names were attached."
Employee trust in the company is paramount. Says Watts, "Companies
need to manage concerns about confidentiality with the right
advance communications stressing that no one will ever see
an individual response." Scheuermann backs this up: "I
was the only person who had contact with our survey company.
Once the reports were generated, individual employees saw
only his or her own peer feedback."
According to the article, "Should we go paper or electronic?"
in the Journal
of Employee Communication Management (August 2002), online
surveys allow companies increasing flexibility to conduct
sophisticated testing and analysis. Survey tools and programs
allow "multiple question-and-answer formats, real-time
response error correction, and complex branching features
that allow items to be targeted to specific employee groups."
Branching is a feature that allows you to ask questions based
on answers to previous questions and can be based on job title,
gender, or specific corporate events, such as performance
reviews. And, branching can include "targeted supplements"
where a respondent who selects sales can be presented with
a "sales force supplement" ‚ a set of questions
pertaining to sales goals and objectives. While always an
alternative with paper-based surveys, branching has been expensive
and difficult to track and report. Online surveys have changed
More importantly, companies can now tie employee satisfaction
(ESAT) to the bottom line. While accurate measurement of ESAT
on the bottom line is hard to define, a high ESAT often translates
into happy customers. Online surveys allow companies to regularly
track, measure, and analyze all areas of ESAT, including benefits
packages, corporate culture and communications, and the willingness
of employees to recommend the company to a friend. Many companies
now tie their internal measures ‚ employee perceptions of
customer satisfaction ‚ with actual customer surveys, building
an even stronger link between the two.
But, says Watts, "while online surveys have numerous
advantages, paper surveys aren't dead yet. Companies still
not fully wired, such as manufacturing, retail, or banking
are still using paper surveys. And, the scale of the company
also determines whether one should go paper or electronic.
Obviously, a very small company will find paper surveys more
cost-effective than an online survey." Online surveys
are quickly becoming an effective tool in the HR communications
toolbox. Higher response rates and in-depth analysis mean
the potential for companies to tie employee satisfaction to
the bottom line is greater than ever.
Corporation is a pioneer in providing online software
solutions for research, education and performance improvement.
Hosted Survey and Hosted Test are used by human resources
professionals, market researchers, education and training
organizations and membership associations worldwide.
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