You can’t just place a suggestion box in the lunch room and expect to learn anything from it. The box shows employees that you are not willing to listen to them, that they have to write down anything they have to say, and that you are not interested in anything they can’t squeeze onto 3” by 5” card. Good grief, the suggestion box does more harm than good.
Use an Outside Service to Survey Your Staff
To get meaningful feedback from your staff, use an anonymous survey method. That protects your staff and encourages them to give truthful answers. One option is to use Survey Monkey. ™
To further ease tension about the survey, tell your people in advance who will see their responses, and who won’t see them.
Seek Out the Right Information
You might be leery of asking your employees if they like working with you, if they are proud of the company they work for, or if they admire your competitors. But if you don’t give your staff a chance to say those things then you don’t have the chance to fix those things.
Ask Questions the Right Way
Think of it like a market survey. You’ve seen (poorly designed) surveys that force you to answer a limited set of questions, and that restrict your answers to a numbering scale like one to ten; a score of one means that you are not happy and ten means that you are very satisfied. That is a poor research method because you don’t get the reasons behind the answers.
The real goal is to uncover ideas that will improve your business operations, give you new marketing ideas, build teamwork and reduce staff turnover. As we said, you can’t get creative feedback by limiting your staff’s responses to a numbering system.
As in Sales, Ask Open-Ended Questions
Gather ideas in advance from your staff on what types of questions they would take seriously. Here are some suggestions to help you get the ideas flowing:
To Gain Competitive Advantages:
I feel we are losing sales because we don’t _______.
We are better than our competitors because we _____.
Our competition is better than we are in this area _____.
To Build Teamwork:
My supervisor makes me feel respected when he or she _____.
My supervisor slows my productivity when he or she _____.
I feel like people in my department show support for each other when they _____.
I think my department would produce more if we _____.
To Reduce Staff Turnover:
My family is most proud of the company I work for when it _____.
To learn more and advance at work I would have to learn _____.
The company encourages me to learn when it _____.
I would work here for a long time if I could _____.
Give Them Time to Respond
Don’t do the survey abruptly. Promote it a couple weeks in advance as something you are working on. Build its importance. Sell the idea. You can do that, because, after all, you are in the business of selling.
A set start and end date, spanning over two weeks, will help people take the survey more seriously. Some researchers will say don’t do this over a major holiday because people are thinking about their families. However, that could be a great time to get your people to open up a little about how they feel about working for your company.