Traditionally, measurement has been a weak area of public relations practice. For various reasons, many PR people haven’t used measurement as much as they could to plan and implement PR activities.
The various reasons for the reluctance of practitioners to engage in measurement include:
This is all very well, but measurement provides the figures you need to convince management that your PR is producing good results. You need to be able to show management there is a need for communication and you need to be able to prove your value. If you don’t have proof of your achievements, you are vulnerable to people who may cast doubt on the value of your role.
Employee surveys are an area in which you could play a more active role. The HR department normally manages employee surveys, but the surveys are important from a communication point of view. Workplace communication can always be improved, so the employee survey should reveal the extent to which employees want better communication from their managers and supervisors. The results provide a great opportunity for you to show that the organization needs you.
Whether you are on staff or you are a consultant, you can insist on being involved in the planning and execution of employee surveys. This is because there are important communication elements needed for good survey results and you can review the quality of the communication questions in the survey to give you more usable figures. When you do this you will increase your value to HR and to management.
Most employee surveys of a reasonable length delivered at work should generate a 30-40% response rate. This could rise as high as 60-80% if selected people (usually a supervisor or manager) in each department or location are asked to encourage participation. The response rate will drop if employees are expected to complete a work survey at home. Response rates are higher if the survey is delivered electronically – as long as the questions are not perceived to be sensitive – because recipients in the typical workplace feel too easily identifiable in an electronic survey.
At times employers ask themselves why the response rate to employee surveys has been lower than expected. Employees generally give three broad reasons for being reluctant to participate:
The most immediate communication task is to convince employees that the survey responses will be used by management to make improvements. Before this happens, managers need to ask themselves several questions:
Senior managers need to communicate good reasons for conducting the survey and the specific actions that will emanate from the results. This lets employees know their views are valuable and that their managers will be accountable for acting on the results. If managers try to hide unfavorable results, the news will inevitably leak out on the organizational grapevine, which will undermine the survey completely.
Concerns about confidentiality can be addressed by telling employees that confidentiality is paramount and that a third party [if possible] is being used to conduct the survey, with all results being aggregated so that no individuals can be identified. The measures to ensure confidentiality should be repeated often enough to ensure the message is absorbed.
The “I’m too busy” response tends to be encountered most where employees believe management won’t take the results seriously. They may have good grounds for thinking this because management hasn’t acted on the results of previous surveys. In these cases the onus is on management to communicate credibly about acting on the results.
Incentives may help to increase participation in surveys, but recipients may think you can identify their response if you can identify them for incentives. Also, new incentives would need to be offered for future surveys or the response rate will drop. A way around these problems is to offer a reward to the department or location with the highest overall response rates.
The survey should be easy to complete. It should have a targeted maximum duration of 30-40 minutes per participant and should be easy to access online. The expected time commitment should be communicated to employees beforehand. The response will drop with long questionnaires and too many demographic questions. Responses will improve if the CEO tells managers and supervisors that the survey is important and that staff should be given time to fill in the questionnaire. Paper questionnaires sent to the home will draw a lower response rate than ones distributed to individuals at work. Electronic surveys (web, email or telephone) draw faster responses, but where sensitive questions are asked, for instance about employees’ intention to stay with the organization, the response rates will be lower because employees think they could possibly be identified.
Care should be taken to avoid surveying too often because this reduces the response rate. Ways to improve survey responses include coordinating all employee surveys through a central point to avoid overlapping, and introducing each survey with a summary of the main findings and changes made after the previous survey. When changes have been made in response to the previous survey, the employer should communicate this fact to employees so they know their responses are considered important. In fact, as changes are being introduced into the workplace as a result of employee surveys, this should be communicated as part of the implementation process.
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