Organizations routinely conduct surveys. Whether internal or external, businesses want to know what’s working and what isn’t. They need to understand where the weak points are so they know what to strengthen and how.

Feedback from sources within the organization (i.e., employees) and outside (i.e., consumers) is a valuable tool in understanding the next step or steps. If a marketing campaign didn’t come through and drive sales as expected, it’s good to know what went wrong so you can make the necessary adjustments. After all, that’s money that was not quite well spent. Before you dish out another dime, you need to know the proper strategy.

If your company seems to be experiencing a large turnover rate, you need to understand where the breakdown is taking place so you can act on this and hopefully, retain your employees. Again, that’s money you’re spending faster than you can save it.

There are multiple suggestions for conducting surveys. But there are some basic key elements to keep in mind no matter what your survey entails.

Be broad

You might have an idea of what you hope to accomplish with the survey. If your thoughts are preconceived, your questions will reflect that. You want to avoid being one directional. In other words, you don’t want your questions to be a smokescreen for a particular mind-set. If your questions all point to one direction, one end result, then the feedback you receive isn’t going to be honest. Slanted feedback won’t help you to grow and change. Here’s how something like that could look:

“Do you like red cars? Do you own a red car? Do red cars ride faster than blue?”

This series of questions is forcing the reader to focus solely on red cars and doesn’t allow for other options. If your goal is steer to people toward buying a red car, this sequence of questions will likely achieve that.

“What type of cars do you like? What color? What kind of car do you own? What do you like about it? What features will your new car have that your present one doesn’t?”

This series of questions allows for a broad response. Not everyone is going to like the same car, the same color or own the same model. And everyone has different needs so what they desire is going to be all over the board. If your goal is to offer variety, these questions will help you understand what your consumer wants.

The same is true with internal surveys. Phrase your questions in a way that allow your employees to think on their own. Avoid “yes” or “no” questions as much as possible. Multiple choice is fine, but make sure you allow them space to freely express their ideas.

“Would you say the quarterly sales meeting is mainly focused on: (1) Sales (2) Marketing (3) Teamwork (4) Office housekeeping? Why? What would you like to see improved and why?”

“If you had to describe our company to your friends, what would you say? What do you like best in your job? What do you like the least?”

The internal survey will naturally be tailored to your organization and your goals, but your main goal should be to understand your people and how they view you so you can make needed changes.

Be balanced

Balance your questions so that not all are negative and not all are positive. Again, keep in mind you need honesty. Don’t steer people in a certain direction. Allow them to take their own route.

Here’s an example of a negative focus: “Do you like receiving these marketing emails? Do you wish we’d send fewer? Do you think the content is unhelpful?”

If you ask a negative question, you will receive a negative response. Unless you’re hoping for that because you want to do away with your marketing emails!

On the other hand, here’s an example of being too positive: “Don’t you agree these marketing emails are wonderful? Wouldn’t you like to receive more fabulous information in your inbox? Do you agree the content is great?”

You might receive more honest answers with these questions, but again, you’re coaxing them in a particular direction.

To know if those marketing emails truly are effective, the questions need to be both broad and balanced.

“Are the marketing emails meeting your needs? What would you like to see more of in the way of content? What do you find the least useful to you? Would you prefer to read more emails or fewer? How often do you receive marketing emails in your inbox? How would you rate the quality of our emails?”

The above questions are not only more open and general, but they allow for options. And that is what people need. They need the option to express themselves.

Be open

In the end, people want to know the results of the time they took to offer their thoughts. So publish those results. Let them know you listened and explain what changes you’re planning to make. People need to feel appreciated for their work and support. Unless you had selfish motives in conducting your survey, the result is neither right nor wrong. It’s simply facts. But these facts are going to help you – the organization – to evolve and become better and trustworthy.

Key takeaways

There are three keys to consider when developing your survey.

First – keep your goal(s) focused – what is the purpose of the survey and what will you do with the results?

Second – make the survey about the people – your employees or consumers – rather than leaning toward an ulterior motive, such as maintaining a particular direction or producing a certain product that no one, but you, seems to be interested in.

And finally – do something with the information. If an issue needs to be addressed, assign your team to assess the problem, devise a solution and execute it within a reasonable amount of time. If there are products, marketing techniques or employee favorites, consider how you can enhance what is already great in your organization.

Want updates and more news and tips for workplace communication? Follow J.M. Lacey Communications on Facebook. It’s frequently updated!