• Scott McInnes

72 | A staff survey when things aren’t great!?


I had a chat recently with a potential new client and suggested that before they get going on any kind of internal communications strategy or plan they needed to find out what was going on with their staff.

They needed to know what was working for their people, what wasn’t, what they thought of current internal communications, what they were interested in, the channels they used (and didn’t); what they thought about the leaders in the business and, overall, how they FELT about working there.

Not surprisingly the company didn’t think that that was such a great idea “Why would I ask staff how they’re feeling when I know the answer is going to be really bad?”

It seems counter-intuitive right? Why on earth would anyone run a staff survey when things are going badly? Maybe it’s a slew of job losses, a merger or acquisition, bad leadership, lack of trust, poor communications or a toxic culture that’s to blame?

Whatever the reason for things being bad, for me, that’s the BEST time to ask.

But why? Largely because you’re ASKING!

It shows a willingness to listen!

You know things are bad and your people know things are bad. So, asking how they’re feeling against this backdrop shows that you aren’t scared of hearing the answer. It shows, in fact, that you’re open to hearing how they ‘re feeling and, moreover, you’re up for doing something about it (see later – that’s kind of important!)

It gives you REAL insight

Maybe you think you’ve got a good idea of what’s wrong and that you know what to do to fix it. But without really knowing, it’s all just assumption and guesswork (it was David Brent who rightly said that to assume is to make an ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me’). In asking the questions, you can get to the core of what the actual issues are, the little nuances across teams and an understanding of how each of those teams, divisions or levels in business is feeling and where they see gaps.

It provides an opportunity for humility

If you listen to any of my podcasts, the leadership trait that comes up most often is humility. And if your staff survey shows that things are bad, say it!

“We asked you how you felt about working in ACME Chemicals and the results confirmed what we already suspected – we’ve a lot of challenge in the business right now and that is impacting all of you. We haven’t gotten everything right but now that we know where some of the pain points are, together we can do something to fix it”

That acknowledgement alone is a great start to making things better – by simply saying, “WE GET IT”.

It allows you to frame the response

You want your people to know their voices have been heard and that those voices make a difference. By asking and then highlighting that the changes being made are in direct response to their feedback, ticks both those boxes. That starts to make things feel a bit better and, in turn will start to increase levels of employee engagement, productivity and advocacy (“it’s not great yet but they’re doing something about it”)

So my advice, if things are good, or particularly when they are bad, ASK and then ACT, linking and labelling your actions to their feedback

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