Employee Surveys that Make a Difference by Joe Folkman. Executive Excellence, 286 pages, $19.95.

Employee surveys are like apologies. If you make them, but don't do anything to change a situation, they canlead to distrust, frustration, and wasted energy. If you follow through, you can build trust and strengthen arelationship.

In Employees Surveys that Make a Difference, Folkman, the founder of an assessment tool design company,explains how to avoid negative results and learn from surveys to make your company stronger, morecompetitive and productive.

What You Gain

According to Folkman, employee surveys allow you to do four things:

  1. Pinpoint where changes are needed.
  2. Foster strategic alignment.
  3. Improve productivity.
  4. Identify competitive advantages.
Choose survey items that are closely linked to the company's core objectives, writes Folkman, because that'swhere the company will be most willing to spend money. Conversely, don't ask questions about things thatyou are not willing to change. For example, don't ask employees whether they are happy with their benefitspackage if the company cannot afford to offer them more.

An employee survey should be designed to identify the root causes of issues, Folkman writes. If employeescomplain about poor communication, for example, it probably does not mean there is a shortage ofinteroffice memos. More likely, there is inconsistency in messages from management.

Also, a well-designed survey takes time and commitment. If it is not designed to answer the right questions,it will be ignored by both managers and employees.

Folkman has written an insightful, detailed book that will help companies of any size turn the employeesurvey into a valuable management tool.

When to Survey
Pay attention to the timing of surveys, Folkman advises. For example, if your company is restructuring, youmay want to postpone a survey. Downsizing hurts morale and responses may be negatively skewed. Do not,however, postpone a survey to avoid dealing with an unfavorable situation. Usually, employee responses areonly more negative about questions that involve that situation. A survey can also put the situation inperspective - it might not be as bad as you think.

Copyright 1999 Executive Book Summaries.