Choosing the Best Format for Your Employee Satisfaction Survey

If you’re considering an Employee Satisfaction Survey or Employee Opinion Survey for your organization, you’ve probably noticed the myriad complex factors that can impact the success of a survey campaign. Along with survey length and the kinds of questions to ask, people often solicit our advice on the best way to deliver, or administer, the surveys to their employees. In most cases, our initial response is that the best survey format depends upon the specific needs of the organization.

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So how do you determine what format fits your needs? To start, here are five tips for choosing between online, paper, and telephone formats for your Employee Opinion Survey:

  1. Fit the survey to your employees’ working environment. As a general best practice, employees should be encouraged to complete the survey during work hours, and thus they must have access at work to any resources needed to do so. Many organizations in healthcare, hospitality, and casinos/gaming, for example, have large numbers of employees without dedicated access to computers. These organizations often opt for paper surveys or set up convenient kiosks where employees can take the survey.
  2. Different survey formats may not resonate equally among your employees. In fact, employee demographics often play into how a workforce responds to a given survey format. It isn’t uncommon, for example, for some populations to feel uncomfortable using computers, or conversely for employees to vastly prefer an electronic format over telephone or hardcopy. Selecting a format that suits the tastes of your general employee population can help to support strong survey participation.
  3. It’s no surprise that survey format usually has some level of impact on cost, but what surprises many is that the most cost-effective survey formats are often those that generate the best outcomes. Online surveys, for example, are often priced below telephone format, generally produce higher participation rates, and are less prone to response bias. (Response bias occurs when a survey respondent answers questions in the way they think the interviewer would like them to answer.) A recommended approach to planning your Employee Opinion Survey includes consulting with an expert to understand how factors like these play out in the relationship between cost and value.
  4. If a single survey format does not meet your needs, consider a two-pronged approach. It is not uncommon for organizations to opt for two survey formats in order to develop a survey campaign that accommodates their employees and the project budget. If, for example, hundreds of your employees work on the shop floor without access to computers, but some departments have dedicated workstations, the use of both online and paper formats may be the best option. Good survey providers offer this level of flexibility and will be willing to consult with you to design a program that meets your specific needs.
  5. Environmental responsibility has increasingly become a formal value among organizations that understand it is in their long-term best interest to help preserve the health of our planet. If this sounds like your organization, opting for a green approach like telephone or online may align most fittingly with your company playbook. Organizations that go this route can incorporate “green” imagery into their survey promotions to help employees make the connection between the survey and their company values.

Keeping these tips in mind as you select a format for your Employee Satisfaction Survey can help you to identify the option best-suited for your organization. And when questions arise, consult with an expert. Survey providers like Avatar Solutions want you to succeed and will work closely with you to design a survey campaign that will help you do just that. To learn more about our employee surveys, please visit

To Create the Best Employee Survey, Use the Best Survey Questions

As described recently in our May 1 blog article, employee surveys can be an excellent means for assessing and improving employee engagement at your organization.  However, the success of your annual survey initiative depends on a number of important factors, not the least of which is utilization of a survey design measuring a valid model – or as many behavioral statisticians call it, a “construct” – of employee engagement.  As such, the best employee survey makes use of questions proven to get at the very heart of engagement.  The following are just a few of the best survey questions we often recommend our clients utilize:

“I would proudly recommend this organization as a good place to work to a friend or relative.” – Research conducted by Avatar Solutions shows that engaged employees show a far greater willingness to recommend their employer within their close network, whether as an employer or provider of goods/services.  This survey question has a strong positive correlation with engagement and may not only help you to determine whether your employees are engaged, but also whether they exhibit behaviors that give your organization a competitive advantage.

“My job gives me an opportunity to do the things I do best.” – Perhaps more than ever before, employees care deeply about their ability to experience personal and professional self-actualization in the workplace, which makes this one of the best survey questions you can include on your employee survey.  Organizations or teams achieving low scores on this survey question should consider ways they can increase role alignment with employees’ skills, including expanding responsibilities and stretch activities for workers who have shown themselves willing and able to take on more.

“My coworkers are friendly and helpful.” – While it is perhaps easy for managers to dismiss employees’ satisfaction with their coworkers as a consideration demanding less attention than other matters, research has shown that the strength of an employee’s relationship with her colleagues is predictive of her relative willingness to seek career opportunities elsewhere.  All other things being equal, a high-performing employee with friends in the workplace is generally less likely to leave voluntarily than an employee with weaker social bonds adhering them to their team.  As such, this question ranks among the best survey questions.

These are just a few of the questions we often recommend our clients utilize when measuring employee engagement, satisfaction, or the state of a client’s organizational culture.  Items like these appear on Avatar Solutions’ Employee Surveys, each of which, beyond our standard survey questions, includes space for the client to select a number of supplemental questions of their choosing, to ensure their interests and goals for the survey program are being met.  Ultimately, the best employee survey is the one that, accurately measuring employee engagement, correlates strongly with important business outcomes like turnover rates or customer satisfaction.  In this manner, Avatar Solutions’ Employee Surveys provide top value to organizations seeking to improve their workforce and business.

Why Companies Should Survey Employees

What is the easiest way to gather information from someone?  Ask that person questions about what you want to know.  This simple solution is often overlooked by many organizations when attempting to understand employee engagement and staff opinions about their jobs.

More often than they should, organizations rely on overheard gossip, anecdotal stories, or grapevine information when determining workers’ thoughts and perspectives.  Leadership then makes errant conclusions and changes based on hearsay.  Employees are left feeling unheard and confused, which often leads to dissatisfaction and disengagement.

To fully understand how your employees feel, you must ask them directly.  Administering employee surveys will allow your organization to gather more valid and informative data than simply relying on overheard discussions or complaints.  Responses from surveys can deliver valuable knowledge that directly affects your bottom line and fosters positive change in any or all of the following ways:

Benefits of Employee Survey

Understanding why you should survey and what information surveys can provide is the first step toward improving employee engagement at your organization.  You must then design a survey that asks the right questions in order to create effective improvement plans.  Find out next week what types of questions will provide the most actionable data.

Why Build Employee Engagement: The Importance of Engagement in the Workplace

Employee engagement has been all over the HR radar for the past several years, turning the measurement of engagement into a multi-million dollar industry.   But what exactly is employee engagement?  Why is building engagement so important?  How can engaging employees improve your business?

Defining Employee Engagement

Engaged employees share a strong desire to be part of the value that an organization creates.  These employees feel a strong emotional bond to the organization that employs them and choose to exert discretionary effort to provide better outcomes for the customer and the organization.  Engaged employees are committed to improving and have a desire to own and improve their personal engagement.

Levels of Engagement in the WorkplaceLevels of Employee Engagement in the Workplace

At Avatar Solutions, we believe there are three levels of employee engagement: Actively Engaged, Ambivalent, and Actively Disengaged.  Actively Engaged employees always go above and beyond in the work they do and are highly committed to the mission, vision, and values of the organization.  Ambivalent employees tend to work just as hard as they need to get by, and are not likely to volunteer for extra assignments or have strong spirit or enthusiasm.  Actively Disengaged employees bring a negative energy to the workplace, do not focus on creating positive outcomes, and can be a drain on their organization.  According to Avatar Solutions’ National Normative Database, comprised of 3.3 million employees from 2,400 organizations, only 29 percent of employees are Actively Engaged, while 59 percent fall into the Ambivalent category and 12 percent can be categorized as Actively Disengaged.

Engagement’s Impact on Customer Satisfaction

Employee engagement has a significant impact on customer satisfaction.   Engaged employees are motivated by an environment that always focuses on creating a positive customer experience, and are 3.5 times more likely to believe employees at their organization genuinely care about the customer.  In fact, there is a correlation between customer satisfaction and employee engagement to the .85 coefficient.  This correlation does not suggest causation, but instead shows that as employee engagement improves, customer satisfaction tends to improve as well, and vice versa.

Employee Engagement and Quality of Work

Engaged employees also tend to work harder and produce higher quality work than disengaged employees.  Avatar Solutions’ research has found that engagement is also positively correlated with performance ratings, meaning that engaged employees tend to receive a higher performance rating.  These high performing employees make up the backbone of any organization they work for.

Improve Employee Retention through Engagement

Turnover is a huge drain on employers and the economy, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that 1.5 to 2 million employees voluntarily chose to leave their jobs each month. Each employee who resigns tends to cost between 16 to 20 percent of his or her annual salary to replace. By focusing on engagement, organizations are much more likely to retain their top employees and therefore save money.[1]  Engaged employees are 3.5 times more likely to stay with their employer and are four times more satisfied with their jobs.

Building Engagement in Your Organization

Now that we know how important building employee engagement is, how can you build it at your organization?  We will be launching a new blog series on how to increase employee engagement.  Check back soon for tips, best practices, and a focus on the individual key drivers of engagement.

[1] Lucas, Suzanne.  “How much does it cost companies to replace employees?” (accessed April 11, 2013).

Employees Can’t “Play Ball” without Effective Training

Water cooler chat being what it is, even a baseball ignorant like myself can’t make it very far into spring without knowing a thing or two about what’s going on in the Major League. This year, I’ve looked on as baseball’s preseason has segued into the competitive, regular season, and excitement among my coworkers has grown palpably.

Early into the year, many of my peers had already enjoyed a glut of show-stopping performances and the equally dismal outings comprising Spring Training in Arizona and Florida. The quality of the athletics in demonstration have supported the notion that “Spring Training performances are never as good as they look or as bad as they appear,” a truism recently ascribed by sportswriter Hal Bodley to the Phillies’ late general manager John Quinn (1). Meaning, I gather, that we can’t predict the outcome of a season based on individual training performances – though many among us will try.

But imagine a season without any training or practice at all. What would it look like? Even if you can’t judge a season by its exhibition games, training is without a doubt one of the most important components of a team’s annual crusade for the pennant. The same is true in any workforce, whether your business is manufacturing, healthcare, gaming, or financial services. All employees need practical, ongoing training in order to succeed at what they do. And it’s not just a matter of skills acquisition and knowledge transfer.

Just like in sports, training offers employees an opportunity to get amped up about what they do – to cultivate a mindset in which they can execute with alacrity and enthusiasm. In fact, research by Avatar Solutions has shown that training and professional development is one of the top drivers of employee engagement. And yet responses to Avatar Solutions Employee Surveys show that 21% of employees are not satisfied with the level of training they receive.

443726_31923700 v2To help employees achieve the high levels of engagement to which many aspire, business leaders can take a page from the Major League Baseball playbook and institute programs of training that occur on an ongoing basis, with meaningful frequency. This doesn’t necessarily call for expensive learning modules and formal classes – although these resources may be the right choice for some organizations.  Rather, organizations can encourage and empower their managers to provide on-the-job training and development opportunities to employees as they perform their regular job functions.  Taking inspiration from America’s national pastime, here are just a few of the ways to build training into your employees’ work week:

Great coaching begets great performance. Coaching is something everybody needs but that few companies do systemically. Yet, when we were children we had coaches in our parents, in Little League we may have had a coach, and in high school and college had access to excellent teachers and academic advisors. So why does the coaching end when the paycheck begins? If an organization does not have an established program or process for providing coaching to employees, facilitate the coaching experience by encouraging your team to seek out a coach among senior staffers. HR can provide assistance by setting an expectation that senior-level employees spend an hour each week mentoring junior staff. The organization can provide senior leaders with a small stipend for coffee with employees, or lunch, and model behaviors by demonstrating effective methods for identifying and communicating with a potential coach, as well as responding to an employee request for mentorship.

Stick to the playbook – most of the time. Checklists and step-by-step process descriptions are useful for all employees, especially those who are new to the job or who perform a given task only occasionally. To assist your team in developing facility within their job functions, create training and how-to documents for performing the important tasks handled by your team. Ask that all stakeholders contribute to and review the checklists, so that the most effective methods for completing an assignment are represented. Reflecting on tasks and participating in the creation of the documents will help solidify employees’ job knowledge, as well as build their confidence in the skills they have acquired. Once checklists have been created and utilized for some time, establish a process for recommending updates to the documents. While it is important to “stick to the playbook” overall, encouraging employees to innovate and develop better methods for completing tasks is vital to their engagement and the success of your team.

Get tenured employees involved in onboarding. When a new pitcher is added to the team roster, they’re often paired off with a seasoned opener or closer as a way to help them develop their skills, gain critical performance feedback, learn methods of dealing with their high-stress position, and acclimate to the team culture. In other industries, this practice is also an absolute grand slam, because it achieves several important ends in support of employee engagement. First, it provides new employees with a robust, supportive onboarding framework while taking some pressure off of the hiring manager. Second, it allows tenured employees to strengthen their own understanding of the functions they perform, as well as providing some leadership experience. Finally, and perhaps most important, it builds crucial interpersonal relationships within the team.

Whether your workplace is the baseball diamond, office suite, or production floor, training is an integral component of any high-performing team. So the next time you cheer on as the local favorite bests their arch rival – or, if you’re like me, the next time you feign interest about it around the water cooler – remember the many hours of practice and careful training that goes into a single swing of the bat. As American as baseball, the lesson is one that has universal application.


March Madness Positively Impacts Employee Engagement

MH900305805It’s that time of year again.  March Madness has arrived.  Around this time, many talent management professionals wonder if the tournament causes distraction and lost productivity, especially if emails about bracket competitions are circling the office.  In this post, I want to look at the tournament from a different angle.  Did you know March Madness can actually have a positive impact on the workplace by increasing employee engagement?

Since individuals spend most of their time at their job, they do not necessarily want to work at a location where the policy is all work and no play.  Establishing a company-organized bracket competition provides a perfect opportunity to bring a little fun to the job.  When you create a fun culture, people will enjoy coming to work and have more positive feelings about the organization’s brand.  They will be more engaged and likely to exert extra effort, as well as more willing to positively recommend the organization as a good place to work.  Thus, incorporating fun into the day makes good business sense.

Additionally, the tournament provides a small stress relief or mental break for many employees.  Workers can check scores or discuss the tournament’s progress with coworkers when they find themselves in need of a short break from a project.  They will then be more likely to come back to the task with a renewed vigor and increased attention, ready to complete a high-quality project.

March Madness also encourages employees to connect on a more personal level with their coworkers.  Discussions about March Madness often lead to conversations about where people went to college, why they root for a certain team, or how they choose who will win it all.  Each of these small conversations provides the opportunity for people to foster closer bonds.  Since coworkers are often considered the unsung heroes of retention, it is in management’s best interest for team members to create deeper relationships with each other.  Employees will be more engaged and more likely to remain at your organization when they get to know and like their peers.

When thinking about the tournament this year, I encourage you to consider it from a different angle. If you overhear employees discussing their brackets or talking about an upcoming game, do not worry so much about their productivity levels.  Consider that these conversations will actually help your organization in the long run.

For additional March Madness lessons about employee engagement, watch our recent webinar, “March is Here: Have You Filled Out Your Engagement Bracket?”

Guest Post: Confessions of an Office Prankster

Disclaimer: No co-workers or My Little Ponies were harmed in the making of this article.  The shenanigans detailed below are in no way a reflection of the author’s excellent work ethic. 

It’s with a heavy heart that I announce my retirement from the world of office pranks.  This will probably come as a sigh of relief to my coworkers, but I like to think that my pranks will be somewhat missed.

Pranks may seem silly or like a waste of time, but they can actually have a positive impact in the workplace when kept light, fun, and of course, injury-free.  Sure, as a veteran prankster, I’m always looking over my shoulder, paranoid that the numerous coworkers I’ve victimized over the years may lurch towards me like zombies and retaliate together—but that’s the risk I’m willing to take for the benefits.

Amusing pranks can help build a fun workplace culture, which Avatar’s research has found to have a positive correlation with employee engagement.  This means that when levels of fun increase, employee engagement is also likely to increase, leading to positive business outcomes like reduced turnover, increased productivity, and higher revenue.

Pranking can also help facilitate creative thinking, which is extremely important in today’s workplace. There’s something about mixing a stapler and jello crystals into boiling water that brings fresh perspective to a nagging problem. Additionally, pranking can lead to a greater sense of camaraderie, which positively impacts coworker relations, and in turn, employee engagement.

Pranking may also relieve workplace tension. I can prank my nemesis and everyone thinks it’s hilarious and innocent…but my frenemy and I know it’s not.

Me: “Haha, isn’t this sooooo funny, bestie?”

Me (secretly): “You finished all the printer toner so I put glue in your hair!” And then I accidentally cackle out loud.

Just kidding, of course!

Before I go, I wanted to reflect back on my career as a prankster.  Here are some of my favorite pranks from my time at Avatar:

Taken: A Pony Story

A coworker and I kidnapped the office manager’s My Little Pony figures from her desk. We photographed the blindfolded ponies, sent a ransom note and even attempted to frame an innocent bystander for the heinous crime. Our demands for Oreo balls and a bag of glitter were eventually met. The treats were quickly devoured and the glitter was later used to glitter-bomb a departing employee.


To Pony Owner. We have little pony. Pony is safe. We want Oreo balls and glitter bag. Deliver to mailbox of David W. Miller. No funny business. Call cops, pony die. After delivery, pony will be return.

Deck the Halls with Toilet paper

‘Twas the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and the office was especially quiet because so many employees were on vacation.  Some of us had cabin fever, and so we naturally decided to toilet paper our coworkers’ office.  What a great surprise for them when they returned from vacation! 


Turning Over a New Leaf

Now that my days of office pranking are over, I will try to recreate the benefits of pranking elsewhere. Maybe I’ll bond with coworkers by engaging in actual conversations about their amazing pet/child/spouse. To facilitate creative thinking, I’ll chain-smoke and wear skinny ties like Don Draper.

The vlookup wasn’t working because I forgot to put a bracket at the end! Thanks, skinny tie.

(Photo courtesy of

Worst of all, I’ll have to make do with sending passive-aggressive emails to my frenemy. “I noticed that the documents you provided are in Arial instead of the standard Calibri. Please revise and resend,” I’ll write.

Or maybe, just maybe this article is the ultimate prank and one day I will strike on my unsuspecting coworkers—I do have half a bag of glitter left.


Zehra Kazmi is a Data Analyst at Avatar HR Solutions.