“Are my employees happy with their jobs?”
This question has likely crossed your mind as you have formed your company into what it is today. There is so much that goes into building a small business — from finding financing to picking the right partners to building a desirable product or service — that such an important questions can easily get lost in the day-to-day shuffle.
Luckily, it doesn’t take a gargantuan effort to gauge employee happiness. And surveying your employees on how they feel will have numerous benefits for your business.
Happiness surveys will give you actionable ways to address company pain points. Plus, According to Gallup, engaged employees perform at 38% above average productivity and create 27% higher profits. The bottom line? Knowing what makes your employees tick is good for business.
Justworks has won awards for being a Great Place to Work, but we also know that earning that title takes continual dedication. We’ve also sprinkled in some advice from our Director of Employee Success Erika Cartagena, who has previously established and grown HR at Etsy and consulted on organizational development and design.
We encourage you to look beyond the dated employee satisfaction survey and gauge employee happiness instead.
Generally, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. You can use our downloadable employee happiness survey and pick and choose which questions work for your company. However, it never hurts to add a personal touch depending on your company values and priorities.
“People only really fill out these surveys because they feel like they’ll be heard and it can make a difference. We want that to be the case.” - Erika Cartagena, Director of Employee Success at Justworks
For example, at Justworks, our values are COGIS (Compassion, Openness, Grit, Integrity, Simplicity). We’ve written before about how we hire specifically for those values, and it’s incredibly important our managers embody those values as well. That’s why part of Justworks’ personal survey also includes a questions about whether team leadership and company leadership embody COGIS.
You’ll also need to decide how to structure your questions. Our survey has most questions on a 1-5 range with to open-ended questions at the end for qualitative feedback.
Whatever you’d like to add or remove, our template is here to help you get started.
Decide with your team members how often you should arrange and distribute an employee happiness survey. Once a year, twice a year? Justworks distributes its employee happiness survey on a quarterly basis so we can measure and respond to employee satisfaction levels quickly and often.
“It's important to be mindful of seasonality or business cycles as this will inevitably color the results," said Erika. "I don’t shy away from particularly stressful times, as it may help us understand employee sentiment throughout our high and low periods."
When deciding your cadence, consider the seasonal cadence of your industry or how quickly your company is growing. If you know that the spring months are always a rush and a challenging time at your company, narrowing in on your employee's’ pain points may help best alleviate those difficulties in the following year.
Alternatively, if your company is growing quickly, consider distributing it on a quarterly basis. That way, you can see how the company growth is impacting employee happiness. You’ll also be able to include new hires into the survey more quickly.
Employee happiness surveys should be a space where your team feels safe to discuss both what’s working and what’s bothering them. Honesty will bolster the quality of your company and allow you to make changes that will positively impact everyone.
With that in mind, it’s important to decide your company’s survey approach. Here are a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself:
Should the feedback be anonymous?
If not, who sees an employee's name attached to their feedback? Managers, or just HR
What feedback needs to be escalated immediately?
Is this survey mandatory or suggested?
"Honoring confidentiality and being really clear around who has access is also critical in order to create a safe space," said Erika.
Justworks’ employee survey operates on anonymity — Erika is the only one to see the results, with a small exception. For example, if there is a manager who has three or more direct reports, she will see all the answers, but not with the survey respondent’s name attached to them.
However you approach it, decide which balance will both instill trust in your employees to be honest, but also help implement change in the company where needed. And always, always disclose upfront and honestly how the questions will be evaluated and used.
Lastly, decide how long respondents have to fill out the survey and clearly mark the deadline on the survey and communications as well.
What is the best way for you to get your survey out? That probably depends on how your office already operates.
Justworks likes to use Google Forms for our questions, for several reasons: First off, the survey can be distributed electronically and filled out at an employee’s leisure. Secondly, it’s an easy way to aggregate findings since the responses automatically fill themselves out into a sectioned out spreadsheet.
A pen and paper approach isn't advisable — that option will mean a lot of printed out paper and manual data input. Additionally, employees might feel worried about having to conceal their handwriting. If you have a more modernized office (or even a distributed one), electronic is probably the way to go.
Human beings are prone to procrastination, especially when it’s a small task in their email inbox. Schedule reminders once or twice before the deadline to encourage employees to fill out the survey. Even better, encourage senior management to send out a nudge as well.
And remind them that this survey isn’t just for your health — it’s really for theirs. By letting you know what’s working and what isn’t, you’ll have direct information needed to make your company an even better place to work than it is right now.
As we stated above, if you already sent your survey out in Google Forms, you’re in luck because you don’t have to manually input the responses into a spreadsheet. Once you’ve recorded your survey results, decide how you’ll approach the analysis.
Justworks includes an NPS (Net Promoter Score) score on our survey, which gauges the likelihood of someone recommending a product or service to another friend. Often times, the NPS score will be the quickest way to evaluate employee’s happiness in the company and compare results with past surveys.
Here is one way you can analyze your results:
Use a score between 1-10 to gauge employee happiness.
Average every question’s response by team and overall within the company.
Bucket qualitative feedback into groups.
Organizing of that information can take several different approaches, such as reporting on the top five concerns.
“I ask for suggestions for improvement and then I bucket them thematically,” said Erika. “I essentially develop a heat map and rank them in order of priority with leadership team guidance.”
You can also see what other consistent stories — both qualitative and quantitative — you can pull out from the surveys, and use previous months and years with the same questions as a yardstick to measure how you’re doing.
Addressing what your HR team has done based on the themes over time shows progress and instills faith in the process.
In the interest of transparency, our VP of Employee Success Jason Whitman has shared the survey results at the company all-hands meeting on a quarterly basis. He lets us know where our strong points stand and where our weak points are. He also compares results to past surveys and shows how those scores have changed.
Best of all, Jason talks about how Justworks’ Employee Success team will improve upon, change, or introduce based on key findings. Although no company will ever be perfect, there is always room for improvement — and hardworking employees will truly appreciate your team making an effort on their behalf.
Above all, Erika emphasized the fundamental importance of following up.
“The worst thing that you can do is not loop back and tell people they’ve been heard. That means they lose confidence in the survey and response rates drop over time,” she said. “People only really fill out these surveys because they feel like they’ll be heard and it can make a difference. We want that to be the case.”
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