For the average senior executive (if there is such a thing) the larger the organisation in which you do business, the chances are the less you really know about what people think. Even in a smaller business, if you’re the boss then there’s always a barrier of sorts between you and your people. Not a barrier of your making necessarily, but a barrier created by position and responsibility. However, your people have huge influence over your organisation’s efficiency, profits and public image. You need to know how engaged they are with your latest marketing strategy or customer procedures. You need them to feel motivated and involved. But how?

Well think positive, because if you really want to know what your people think of your business, you just have to ask. Staff or employee opinion surveys have been increasingly common practice for years. When your people feel listened to by their employer there is a positive impact on business performance, staff turnover reduces and your customers feel the difference in the service provided.

“To be listened to is…, a nearly unique experience for most people. It is enormously stimulating… Man clamors for the freedom to express himself and for knowing that he counts.”

– Robert C. Murphy (1888-1973), U.S. naturalist and environmental activist

Of course, there are a few issues to consider before you start drawing up questions. Will you use a questionnaire or ask people face to face? Will you manage the process in-house or use an external consultancy? What happens once you have the answers? Here are a few things to think about before asking for your people’s input and feedback.

Confidentiality – people need to know who will see their answers.
Anonymity – will the answers be linked to individuals (let’s face it, they will be more honest if the answer is “no”).
Response Rates – the ideal is that 100% of people answer the questions, how will you persuade them to do so?
Communication – people need to understand why they are being asked to take part in this exercise.
Questions – what do you want to ask? Surveys can be used to gather feedback on any area of your business: procedures, management, leadership, training, communication, customer service, pay & remuneration, teamworking, etc. Do not ask a question if you’re not prepared to act on the answer.
Afterwards – people need to know what will be done with their answers. How will the results be collated? What sort of report will be produced. What will happen after that?

The very worst you can do is go to all the time and trouble (and expense) of conducting some sort of staff opinion survey and then do nothing with the results. Your people have given you the gift of their views, thoughts, suggestions and ideas. If they don’t see some sort of positive outcome then they will not do it twice. Besides, your motive for asking in the first place was to find out how to improve the business, wasn’t it? So use the data to implement changes to benefit both your business and the people who work in it.

Finally, think positive. You might receive some criticism which requires action, but you might also receive some outstanding praise as well.