Employers use employee opinion surveys for a variety of reasons ranging from measuring job satisfaction to eliciting suggestions for improving workplace conditions.

Employers can use alternative methods to obtain this type of information but many employers use surveys because they can reasonably ensure employee confidentiality and anonymity. The advantages and disadvantages of employee opinion surveys are numerous, however. Consider the pros and cons of employee opinion surveys before incurring the expense of creating and administering questionnaires to employees.

Purpose of Employee Opinion Surveys

Employers create employee opinion surveys (EOS) to obtain employee sentiment about a number of workplace issues. EOS can measure levels of job satisfaction, employee morale, employee engagement and leadership effectiveness.

Many surveys, however, elicit responses to specific questions about salaries, benefits and workplace concerns, such as discrimination and harassment.

When administered correctly, the primary advantage of EOS is that statisticians can convert raw data to information that can improve working conditions. Simply shelving EOS results is a huge disadvantage that defeats the fundamental purpose of surveys, which is to provide measurements for human resources leaders' use in formulating and implementing policies and procedures that have a positive impact on employee satisfaction.

Significance of Employee Opinion Surveys

Employers that realise the significance of survey results may be among companies that place tremendous value on employee opinion. Much emphasis is placed on the uses of employee opinion survey results by attorney Shelley L. Freeman in an article entitled, "Employee Satisfaction -- The Key to a Successful Company." Freeman states: "One caveat about employee surveys, suggestion boxes and the like: affirmatively asking for employees' feedback and then ignoring it is worse than not asking at all. That doesn't mean that companies have to implement every suggestion, but they ought to gather and analyse the information and respond in some systematic manner that tells employees they were listening." That said, the significance of employee opinion surveys rests in utilising the results to improve workplace conditions, which means that utilising results can be advantageous to the company while the misuse of results is a serious disadvantage.

Employee Confidentiality and Anonymity

There are several types of employee opinion surveys, and two basic methods for administering a survey; however, the issue of confidentiality and anonymity remains an important concern regardless of the method. In employee opinion surveys, the advantage to computer-based questionnaires can be confidentiality and anonymity, provided your human resources information systems expert structures a survey from which you can't detect who provides specific answers. The pen and paper method cannot always guarantee anonymity, especially if there's an opportunity for employees to provide handwritten responses.

One way to assure confidentiality is through outsourcing the employee opinion survey process. The advantage to outsourcing the survey process is strict confidentiality; however, outsourcing can present a disadvantage for companies with limited budgets.

Creating Solutions

A primary advantage of employee opinion surveys is the potential to create workplace solutions. The best way to accomplish this feat is to perform a close examination of survey results by experts who can interpret data and present results in a way that's easy to understand.

Following the review of survey results, human resources leaders should work with upper management to develop action plans based upon employee comments. However, abandoning the goals of the newly stated action plans will likely have a negative impact upon the workplace. As the author of "Employee Satisfaction - The Key to a Successful Company" mentions, doing nothing with results is one way to ensure employee dissatisfaction.

Future Employee Opinion Surveys

Measuring the effectiveness of workplace changes through the regular administration of employee opinion surveys is essential. If your organisation has collected data related to job satisfaction and employee morale prior to the employee opinion survey, it's easy to measure the benefits of an employee opinion survey.

For example, calculate your turnover rate before the employee opinion survey. Analyse survey results for employee comments related to retention. After you implement changes, measure the turnover rate again. A reduction or an increase in the turnover rate will illustrate the effectiveness of your employee opinion survey.