How Employee Surveys Are Your Hiring and Onboarding Secret Weapon

November 20, 2018 | Shannon Shoemaker

Feedback is a gift. It is critical to ensuring that not just your candidates are having a great hiring experience, but also for your new hires and employees. While companies increasingly focus more on the experience side as a way to reduce turnover and increase employee retention levels, the real secret weapon to an amazing employee experience starts with feedback and is rooted in employee surveys.

Your employees are your best brand ambassadors. Research indicates that 52 percent of people believe what employees say about their company over the company’s official communications. [Source: the Edelman Trust Barometer] This means that one of your top goals as a human resources professional is to ensure that your employees have a positive outlook of your company, mission and culture. Employee surveys are a great way to learn where your company stands currently, along with what areas can be improved upon.

Without the data from feedback, you have no way of measuring the success of your onboarding program, the increased investment you’ve asked for from your executive team, or departmental success. One of the most obvious (and beneficial) ways to improve your onboarding program with data is to survey your new hires that went through your new hire training after 1, 3 and 6 months have gone by. Use that survey data to identify the program components that worked, those that need improvement and those that need to be added. External benchmarking of your competitor’s onboarding programs is also needed in order to maintain a continuous competitive advantage over them.

Why the Timing of Surveys is Important

An employee’s most productive time in job is during their first six months of employment, which means that employers are presented with an opportunity to train, engage, and build relationships with their most recent hires during this honeymoon period. With the increase in remote working, onboarding becomes critical. Forty percent of employees who left their jobs voluntarily did so within six months of starting in the position, according to data from the workforce insights arm of credit-reporting agency Equifax. Another 16 percent of all employees who left on their own choosing did so within 12 months, meaning more than half of voluntary turnover happens within a year of new hires’ start dates.

Onboarding should be a well-planned and practiced dance designed to impress, engage, and retain your workers long before and after their first day with your company. This is why having data points at specific intervals by seeking feedback through surveys after an employee’s onboarding process 1) within 30 days of hire 2) 60 days and 3) 6 months.

Employee engagement surveys are a great way to get honest feedback from employees to improve your business, change the culture, and increase productivity, all while keeping individual responses anonymous. The benefit of introducing surveys soon after employees are hired is that they can set the tone for employee experience moving forward. You’re defining your company culture as inclusive, responsive, open to change, and setting expectations for your new employees that your company wants their honest feedback so you can improve your programs and processes.

Customizing Your Employee Surveys 

Depending on the size of your company, this is where you’re going to want to work with stakeholders and hiring managers from each department. Setting these questions up with the help of managers who will be responsible for supervising your new employees not only gets to the heart of what they want to learn about engagement, but also guarantees buy-in on making changes based on survey data. To achieve a truly successful employee survey, it is necessary to write survey questions which speak to the experiences and needs of employees at different levels of the corporate hierarchy.

Each department’s leadership can choose from standardizes questions, or write new questions that pertain to the business and the tasks performed by employees. Managers can also allow for multiple choice, multiple selection, single selection, or other forms of questions that result in quantified data, or choose those that require a short essay answer for gathering qualitative data, if preferred. Employees respond best to quantifiable questions that have a rating scale of agreement. It is also important to keep the questions as straightforward as possible so additional research is not needed to understand the survey data.

Expected action should be built in to your survey results. Your company leadership must be invested in taking action on common citations and responses to these surveys, from your onboarding program to new hire training to benefits and team experience.

If your company conducts exit interviews or surveys, but hasn’t set up a process to collect employee feedback as soon as onboarding begins, a huge piece of the employee satisfaction puzzle is missing. While exit surveys are common, the tightening labor market means that it’s imperative to capture your company’s areas of weakness well before an employee decides to leave. In fact, some employers are beginning to conduct “stay surveys” as a proactive talent strategy. Consider early surveys the remedy to attempting to recoup losses when a good employee quits.

Employee Focus Groups Offer More Insights Into Onboarding Processes 

In addition to the surveys, it’s also important to facilitate and encourage in person meetings as well. Using your 30, 60 and 6 month timelines for the surveys, new hires should be invited to a focus group meeting around their 90th day. These focus group meetings normally 30-45 minutes in length build on the survey responses while also providing new hires an opportunity to make suggestions.

Finally, employee surveys and corresponding focus group meetings can be the best tool in your HR arsenal to understand and touch base with your recent hires to get valuable insights into what’s working and what your company can do to change and improve. Simply implementing a feedback loop during the onboarding process and within the first months of employment can improve how your new employees perceive your company’s sincerity and trust. Imagine what acting on the survey results with transparency can do for your employer brand.


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