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Issue: 69 - Sep 15, 2014
Turn the Tables: Have Employees Evaluate the Business
By: Maureen Blaney Flietner
Mavourneen LLC/MBF Communications

Businesses spend time and money trying to learn more about and from their clients and potential clients. But they may spend little time learning about and from their employees.

Sure, there are employee performance surveys. Businesses check to see, through agree-disagree ratings, whether their human “resources” are working at their utmost, happy while doing so, and embracing company goals.

In what is often an annual quiz, employees must answer questions about “engagement,” “commitment,” and “values” – things most people aren’t thinking about as they go about their daily work.

They may be asked to score:

  • whether they feel pay raises are based on how well employees perform their jobs (yet they are not made aware of how much others are paid and discouraged from discussing pay),
  • if they respect their supervisors and believe they are motivating influences (but realize that they have to work for that supervisor or, if surveys are “anonymous,” are convinced that there are identifying questions that will single them out), and
  • whether they think their responses will be used to improve the business and their role in it (yet they may provide the same answers year to year and see no changes).

Since these surveys are nothing new, some employees may have already worked out a “safe” method. Nothing merits a top grade (so they are not viewed as someone who sees nothing to strive for or sets a low standard) and nothing should be graded too low (so as not to be viewed as negative or a complainer). Many responses then fall into the “average” category with a few benign comments added to show that “careful” consideration was given.

Nothing much may happen after the surveys are completed until the next year when fresh copies of the survey are distributed again.

Recognize these human “resources” as creative and valued adults hired to help the business grow and prosper. Consider having them complete a performance survey -- but about the business. Make it more frequent than once a year so thoughts can be timely.

The typical top-down approach may have questions that exhibit little knowledge of the daily tasks an employee handles. A survey with a bottom-up approach could get into the nitty-gritty.

Instead of asking employees how “engaged” they are, employees could be asked about their perspectives on the business. Questions could be open-ended for  more thoughtful, encompassing responses.

By allowing such open communication, businesses might find a more cooperative spirit in which everyone feels that they have something to offer and are not pigeon-holed on their contributions. A kennel worker, for example, might share a great idea for social media. A veterinary assistant might know of a lighting solution for the front entry. A veterinary technician might suggest an attractive way to display pet food and other products.

Here are a few sample questions/directions for a survey:

  • List three things you enjoy about your job.
  • What do you like the least about your job and what suggestions would you offer to improve that perception?
  • Is your work environment comfortable or are there improvements you would like considered?
  • Do you see any areas/processes which you believe could be improved so you could get your job done more efficiently?
  • Would you like more opportunities to learn or develop in your job? Please explain.
  • Do you have any suggestions for how to add to the good experiences of clients and patients?
  • Do you have any suggestions for cutting costs and improving revenue?

Besides asking employees for their input, recognize them for their accomplishments. While honoring “top” employees can get tricky with the teamwork that most businesses require for success, there are other ways to show employees they are valued.

People want to know that their contributions and extra efforts are valued. They don’t want a gold-star-for-showing-up honor, but recognition for outstanding effort. With a hand-written note or mention in your social media or inhouse newsletter, an employee realizes that the company appreciates his or her contributions, a welcome feeling.

Consider recognition of employees for :

  • Years of service. With so many businesses focusing on acquiring new young talent, recognizing those who have helped build the business and contribute years of experience may be forgotten.
  • Special accomplishments. Honor employees who take the extra time and make the extra effort to attend advanced training classes or to earn advanced degrees or certificates to add to their value in the business.
  • Unsolicited client compliments. If a client takes the time to make you aware of the particularly good service they received from an employee, be sure that employee – and others – are made aware of how those good efforts help the business.