Today is a challenging time for business. With the world on the verge of a major recession and surging inflation levels hitting most major economies, people in organizations worldwide are feeling the pressure.

Hiring freezes, restructuring, and redundancies are becoming more common. It’s no surprise people are becoming increasingly nervous about their job security and financial integrity.

This makes it more critical than ever to understand the issues and challenges your people face today, and to ensure your managers communicate regularly and openly with their teams to stay informed. With the right information, you can take action to improve and keep your best talent engaged, loyal, and enthusiastic about working for your business.

But how can you gather those insights?

Alongside one-on-one meetings, anonymous surveys are one of the best ways of gauging morale, identifying issues, and planning your strategy for building confidence and reassuring your people. Carried out correctly, they are a powerful tool for effectively—and efficiently—assessing what’s really going on at work and planning your next move to carry your business forward.

When crafting survey questions, consider how each one will trigger a response relating to a different area of the business. Responses can provide you with actionable insights on how to intelligently invest in programs that improve people’s productivity, engagement, and satisfaction. Similarly, responses can also give you insight into which programs may be ineffective, enabling you to pinpoint exactly where to cut costs.

How to build impactful surveys

There is a variety of survey types—from anonymous pulse surveys sent on a schedule (annually, quarterly, or monthly) to non-anonymous surveys, including onboarding and offboarding surveys that can be triggered automatically.

No matter what kind of survey you aim to build, it’s always important to find a suitable starting point for building your questions, such as your employee value proposition, current business issues, or referencing data from previous surveys.

Here are our top tips for creating effective surveys that help you understand how your people are feeling, track areas for improvement, and gather tangible data to help you keep your business lean.

1. Keep it anonymous

Above all, your people need to be able to trust the anonymity of your employee satisfaction or people analytics surveys for them to give you real insight. To protect anonymity, aim to have at least five people participate in each survey, and be careful about what you share with managers.

Withhold demographic information if you’re providing them with anonymized site and department feedback breakdowns. If comments are involved, you should be even stricter with what you share.

People are naturally nervous about telling the truth openly, especially when it comes to serious issues such as harassment or intimidation at work. By keeping things anonymous, you’ll likely find an up to 90 percent higher response rate. People will feel able to respond honestly, and you can catch issues before they negatively affect your attrition and turnover rates, ultimately boosting your bottom line.

2. Ask your people what skills they want to develop

One of the best ways to save on budget is focusing on keeping employee satisfaction and retention up. And, one of the best ways to do that is focusing on training and development opportunities. It demonstrates that you’re planning to keep them with you for the long term. In fact, according to research by Gartner, 45 percent of people resigning left for “better professional development opportunities.” To compare, 48 percent “leave for higher compensation.” 

But, it’s imperative to invest your budget where it counts. Ask your people what kinds of professional education opportunities would have the highest impact on their careers and what skills they want to develop further. Their answers can help you narrow down where to invest your L&D budget and save money on programs you won’t use, giving you the biggest benefit for the most efficient investment.

3. Ask them where and when they’re most productive

Alongside career development questions, ask your people about what kinds of work structures promote the highest rates of productivity. Questions around flexible and hybrid work are crucial as professionals and businesses grapple with how to create the best setup possible.

Some people are more productive at the office, while others prefer a quiet home environment. Those with caregiving or childcare responsibilities might have another view, and some might hope for a completely flexible, hybrid approach.

Understanding where your people are most productive with a back-to-the-office survey will give you tangible information that can inform your office space strategy: from how much you need to the types of spaces to include. You might even find you don’t need nearly as much space as you’re currently using.

4. Share relevant results with managers

Your managers are the main touchpoint between the business and your people. Anonymous surveys can provide valuable insights into managers’ performance and whether they successfully communicate with their teams and prioritize work appropriately. 

While protecting respondents’ anonymity, it’s critical to share relevant findings with managers. Break responses down by team and department. It can also be helpful to share how responses varied or aligned between different departments. 

Beyond sharing the raw data with managers, you can use it to craft manager training programs that can improve leadership and coordination at your company. Telling the story with data is an effective way of opening conversations with your managers and working together to improve leadership and employee satisfaction, ultimately taking the business forward.

5. Include a free field

Some of the most valuable inputs you can get from a survey typically come from open questions, so make sure to include a section in which people can write about anything that might be on their minds. You can only ask questions about issues you’re aware of, so this space allows team members to bring new issues and insights to your attention or share ideas for improvement.

6. Embrace HR tech

Modern organizations typically use surveys regularly to help them keep their people’s engagement and productivity up. Demonstrating that you care about your people’s wellbeing and are willing to listen and make tangible changes to how you do things can significantly improve employee happiness and satisfaction during uncertain times.

For scaling businesses, a high-quality HR platform can provide an all-in-one system that syncs all your people data, automates the survey process, and helps drill down into the data quickly and with clarity. A built-in survey tool makes it easy to upload and save questions, send the survey to the relevant people and departments, view responses in one centralized location, get results, and easily share them with the right stakeholders.

Leveraging HR tech can save time and take on the heavy lifting of creating and running your surveys, helping you see a summary of the results and scores as they change over time. It can give you insights into overall, lowest, and highest scores and pinpoint areas where you can improve per department and as an organization, saving on costs.

Taking your people’s pulse 

Against a challenging economic backdrop, finding out what your people are thinking is crucial if you want to improve their happiness, sense of job security, and productivity.

You can’t give your people more of what they need unless you know what they’d like you to change. Time and again, surveys are one of the best ways to collect precise, useful information from your teams.

Used correctly, surveys can help you detect fluctuations in baseline scores which may be related to the recession. These insights will keep you connected to your people and help you plan organization- and department-level actions. You can use them to improve your business in the short and long term, help you keep hold of top talent, and carry your company safely through tough and unpredictable times.

Tali Sachs

From Tali Sachs

Tali is a content marketing manager at HiBob. She's been writing stories since before she knew what to do with a pen and paper. When she's not writing, she's reading sci-fi, snuggling with her cats, or singing at an open mic.