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How to Partner With HR on Your Internal Communications Preferences Survey

POSTED ON 
September 27, 2022

As the Brilliant Ink research team, it's probably not a surprise that we talk about employee surveys A LOT — particularly internal communications preferences surveys. We also write about them quite a bit, too (see Exhibit A!).

If you’ve been following along with our survey musings (in which case, we ❤️ you), you’ve noticed we talk about the notion of survey fatigue. It’s often cited by communicators, leadership, and pretty much any stakeholder as a reason to NOT send out yet another survey.

We’ve seen survey fatigue mentioned by our friends in HR when our pals in internal communications (IC) want to conduct an employee communications survey – specifically when an engagement survey has been deployed within the year.

BRILLIANT INK’S TAKE ON SURVEY FATIGUE 
“Our people have survey fatigue.” Sound familiar? We tend to disagree with this notion. Most people appreciate the opportunity to share their opinion!

Survey fatigue occurs when people are repeatedly asked to share feedback, and then that feedback isn’t acted on or even acknowledged
. It’s why we urge our clients to share out what was gleaned in the survey – both the good AND the not-so-great.  

When HR and IC are closely aligned, great things happen. As with any partnership, sometimes getting closely aligned isn’t a straight path. Here’s a peek at a scenario we’ve witnessed multiple times this year:

  • ACT I: Company X conducted an engagement survey at some point within the year. Results may or may not have been shared internally yet.  
  • ACT II: The IC team at Company X wants to survey employees on current internal communications needs and preferences. Their reasons are mixed and 100% sound. They recognize the world of work is constantly evolving or they’re heading into strategic planning or Company X may have shaken up their leadership team...the list goes on.  
  • ACT III: The plot thickens. The HR team feels the communications survey is duplicative with the engagement survey and insists that employees are experiencing survey fatigue.
  • ACT IV: The employee communications survey gets stalled or canceled.

*IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: While the above is a recurring theme, this does not always happen. We’ve partnered with many HR teams who are super supportive of an employee communications survey and understand the purpose, need, and distinct rationale.  

TABLE OF CONTENTS

@linkList; ;Why an employee communications survey can benefit everyone;Use your employee communications survey to probe your engagement survey results;Make it clear your employee engagement survey and communication survey are connected;Strengthen the business case for your survey with key stats and data

WHY AN EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATIONS SURVEY CAN BENEFIT EVERYONE

For those who are resistant, their heads are in the right place. I completely empathize with concerns that employees are being overwhelmed with requests for feedback. However, there’s a valuable opportunity that’s missed when the communications survey gets the kibosh. 

As strategic advisors to other functions and departments, it benefits everyone (including HR!) when the IC team has a deep understanding of what works well, and what doesn’t when it comes to reaching employees.

LONG STORY NOT THAT SHORT: AN EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATIONS SURVEY CAN BENEFIT BOTH THE IC TEAM AND THE HR TEAM. WE JUST NEED TO CONNECT THE DOTS, SO EFFORTS FEEL TRULY ALIGNED. WE'LL SHOW YOU HOW.
Read our blog: How to Rock an Internal Communications Preferences Survey

USE YOUR EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATIONS SURVEY TO PROBE YOUR ENGAGEMENT SURVEY RESULTS

Identify the relevant opportunity areas from your engagement survey. Look back on your results and think through the probing questions you could include. Here are some scenarios with sample internal communications preferences survey questions:   

🤷 ENGAGEMENT SURVEY SAID: EMPLOYEES ARE CONFUSED OR UNCLEAR ABOUT ANNUAL COMPANY OBJECTIVES. 

Communications survey opportunity: Let them explain why there’s a lack of clarity. Sample probes could include asking:

  • Do they not understand their role?
  • Do they not know where to hear about progress?
  • Are they unclear about what success looks like?
  • Ask what types of information would be helpful in building a deeper understanding.  
🙅 ENGAGEMENT SURVEY SAID: EMPLOYEES FEEL THAT LEADERS AREN’T TRANSPARENT OR THAT INFORMATION IS WITHHELD FROM THEM. 

Communications survey opportunity: Ask how they would prefer to hear from leaders. You could probe by asking:

  • Which leaders do they want to hear more from?
  • What cadence feels sufficient?
  • What topics do they wish leaders would cover?  
🧏 ENGAGEMENT SURVEY SAID: EMPLOYEES ARE UNCLEAR ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION’S DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION (DEI) EFFORTS. ‍

Communications survey opportunity: Ask how they are currently accessing news and updates about DEI. You can dig deeper by including questions like:

MAKE IT CLEAR YOUR EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT SURVEY AND COMMUNICATION SURVEY ARE CONNECTED

Giving survey takers context and clear direction is one of the ways we recommend optimizing survey user experience. But based on when your engagement survey results have (or have not) been shared, your approach will look different. Here are a few recommendations based on two potential scenarios:

SCENARIO 1: YOUR ENGAGEMENT SURVEY RESULTS HAVE BEEN SHARED WITH YOUR PEOPLE. 

Sample positioning: “Based on the results of our engagement survey, we’ve identified an opportunity area to help our people better understand our annual company objectives. The next few questions dig a bit deeper so we can determine how to effectively address what we heard.” 

SCENARIO 2: YOUR ENGAGEMENT SURVEY RESULTS HAVE NOT BEEN SHARED WITH YOUR PEOPLE
  • Option A: If they’re going to be released in the short-term, plan to launch your communications survey following it, and use the positioning above in scenario 1. 
  • Option B: If it’s going to be a while until the engagement results are released, position your communications survey accordingly to employees and be transparent. 

Sample positioning: “It’s become crystal clear over the past few years that strong communication is critical. It’s how we understand our business priorities, stay informed, and connect with each other. Today we’re asking you to share your feedback on employee communications at [company name].   

Speaking of feedback: In [month when the engagement survey was live], many of you generously shared your thoughts in the [company name] engagement survey. A quick update: 

  • We are analyzing the data and creating our plan to share the results more widely.  
  • We expect to share what we learned by [estimated date].  

In the meantime, thank you for taking the time to provide your input on employee communications within [company name]. We encourage you to share openly and candidly on what’s working well, and where we could improve.”  

BOTTOM LINE: ACKNOWLEDGE PRIOR FEEDBACK AND THANK EMPLOYEES FOR THEIR TIME WITHIN YOUR SURVEY.

Have questions about the best way to use engagement survey data to sell in your communications survey to stakeholders? Or how to infuse this type of positioning into your survey design or surrounding communications? The Brilliant Ink research team can help!

Read our blog: Designing Employee Surveys for Actionable Data

STRENGTHEN THE BUSINESS CASE FOR YOUR SURVEY WITH KEY STATS AND DATA 

The world of work and how people want to receive and consume information is changing at a breakneck speed. How your people preferred to access news and updates in 2020 or even last year is – in most cases – no longer relevant.

To help build your business case for why a communications survey is so important, consider pulling together stats or supporting data such as: 

👥 THE CHANGE IN EMPLOYEE POPULATION(S) WITHIN YOUR ORGANIZATION

Data needed to make your case:

  • The number of new employees since your last communications survey.
  • The number of employees who have departed or turned over since your last communications survey.

Make the case:

  • New people = new needs and preferences. (This refers to how people want to receive HR news and updates, too!)  
  • Exiting employees = Those preferences leave with them. 
📣 THE CHANGE IN COMMUNICATIONS CHANNELS OR IMPORTANT TACTICS

Data needed to make your case:

  • Did you roll out a refreshed intranet? Mobile app? New leadership communications series? Estimate the level of effort and investment needed to maintain new and current channels and tactics.
  • (By the way: Your communications survey is a good supplement to a channel audit. Be sure to check out Brilliant Ink’s new channel audit white paper.) 

Make the case:

  • The company is investing X amount of time and X amount of dollars in these tools.
  • It’s critical to get a sense of what’s working and what’s not to ensure that we’re making investments where it makes sense.
👀 WHAT PEOPLE HAVE SHARED RECENTLY ON GLASSDOOR OR SIMILAR SITES.
  • Do their comments allude to employee communications, such as feeling informed or visibility of leadership, for example? Pull in these quotes!   
Download our Resource on Data Visualization for Internal Communications

WHAT IF YOU STILL GET PUSH BACK?

Because I like to have a plan C, D, and E if all else fails (#anxiety), what happens if you try the above, and still get push back on conducting your communications survey? How about holding a few focus groups with employees centered on employee communications instead?

Going the small group discussion route may sit better with HR or other stakeholders — just ensure the mix is representative of your organization. I recently conducted user interviews for one of our clients to dig into communications channel feedback and was blown away by the wealth of ideas they shared.  

Let me know if you find these tips helpful – or if you try other tactics that prove to be successful. Good luck, and here’s to leaning on data to make our communications even better!  

For more bite-sized brilliance, subscribe to our monthly employee engagement newsletter, the Inkwell, and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest!

Download our Resource: How To Get Employee Surveys Right To Drive Meaningful Change
Becky Sennett
RESEARCH LEAD & SENIOR STRATEGIST

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