Employee satisfaction surveys and the benefits of transparency

PE during employee survey

The live Q&A with our COO is a special experience at Poll Everywhere. It’s authentic, it’s unfiltered, and it is truly impactful.
– Thoey Bou

Transparency is at the heart of Poll Everywhere’s company culture. Office manager Thoey Bou and the Operations team have designed an employee satisfaction survey that illustrates how responses are made to matter at our company. Each employee is left with a crystal clear image of how their feedback directly informs the action items Ops addresses.

Employee satisfaction surveys the Poll Everywhere way
  1. Send out an anonymous survey link. Employees have a few days to respond to a Poll Everywhere survey that includes a mix of multiple-choice and open-ended questions.
  2. Discuss results live with the entire company. Everyone receives a report that lists all the responses to each question. They have 15 minutes to review the responses on their own in their entirety. A live Q&A with the COO follows immediately.
  3. Identify themes and assign action items. The Ops team identifies common themes from survey results and Q&A feedback. Action items are assigned to address these themes.

Six months later, during the next employee satisfaction survey, Operations presents the results of these action items. This bi-annual cadence gives them a deadline for executing their strategy. It displays quick responsiveness to feedback, while also providing employees with more opportunities to voice their opinions.

According to Bou, “Everyone here feels motivated to give thoughtful, detailed feedback because they know – they can see – how the Ops team will follow-up and do something about it.”

Read on to discover how you can replicate this survey system, and get tips from the Ops team.

Step 1: Send out an anonymous survey link

Poll Everywhere’s employee satisfaction survey has parts that are stable through time and parts that are more agile. The original foundation is research from Gallup on employee engagement – with some minor tweaks over the years. “Gallup’s questions were short and sweet,” said Bou, “but employees wanted to go deeper and give more longform feedback. So we modified the questions.”

The current survey is a mix of 19 multiple-choice and open-ended questions. Employees respond via a Poll Everywhere survey, and their responses are anonymous. However, they understand that their responses will be shared with the rest of the company. “It’s a constantly evolving lineup,” said Bou, “and definitely not a set-in-stone set of questions. We adapt to the needs of our employees.”

Example qualitative employee satisfaction survey questions
  • What is your favorite Poll Everywhere story?
  • What would you change about Poll Everywhere?
  • What’s the best thing about working at Poll Everywhere?
  • Describe your favorite experience with another coworker?
  • What has been your favorite Poll Everywhere activity and why?
  • Describe the Poll Everywhere activity you remember most vividly
  • How do you describe your work at Poll Everywhere to friends and family?

Read more: The 9 questions that uncover the most surprising insights from employees

Step 2: Discuss results live with the entire company

This is the cornerstone of the entire process: discussion. Responses don’t disappear behind closed doors. They are displayed for everyone to see and discuss.

The presentation starts with everyone in the company reading through an executive summary report containing all responses to each question. This way, everyone knows exactly how their peers feel about the state of the company (even if each response is anonymous).

“When people realize others share their excitement or concern, that’s a great feeling,” said Bou. “Camaraderie spreads throughout the entire company, and reminds us that we all carry these emotions inside us.”

Example retro poll

After reading through their peers’ responses, everyone submits questions and reactions to a Poll Everywhere Q&A.

Poll Everywhere’s Q&A activity lets people submit questions and feedback anonymously using their phones or laptops. Those response appear live in real time for everyone to see (and upvote, if they agree). COO Sam Cauthen then talks through the entire list of reactions and questions one item at a time, from the most upvoted to the least.

From a leadership perspective, it’s very risky, but we do it this way because we value transparency. It shows that we have confidence in ourselves, and we want that to be felt by the rest of the company.
– Thoey Bou

This level of transparency is vital to the integrity of the entire process. Concerns are discussed in the moment, and employees get to see how their feedback directly influences decisions about how Poll Everywhere operates.

Step 3: Identify themes and assign action items

With the survey and Q&A results in hand, Operations can start their analysis.

“We tie each piece of feedback to a theme,” explained Bou. “That helps us determine, ‘Oh! These are the things people care about because they came up a lot.’ We can’t respond to individual concerns – because the survey is anonymous – but we can respond to themes, like a widespread desire for more frequent performance feedback. After that, we decide, ‘What’s the action item?’ and ‘Who’s the owner?'”

Employee feedback survey themes

Creating an inclusive work environment for both introverts and extroverts was a recent win for Operations. Feedback revealed that some people felt uncomfortable contributing to larger discussions. So Bou and the team set to work researching different communication styles. That information was used to implement new meeting formats that let everyone share their opinions in a way that feels comfortable to them.

“Everyone on the Operations team feels highly motivated to work on these goals,” added Bou. “We’ve never had to set a deadline or crack down on people for this. Each person can clearly see how this work ties back to the greater concerns of the company.”

Read more: Quit measuring employee engagement

Additional advice from Operations team

It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” When you’re running the live Q&A, you won’t have all the answers. And that’s okay. What’s important is that you commit to finding those answers. Demonstrating commitment and action is what makes this entire process effective.

Do your homework. Just because the Q&A is live, doesn’t mean you don’t prepare. As someone administering this survey, you will have access to the results in advance. Read them over. That will give you a good idea of what will come up during the live Q&A.

Assign practical action items. Most themes will not have a magic bullet that resolves theme completely. They need to be understood, and addressed, in stages. Know what you can reasonably achieve in your allotted timeframe. Show small steps towards larger results.

Have a form for private feedback. It’s the responsibility of Operations to give all employees a way of providing feedback that feels safe to them. Some people may be uncomfortable sharing something if they know it will be shown to the company (even if their name isn’t attached).

Tweak some questions, but not others. You should never stop researching and refining your employee evaluation survey. However, it’s important to have a set of quantitative questions that you don’t touch – and always ask – so that you can measure results over time.