Surveying your workers

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We have more information now than we can use, and less knowledge and understanding than we need. Indeed, we seem to collect information because we have the ability to do so, but we are so busy collecting it that we haven't devised a means of using it. The true measure of any society is not what it knows but what it does with what it knows. --Warren Bennis


Are your drivers happy with their jobs? Angry? Indifferent? A lot of carriers don‘t really know until the driver gets up and leaves - and by then, of course, it‘s too late. That‘s why creating some sort of channel for feedback might be a good way of giving them a chance to air their views non-combatively in order to figure out if there‘s a way to change things.


Now, sure, employee surveys are considered by many to be a joke - and for good reason. Everyone is trying to put food on the table and pay the bills while getting miles driven and freight delivered, yet here comes another piece of paper to fill out. But if viewed properly, surveys can be a good way to sample the mood of your driver corps, if not the company as a whole - giving you a chance to address problems before people start voting with their feet.


Professor Jerry Osteryoung of the College of Business at Florida State University has some thoughts on the subject I‘d like to share, and while his comments are broadly based, I think there are some good ideas fleets can draw upon for their own use. Professor Osteryoung, the floor is yours sir:


“I have seen so many cases where the culture of an organization changes dramatically because of new management, a new work environment or just complacency of management - all of which affect both turnover and morale. Probably, the biggest problem with the culture of an organization is just a lack of management knowledge of the employees‘ real perceptions and feelings about the organization.


It is estimated that each time you lose a worker; it costs your firm 150% of their annual salary for retraining, rehiring and just reeducating a new employee. It is so very important to keep turnover low especially given the tightness of the forthcoming national labor shortage.


Employee surveys are effective in improving retention rates, increasing profitability, lowering absenteeism and just making your business a better place to work. Many firms are moving to employee surveys conducted on the web in order to evaluate employee perception of their work environment, as well as management effectiveness. These online surveys are very cost effective, especially when compared to the archaic approach of compiling surveys with hand written responses.


When surveying employees you need to make sure that the results remain anonymous. If workers think that they can be identified, participation and effectiveness decline dramatically. You need to guarantee each worker that their responses will remain anonymous, and you must make sure that each worker feels comfortable with the process of submitting their thoughts and feelings.


One of things that really helps raise the response rate is to notify your staff that the survey is coming. There are so many ways to do this. For example, you can post the information on bulletin boards in your business or include it emails to your staff. Some firms assign participants a specific time to complete the survey so that they can do so when they are free of other work duties. Additionally, many firms offer employees incentives, from restaurant gift certificates to cash. With these types of incentives, the response rate is frequently increased by 15% to 20%.


One of the best things that you can do is explain the purpose of the survey both in advance, as well as on the survey instrument itself. The purpose could be anything from gauging worker morale to evaluating the ability of the firm to accept change. Regardless of what the purpose is, it must be communicated many times to each survey participant.


Not only must you communicate the purpose of the survey, but you must also communicate how the results will be used. In one instance, they may be used to generate a plan of corrective action. However, whatever the case may be, the intended use of the results must be communicated very succinctly to your staff.


Once the survey is complete, you must also communicate the results and your plan of action. This must take place as soon as practical in order to prevent employees from thinking that their efforts just went into a black hole, never to be seen again.


The final piece of the survey process is a follow up survey. The follow up survey will help you evaluate how effectively your plan is producing the desired results. Normally, most surveys are done at least annually to keep track of these important issues.”


You can reach Professor Osteryoung by e-mail at jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com or by phone at 850-644-3372.

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