As an employer, it is a minefield when it comes to employee satisfaction. As employers or managers of a team, we are constantly evaluating if they are they happy, motivated, performing, safe and healthy.

We are bamboozled with information and regulations that have us running around implementing processes, initiatives, and policies to ensure we have everything covered. It can be exhausting and highly time-consuming. This is even more apparent if you are also, the business owner, the financial controller, responsible for business development or whatever it is you are juggling in your role.

The world of a small business owner is a balancing act of spinning plates and changing hats. However, when it comes to your team, whether you have one employee or 100’s, you cannot read their minds. One thing we are not as managers and business owners are mind readers.

There is a really simple way to find out what your employees are thinking and what they need or desire. Ask them.

There are a couple of key ways you can do this;

a group survey

A group survey can be useful if you would like to understand the overall feeling with the team or seek feedback on certain issues along with assessing their general wellbeing and satisfaction.

Surveys like this can be ‘war and peace’ or a few simple questions.

You could choose different questions at different times of the year, or decide to stick to the same questions, a few times a year. At businessDEPOT, we have a combination of all of the above and schedule these in throughout the year, so that we can gather continual feedback from the team to ensure the stuff we are implementing is working or having the desired outcome.

Ideally, your survey should not take longer than about 15 minutes to complete – so make sure you test this.

There are also plenty of really simple survey tools, that won’t cost you a penny, that also summarizes the data for you to a point (e.g. Google Forms and survey monkey) and if you have an Office 365 account then you can access Microsoft Forms – that does a similar thing at no extra cost.

here are a few simple questions you could consider asking:

  • Do you feel safe and happy at work?
  • How happy are you at work? [ Rating of 1-10 ]
  • Do you feel valued?
  • Has someone provided feedback to you in the last two weeks?
  • Are the expectations of your role clear to you?
  • How would you rate our culture?
  • Rate your immediate Manager?

If you have recently introduced a new initiative, system or process, add a question around this to gather some feedback.

The stats show that if your surveys are anonymous you are likely to get more honest feedback. Where there are high levels of trust in teams, it isn’t as important. However, a little warning on anonymous surveys. If you state the survey is anonymous, then make sure it IS anonymous. Otherwise, any trust you do have with your team will be eroded. The survey tools available have this option.

Share the themes of your survey with the whole team.

small groups

We do focus groups a lot at businessDEPOT. Whether it be about a system, a new initiative, a change, or literally something has gone wrong and we want to make sure the team has the information they need.

A few things to consider if you are going to gather feedback from small groups

Think about the number of people at the meeting. Too many and you may not get feedback from everyone.

Attempt to match people up a little. A team of younger, more junior employees may find it intimidating giving feedback when their managers are in the room.

Chair the meeting with an agenda and provide information about the meeting in advance

Ensure that every person has an opportunity to participate and give feedback. Some people will be uncomfortable speaking up, so perhaps use a different strategy to include them. Post-it note exercises can help with this – people write their thoughts or feedback on post-it notes and the notes are shared with the group without knowing who wrote them. The notes can then be grouped to identify key themes.

Agree on a few key actions to implement before everyone leaves and don’t forget to follow through.

one-on-one meetings

There is no better way to find out if someone is happy, fulfilled, feels valued, has the skills, etc than having a discussion about it one to one.

A really important thing about one-on-one discussions is to

  • Allow enough time – depending on what you are trying to achieve and how often you meet. No one wants to feel rushed or undervalued.
  • Be prepared with an agenda and share this with the person, prior.
  • Any questions you want to ask, send them out prior so that the person has time to gather their thoughts. Not everyone reacts well to questions out of the blue.
  • Look for positive and constructive feedback.

In the meeting

  • Be aware that this person may have constructive and potentially negative feedback to give you. Prepare yourself mentally for this too.
  • Be receptive and do not defend yourself. You want the feedback so that you can improve or provide a better environment for them.
  • Look to finish your meeting with a few action steps, whether it is for the employee (they may have said that they are not clear on their expectations, or they don’t receive enough feedback) or it is for the company as a whole. This will give the employee confidence that this meeting is meaningful and not just a talkfest.

After any meeting or feedback loop make sure you follow through on actions and communicate this back to the team. This builds on trust and credibility, along with culture and engagement.

Need help surveying your team? businessDEPOT now provides people and culture services that include a process around engagement surveys. Get in touch with us.


Originally authored by Anna Chipperfield.