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Employee Feedback: Make it Legal and Worth It

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on April 24, 2015 11:58 AM

The key to an effective workforce is often a happy workforce. But how do you know if your workforce is happy?

Many companies are surveying their employees to gauge happiness, satisfaction, and engagement. But these surveys are not without their pitfalls, legal and otherwise. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure your employee surveys are effective and legal.

Stay Focused

Any employee survey should be narrowly tailored to find exactly what you're looking for. Just asking if employees are happy probably isn't going to get there, at least not all the way. On the other hand, too many far-ranging questions may give you too many nonsensical data points.

Keeping your employee survey both concise and precise will get you the right answers, and probably keep you from asking any of the wrong questions. For the most part, even if there are questions that you shouldn't ask from a style or effectiveness standpoint, the law allows most survey questions, as long as they aren't discriminatory and won't be used to discriminate or retaliate against employees. If you employ union labor, however, you should be extra careful when conducting employee satisfaction surveys -- some surveys may be deemed a labor violation, no matter what they ask.

Commit to the Cause

Make sure all levels of your company, upper management on down, are on board with implementing the survey and engaging with the results. If employees don't feel that there's a complete, company-wide commitment to discovering what the survey is looking for and addressing the issues it raises, they are less likely to be forthcoming.

The best strategy for surveying employees is to have a specific plan beforehand. Like any employee policy, being clear and concise up front, making sure your employees know what's expected, and delivering on your end will ensure effective results.

Follow Up

Asking for employees' feedback can be great. But ignoring it might be worse than not asking at all. You don't need to implement every suggestion, but you should gather and analyze the information and give your employees a systematic and timely response that lets them know you're listening.

And, whatever you do, don't hook your employees up to a lie detector test. It's probably not going to engender the kind of loyalty and effort you're looking for, and it's probably not legal, either. To ensure your employee survey is legal, you may want to consult with an experienced employment law attorney for guidance.

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