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The Employee Ownership Report

NewsletterConcisely written for leaders in employee ownership companies and for service providers in the field, the NCEO's bimonthly newsletter, the Employee Ownership Report, is the most efficient way to stay informed about legal issues, current events, best practices, breaking research, management approaches, and communications ideas for employee ownership companies.

Available exclusively to NCEO members, the Employee Ownership Report is delivered in hard copy and all issues back to 1997 are available in the members-only area of the Web site.

Nonmembers are invited to read the sample article below from the current issue of the newsletter. Every time a new issue appears, the sample article on this page will be replaced by one from the new issue. Join online for only $90 to receive the Employee Ownership Report and all our other membership benefits.

You also can read a sample issue of the entire newsletter (September-October 2015).

Sample Article from the September-October 2015 Issue:

Using Employee Surveys: Five Tips

Research shows that employee ownership alone does not create the competitive advantages associated with ESOPs. The ownership advantage comes from ownership culture, and, like any improvement process at your company, measuring your performance helps ensure success. Most companies would not make a large investment without understanding the full picture, and making decisions on how to improve your culture is no different.

Employee surveys are an effective way to ensure your ESOP committees are not flying blind in their efforts to improve various aspects of your organizational culture. They help assess strengths and weaknesses, engage employees, solicit suggestions, create actionable plans based on results, and measure progress over time. Here, we discuss five tips to ensure your survey strategy is effective.

1. Begin with Action in Mind

The planning process may take longer than you think. Consider not only what your company wants to measure, but also how to ensure you will be able to take action based on the results. Asking employees whether or not they are satisfied working at the company, for example, does not tell you what the company needs to do next.

Effective surveys focus on specific aspects of your culture that can be improved upon, such as employee perspectives on how to find answers to specific questions, education and training, access to information, or their opportunities to engage in the business and provide input. Do the mental exercise of asking yourself what you will do if people agree with a question and what you will do if they do not. If there is no clear answer, you might need to rethink the question.

2. Make It Comprehensive

Other elements, such as demographic questions and written-response questions, can make your survey even more effective. Demographic survey items are questions that allow you to break the survey results down into employee subgroups based on tenure, age, department, location, or roles in management for instance. This is especially important for companies with multiple locations, seeing as one location may have completely different needs or issues than another. While there may be fears among employees about how such items might be used to identify respondents, third-party survey administrators can help you ensure employee anonymity.

Written responses can help add color to the quantitative results of your survey. You might ask a question such as, "What is the most important area in need of improvement at our company?" or "What can our company do to make you feel more like an employee-owner?"

3. Be Honest and Transparent

Results, especially negative results, can be overwhelming for companies, but do not fret. The point of the survey is to identify the most important areas in need of improvement. By soliciting the honest answers and perspectives of employees, you are presenting yourself with an opportunity and the first step toward improvement. Accept that the results are an honest reflection of your company's culture. Do not be afraid to share the results with employees and tell them exactly what your committee is planning to do address specific issue areas. Doing so builds more trust in the process and shows you take the feelings of employees seriously. Not sharing the results may have a negative impact on employee attitudes and your company's culture.

4. Create an Action Plan

The worst possible outcome of employee surveys is a lack of action. If you conduct a survey and fail to respond to employee concerns, your company risks lowering employee morale and trust rather than improving the company's culture. Before starting a survey, commit to the hard work that follows. While there may be several issue areas that your company wants to focus on, trying to take them on all at once may result in no issue receiving sufficient attention. Some companies create a prioritized action plan that focuses on the aspects of their culture with the most negative responses.

By addressing the most pressing issues first and fast, you show employees that you take their concerns seriously. During this stage of the process, it is also important to engage middle managers and involve them in the process of improving specific measures. Your team might ask managers of various groups to respond to specific results. Their insights will be important to understanding why certain measures are lower than others, and engaging them in the process from the start will help your team find the best ways to make improvements.

5. Track Progress over Time

The goal of your company's first survey is to measure current strengths and weaknesses, but surveying employees just once does not allow you to track progress over time. The most successful ESOP committees engage employees regularly. Many do a survey annually. Butler/Till, the ESOP company featured in this issue's case study, conducts internal, open-ended surveys every month to solicit feedback and suggestions. Your team should create a plan to ensure that the money and resources you spend on such initiatives are making progress over time.

Following these survey guidelines will improve the effectiveness of your engagement strategy.

The NCEO works with companies to develop and administer employee surveys that are exclusively designed to measure and track progress on various aspects of your ownership culture. Contact Dallan Guzinski, director of workplace development, at dguzinski@nceo.org to learn more.