Let staff say what they think, guide recommends

Staff surveys should include open questions so employees can express what really matters to them, according to a new guide.

The short handbook, published by charity consultantcy Birdsong, says staff surveys are an effective way of understanding what charities do well and what they could do better. But charities should not avoid difficult questions, and should be prepared to act on the results, it says.

“If managed well, staff surveys help to demonstrate an organisation really cares about what its staff think and feel,” said Frances Hurst, co-founder of Birdsong. "If handled badly, they are counter-productive and undermine trust. With good planning and appropriate staff involvement, the pitfalls of running staff surveys can be avoided – and staff morale given a significant boost.”

Hurst added that a response rate of more than half is satisfactory, while anything above 65 per cent is good, but managers who achieved response rates to their surveys of less than 30 per cent should be worried.

“Managers often think that staff will be really interested in surveys and fill them in straight away,” she said. “In fact response rates of around 50 per cent are average. Greater involvement of staff in designing questionnaire can help as it gives them more ownership. Asking questions that matter to people is more likely to succeed than obscure questions about personnel policies.”

The guide, called So You Want to Run a Staff Survey?, which is available from Birdsong's website, also explains how charities can use the sector-wide Charity Pulse staff satisfaction survey, run jointly by Birdsong and Third Sector, to benchmark their performance against other organisations.


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Birdsong Charity Consulting

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