CIOs Need To Find Out How Their Employees Are Feeling

There are better ways to find out how your employees are feeling
There are better ways to find out how your employees are feeling Image Credit:

In order to be an effective CIO you need to have a good understanding of how your employees are currently feeling. This can be a tricky thing to determine. Traditionally what most CIOs have done is to create a survey and then send it out to have their employees fill it out. However, this has always had mixed results. The good news for CIOs is that we are now living in modern times and if we want to find out how our employees are feeling we have different ways to go about doing this.

Doing Away With The Annual Employment Survey

CIOs know that the annual employment survey needs to be retired. The reason CIOs do these surveys is to find out what is going on in their workplace and with employees. This remains as important as ever. However, workers don’t like the surveys and often won’t respond to them. Most CIOs don’t do anything with the results anyway. And now, CIOs have access to a host of other data that can tell it what is going on in the workplace far better and faster than the annual survey can. Annual surveys originally became popular after World War II when it was thought that happy workers were more productive workers. Later on when research began to find that employee happiness doesn’t necessarily lead to more productivity, many CIOs began measuring other things with surveys, eventually settling on something called employee “engagement.”

Engagement it turns out is a vague concept with multiple definitions, and many of the drivers of engagement aren’t really things that can be changed easily. Engagement is going to be higher in an elementary school, for example, where most everyone sees the mission as important, compared with a tire store, where not everyone is as motivated to make more money for those who already have it. Additionally engagement on its own isn’t a good measure of job performance, which is what most CIOs ultimately want to know.

The Problem With Employment Surveys

One of the biggest problems with the surveys that CIOs use is that about half of employees don’t respond to them. The reason that they don’t is because often they are too long. With these surveys it isn’t unusual to have 50 questions just on the engagement component. CIOs tend to layer on other questions, as well. The workers who tend to fill out the surveys are different from those who don’t. CIOs need to understand that when the response rates are low, the results aren’t representative or useful. Many workers don’t take surveys seriously because they don’t believe CIOs will do anything with the results. It turns out that they may be right. In a study, almost 60% of CIOs admitted that their organizations either do nothing with the results or deal only with the easy issues. Another survey found that 27% never even look at the results of their annual surveys.

Sometimes, CIOs ignore survey results because there isn’t an internal “customer” interested in the findings. CIOs also don’t act on survey results because the things that bother employees most are often too big or expensive to be easily addressed. Another knock on surveys is that employees know that the responses aren’t always anonymous. Most CIOs match responses to demographic data they already have for respondents, things such as where in the company they work and their job titles. And while almost all CIOs promise anonymity, every CIO has a story about a manager wanting to know which employee was complaining about him or her in a survey. When we consider these issues, why do CIOs keep doing annual surveys? It may be because they can brag about the results when they are good and hide them when they are bad. We all realize that there is no requirement that the results ever be reported. It also have to do with inertia. CIOs who have always done surveys know that they are easy to do electronically and, most important, some CIOs don’t know any other way to find out what is going on with their employees.

A New Approach To Gathering Input

It turns out that there are more efficient and more fruitful ways for CIOs to get this kind of information. To find out why people are quitting, for instance, CIOs could study the exit interviews of employees who have resigned rather than trying to draw inferences from surveys of current employees. To determine which benefits employees value most, CIOs could analyze their actual choices during annual enrollment periods. For more complex questions such as whether to implement a wellness plan CIOs could do what marketing researchers do and start with focus groups. CIOs also can learn a lot from data they already have. Discussions on coordination and scheduling platform tools such as Slack and Yammer can provide insight into whether employees are having trouble getting work done. Project-management software can be used to assess where project bottlenecks are. Natural-language processing software can help to make sense of more subjective things, such as summarizing trends in performance-appraisal reports. Gathering information like this is far more accurate than opinions from employee surveys.

Up to 87% of companies already monitor employee email. Perhaps surprisingly, 77% of employees say it is acceptable for CIOs to monitor employees’ work-related email, but the devil is always in the details. Careful CIOs let employees know what they are monitoring. And as with surveys, only necessary information should be gathered from email without identifying the authors, as it is only necessary to see average results. Surveys can still be useful for CIOs, especially if they ask about actual behavior such as whether supervisors are talking to their teams about job issues or whether employees have received required job training. But it is better for CIOs to ask questions in the form of pulse surveys using only two or three items at a time. A pulse survey can be ramped up quickly, and response rates are much higher. Employee surveys have been with us for roughly 100 years. The reasons for using them are still as important as ever. But how many CIOs are still using workplace tools from a century ago to achieve workplace goals? Not many. Employee surveys should be retired today!

What All Of This Means For You

Just like everyone else at the company, CIOs want to know what the employees in the IT department are thinking. They could always ask them, but when you have a lot of employees this is not possible. The traditional way to get employee feedback is to conduct a survey. However, CIOs often don’t use these results. How can a CIO find out what their employees are thinking?

Annual surveys are not popular with employees. Many will not fill them out. CIOs try to measure employee engagement with surveys but it doesn’t work out. Employees don’t respond to surveys because they are too long and they don’t think that anyone reads them. CIOs often ignore survey results because nobody is asking for them. A better way to get employee feedback is to study exit interviews or look at options that employees select. Additionally, employee email can be monitored. If a CIO wants to do a survey, they should do a pulse survey in order to get a better feedback.

Understanding what their employees are currently thinking is a critical responsibility that all CIOs have. How to get this information has always been a challenge. Our standard solution of using a survey has never worked out all that well. If we can take some time and think about what information we’d like to collect, we can monitor different things or use short and concise surveys. We can find out what everyone is thinking if we take our time and do it right.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How often do you think a CIO should survey their employees?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it – the pandemic changed everything for CIOs. For a year, all of their employees worked from home. All of the debates about remote workers pretty much went out the window when everyone become a remote worker almost overnight. Now that the pandemic has become a thing of the past, CIOs are being forced to confront a new reality. Is the traditional 5 days a week, 40 hours a week work schedule the right schedule for everyone? Could there be alternatives and would there be any reason for us to adopt an alternative?