Purpose of Employee Surveys

by Ruth Mayhew; Updated September 26, 2017

Employee surveys serve a variety of purposes. Employers interested in knowing the general workplace climate administer employee opinion surveys to determine their level of job satisfaction. Employee response to organizational change or transition is another reason for administering an employee opinion survey. Employee opinion surveys elicit specific information as well as general comments about the workplace, which enable employers to address workforce and organizational needs.

Job Satisfaction

Employers who experience rising turnover, absenteeism or instances of poor performance design employee opinion surveys to determine how best to address the needs of its workforce. A sense of disturbance in the workplace climate motivates organizations to examine what circumstances underlie sudden changes in employee attitudes or behavior. Surveys concerning overall job satisfaction also may reveal workplace issues such as prohibited employment actions, discriminatory practices or workplace misconduct that employees might not want to discuss without assurance of anonymity.

Leadership Effectiveness

One reason employees leave companies is because of poor relationships with supervisors or managers. Company leaders who aren't responsive to employee training and development needs can cause negative changes in employee morale and disengagement within the workforce. An employee opinion survey with specific questions about department leadership, guidance and effectiveness identifies issues employees have with their supervisors and managers. Employee opinion surveys concerning leadership effectiveness must be handled carefully so employees won't be reluctant to participate for fear of retribution.

Compensation and Benefits

When organizations need to restructure their compensation and benefits plans, they seek input from employees on what types of changes they can make that won't have a negative affect on employee retention. Surveying employees on impending changes to benefit plans helps human resources staff in negotiations with group health plan providers prior to open enrollment season. Questions about compensation can assist employers in making decisions about wage rates. Conducting an extensive compensation survey of industry practices supplements information obtained from employees. However, employees who provide honest feedback about compensation are generally the best judge of whether the employer is paying competitive wages.

Working Conditions

Health care employee shortages, particularly among registered nurses, show the importance of surveying employees regarding matters such as working conditions, nurse-patient ratios and schedules. These are factors most often discussed in recruiting and retaining health care workers. Employers who implement changes based on employee opinion are more likely to experience higher retention rates. Employee opinion surveys about working conditions are useful in constructing action plans for human resources staff to discuss with company executives. Action plans outline specific steps necessary for corrective measures.

Labor Representation

Supervisor and manager surveys that are part of union avoidance strategy help organizations determine whether employees favor union representation. Confidential survey questions that address departmental matters and employees lobbying for union representation are administered by outside labor consultants, not by employers directly.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.