The shopping list of staff surveys…Part One

Gary Cattermole is a Director at leading staff survey provider and employee engagement specialists, The Survey Initiative. Here he gives the lowdown on the various types of surveys that have been conducted for HR, Training and Health & Safety Departments, and offers advice on which survey to select for the best results…

As you’ll probably be aware there are a whole host of surveys you can choose if you’re looking to analyse HR, training or health and safety in the workplace. Firstly let’s look at the options on offer in HR.

HR Surveys

With an HR survey the crux of the matter is really to establish what it’s like to work somewhere. HR professionals are trying to find out what works well and what doesn’t. Here’s some tools that can really help…

Employee engagement survey

For many years now employee engagement has become a ‘buzz’ word within HR departments. Everyone is looking at ways to increase employee loyalty, work ethic, productivity to help boost profits. An employee engagement survey is crucial to any business starting out on the engagement process; here they can benchmark their current performance levels. The survey will also throw-up areas where companies need to improve and your action plan can be derived from this. It’s worth undertaking annual engagement surveys to ensure that your new measures are working and that your business is heading in the right direction.

Satisfaction survey

A satisfaction survey was very norm in the 90s and now HR departments have moved away from this basic approach. Here the survey would record the general moans and groans whilst also looking at levels of morale and motivation in the organisation.

360 degree survey

If anyone’s new to a 360 degree survey these may be a little hard to swallow! Sometimes it’s tough to hear feedback from your managers and peers but it can really give an HR and the individual a clear reflection on how someone operates and is perceived by the team. Often training may be required to prepare people for a 360 degree survey and close management and an action plan for the individual to move on from the results.

Empowerment survey

Some very forward-thinking companies, such as Apple for example, have already moved through the employee engagement process and have developed empowerment cultures within their workplaces. Here the management structure is very flat and everyone takes responsibilities for their own actions. An empowerment survey is ideal for companies moving into this new culture and for those looking to ensure that staff still feel empowered in their roles long after the empowerment culture has been embraced.


Training surveys really try to get to the heart of whether the training course met the development needs of the individual. Whereas a development evaluation offers a chance to look at the impact training and development has on the success of a company.

Course evaluation

We’ve all been in training sessions and been asked to complete a short quick survey at the end to ensure the trainer and the content has met our development needs. It may only be about 10 questions long, but it is vital for the course organiser and training department to gain this valuable feedback to ensure their training budgets have been wisely spent.

Development Evaluation

A development evaluation is a much wider scoping survey that can look at a departmental or organisation’s people development. These forms of evaluation are ideal when a major training/development need has been highlighted and a new programme of activity has been put in place to move the employees forward.

A well-structured evaluation survey should take feedback from tutors, mentors, employees. The results should also take into account a business’s financial goals and achievements to ensure the programme was worthwhile.

Health and Safety

The overriding purpose of a health and safety survey is to ensure a company is operating in a safe environment. A company may have to undertake various surveys to meet health and safety legislation, but there are a couple of others which could also really boost health and safety and productivity in your workplaces.

Health and Safety Survey

A standard health and safety survey analyses the safety record of a company – number of days lost due to ill health/accidents etc. This is a vital part of a company’s process, especially if the organisation is in the manufacturing, chemical, transport sectors for example. An annual survey is vital to record areas to pinpoint potential areas that need improvement to guard against staff accidents and costly court cases.

Wellbeing Survey

A wellbeing survey is a step on from the more basic, yet very necessary, health and safety survey. Here companies take a more holistic approach and look at staff wellbeing. Here for example a company could look at levels of stress in the workplace, instead of stats on recorded incidents.

It’s also been widely acknowledged for a while that highly engaged employees are also much less likely to have an accident in the workplace, so there is some scope for crossover material from the engagement and the health and safety focused wellbeing survey here.

Next steps…

Of course once you’ve identified what you need to research in your organisation, you’ll then need to decide whether you employ the services of a specialist agency, undertake the work yourself, or set-up an online survey a variety of online survey tool. Remember that surveys are often viewed with scepticism by employees and by including a third party into the research it often builds greater trust into the process, and crucially more valid feedback.

If you do decide to go down the route of going it alone, check your questionnaire with colleagues inside, and if possible, outside of the organisation to ensure your questions are easily understood, cannot be misinterpreted, and actually get to the heart of what you want to uncover. Of course you will also have to decide which route to communicate to your staff – email, hard copy questionnaire, focus groups, telephone, social media or via gamification?

In the second half of this blog we shall be looking at the most effective and value-for-money solutions to running a survey, and why sometimes it’s best to get face-to-face.

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