Confidentiality in Employee Surveys
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Confidentiality in Employee Surveys

Employee surveys, whether engagement surveys, satisfaction surveys, development surveys, or any other type of employee survey will absolutely fail if employees don't believe in the confidentiality of their survey responses. No employee is satisfied with everything all the time, and surveys are an outlet to allow the employees to share what areas they would like to see changed, improved as well as what areas make them happy and satisfied.  If the employees feel that their answers are not kept in strictest confidence, survey results will always be meaningless.

Any employee who provides true, unbiased input about their feelings regarding their job, their manager, their company, compensation or policies will fear providing negative input if they have any fear that retribution will result. As a manager, you may not understand this feeling because you aren't planning to cause retribution to any negative input. But employees often have doubts.

One way to ensure the confidentiality in employee surveys is to use a third-party consulting firm or accounting firm to tally the employee survey responses. This outside, unaffiliated party can also perform analysis of the survey results, providing unbiased feedback. Often a consulting or accounting firm will be much more qualified to study the statistics revealed from the responses than the company employees.

Employees don't just fear retribution. They may fear that their inputs will not be honestly reported. They may believe that the company will fail to count negative responses to provide an untrue picture that shows everyone is happy and satisfied with the status quo.

The best way to ally this fear is open and honest communication. The employees must be introduced to the idea of the employee surveys and assured that changes will be implemented as a result of the survey responses. They must see this happen and it must happen on a timely basis. If only once a survey response dataset is ignored, the trust of the employees will be impacted for years! You have to be willing to walk the talk when dealing with employee surveys.

If you do not employee an outside firm to compile and analyze the employee survey results, you have to be willing to allow employee participation in the compilation and analysis process to avoid the impression that the responses may be ignored or skewed by management.

If you elect to perform your employee survey through a secure Internet or Intranet website, employees will probably feel better about giving honest, open answers. Do not ask for anything to be written by the employee, either on a website or on a hardcopy survey. This will always generate fear of retribution. All the questions should be multiple-choice based on "agreement scales" of 1-5 or "agree strongly" to "disagree strongly".

Communicate at the introduction of the employee survey that there will be no means of tracking who provided what response. Then make certain this is FACT! If you built trust with your employees by making certain their responses are confidential, you can expect the next employee survey to go much smoother than the first!

Copyright © 2005 by Bill Roche.  All rights reserved.  All material on this site ( is protected by U.S. Federal Copyright law. It may not be reprinted in any form, or hosted on any Web site, without explicit permission.


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