Guidelines for Writing an Effective Internal Communications Survey

And the Survey Says…

Are your internal communications programs successful? To find out, you can utilize quantitative measurement tools to gauge analytics such as attention and engagement rates, but to probe the minds of your audience, you may need to dive into the qualitative-side of things by creating an internal communications survey.

Before you write a single question, first identify what you plan to do with the results. Think not only about what you want to know, but what you are going to do. Are you and your leadership willing and able to potentially kill off publications, programs and sites, resurrect others, and make major changes to processes, organization, staff and tools? If not, don’t ask.

Improvement will require making changes. Nothing positive comes from asking employees to invest their time in providing feedback, only for them to discover nothing was done with it. With that in mind, here’s some advice for creating your survey.

Avoid using jargon, vague terms and homonyms. Survey questions should be easy for respondents to understand. If you need to use industry-specific jargon, put complex ideas into layman’s terms. Also, avoid imprecise terms. For example, if you ask a survey participant about something broad like their values, Harvard recommends clarifying what type of values, writing, “How important is it that a candidate shares your religious values?” Lastly, to avoid confusion and minimize total survey error, do not use homonyms (i.e. words with the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings).

Eliminate double-barreled questions. Each survey question should measure one item. Often unintentional, survey writers tend to include double-barreled questions that touch on more than one issue, yet only allow respondents to provide one answer. For example, “Does this team exemplify collaboration and innovation?” Respondents who think the team only exemplifies one of those traits may not know how to answer. Review your survey for double-barreled questions by looking for words like “and” or “or” in your survey items.

Thoughtfully consider question type and order. Although sorting and analyzing open-ended responses can be time-consuming, you may choose to include an open-ended question, among yes-no and multiple-choice questions. For instance, you may ask, “If you could add one section to the employee newsletter, what would it be?” Open-ended questions can help you gather employee feedback and ideas, moving beyond predefined answers. In terms of question order, Harvard recommends starting with general questions that are easy to answer and keeping sensitive questions, including demographics (like income), near the end.

Keep it concise, or break it into manageable chunks. Your people are busy. You might want to ask 50 questions, but most employees will only have time for a few. Better to ask 3 questions a day for a week, then 20 questions all at once. If you can make it fun, and provide feedback to everyone you asked to participate, you can motivate more participation.

Better surveys are made by asking better questions. When thought out in advance, internal communications surveys can help communications teams uncover the story behind their numbers. As a result, you can make data-informed changes, improve your internal communications and engage more readers.

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