Three Keys to Successful Change Readiness Surveys

Successfully managing workplace change is critical to project success

There’s no question about it. Workplaces are changing—because the nature of work and the role of the workplace in business strategy are changing. Organizations of all sizes, across all sectors, are re-planning and re-configuring their workplaces to better attune them to the work processes and workstyles at hand.

If your organization is planning such a change, you are not alone. Knoll has worked with many organizations through the process of implementing workplace changes—some simple, some quite complex.

In this paper, we offer three simple steps to fully using the power of the online survey as part of a successful workplace change management process.

A survey to take the “pulse of the organization” is central to managing workplace change

An initial step in the change management process is a “change readiness” survey, which is designed to provide insights on how employees are dealing with the upcoming change as well as communication preferences.

This paper shares some of our insights specific to the survey process and offers guidelines for a successful survey experience. Online surveys have evolved from their origins as a simple method of collecting data, to a means of initiating a real dialogue on important topics. Whether intended or not, a change readiness survey, and the process used to manage it, communicates a message influencing employee expectations about the future. Thus, the opportunity exists to use the survey as a strategic part of the change management process, to educate, inform and even to engage employees in a dialogue about the workplace.

Many organizations conduct change readiness surveys with employees who will be affected by major changes to the workplace strategy and planning models. Such a tool can provide insights into how well employees understand the reasons for the change, their hopes for the success of the new space, and their preferred communication methods and media. People may have different perspectives on change depending upon their demographic characteristics.

Thus, it is important to have participants identify their:

  • Job type
  • Department
  • Generational affiliation

For “job type” categories, use general descriptions such as:

  • Executive
  • Manager
  • Professional/technical
  • Administrative

For “generational affiliation,” use:

  • Baby Boomer (born 1946 – 1964)
  • Generation X (born 1965 – 1978)
  • Generation Y (born 1979 – 1997)

The data can be then analyzed to understand the perspectives of specific constituents. This information can be used to refine the central message and to craft targeted messaging and media throughout the course of the project.

Such a survey should not exceed 15 questions, close with a request for openended comments about the move, and take no more than 10 to 12 minutes for a busy employee to complete. A key benefit of such a survey is it provides people with a simple, confidential way to share their perspectives and concerns.

The 3 Keys To Successful Surveys

A three step communication program throughout the survey process will lead to a positive experience for employees and ensure higher participation rates:

1. Build support for the upcoming survey through effective pre-communication

Pre-survey communication is an important means of enhancing the perceived importance of the survey, and thus, increasing employee participation. Ideally the communication should come directly from a senior executive sponsor of the workplace change. The content of the communication should provide some context, the business reasons for the change, benefits to employees, and a request for participation in the survey.

If you have an electronic monthly or regular newsletter, this is a good place to feature this executive communication. Even if done exclusively through an email message, notifying your respondent group of a forthcoming survey, the executive sponsor, and its purpose will increase the response rate.

2. Reinforce the message when distributing the survey

When you dispatch a link to an online survey via email, take advantage of this additional chance to communicate your message and build support.

Much of the benefits and “big picture” information you will want to communicate should be in the email body so that you can keep your survey as clean and visually light as possible. If you have sent out pre-survey communications, reference it in the email body for continuity.

After a survey has been submitted by a respondent, create a “thank-you” landing page message to confirm that the survey data has been captured or to convey other information related to the survey process or project.

Second and third-round distributions of your survey, sent to people who have not responded, should have a different message in the subject line and email body. You may want to simply include something like: “This is a friendly reminder that we would still like to hear from you. Your voice matters.” Each communication activity should build upon the previous message.

3. Post-survey communication can increase future participation

The survey is complete. You’ve got your data and analyzed the results. An important, yet often overlooked, component of the survey process is validating to participants that their time was, indeed, worthwhile. Like that promised phone call after a first date, it’s a nice way to say “hey, the time you took to respond mattered to me.”

Validate employees’ investment in time by sharing what was learned from the survey. One way to do this is to provide a short, high level summary of the results with key insights and if possible, action steps. The summary can be written and distributed via email, posted online, shared face to face in the form of an “all hands” presentation, or presented by managers at work team meetings, depending on communication preferences and size of the audience. This sends a message to employees that the management team is listening and values the time they took to participate in the survey. The follow-up may also increase the potential “buy-in” for participation in future surveys by employees.

Keeping this three step strategy in mind will contribute to a positive employee experience, ensure higher participation rates, and generate better quality data—for better workplaces.