Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How Communication Can Improve Employee Surveys

By Kim Harrison,
Consultant, Author and Principal of
Traditionally, measurement has been a weak area of public relations practice. For various reasons, many PR people haven’t used measurement as much as they could to plan and implement PR activities. The various reasons for the reluctance of practitioners to engage in measurement include:
·  Pressure of time to start and/or complete communication activities.
·  Lack of interest in numbers (apart from their own salary!).
·  Lack of professional/research expertise.
·  Inertia against learning new skills.
·  The view that PR deals with intangible, complex matters that aren’t suited to evaluation.
·  Fear of accountability.
·  Competition from other departments for budget funding.
·  Fear that unfavorable research findings will cause budgets to be cut or abolished.
·  Since PR is ‘soft’ activity, budget approvals for research may be difficult to obtain.
This is all very well, but measurement provides the figures you need to convince management that your PR is producing good results. You need to be able to show management there is a need for communication and you need to be able to prove your value. If you don’t have proof of your achievements, you are vulnerable to people who may cast doubt on the value of your role.
Employee surveys are an area in which you could play a more active role. The HR department normally manages employee surveys, but the surveys are important from a communication point of view. Workplace communication can always be improved, so the employee survey should reveal the extent to which employees want better communication from their managers and supervisors. The results provide a great opportunity for you to show that the organization needs you.
Whether you are on staff or you are a consultant, you can insist on being involved in the planning and execution of employee surveys. This is because there are important communication elements needed for good survey results and you can review the quality of the communication questions in the survey to give you more useable figures. When you do this you will increase your value to HR and to management.
And here are the inside secrets of conducting effective employee surveys:
Most employee surveys of a reasonable length delivered at work should generate a 30-40% response rate. This could rise as high as 60-80% if selected people (usually a supervisor or manager) in each department or location are asked to encourage participation. The response rate will drop if employees are expected to complete a work survey at home. Response rates are higher if the survey is delivered electronically – as long as the questions are not perceived to be sensitive – because recipients in the typical workplace feel too easily identifiable in an electronic survey.
At times employers ask themselves why the response rate to employee surveys has been lower than expected. Employees generally give three broad reasons for being reluctant to participate:
·  “It seems pointless because management does nothing with the results.”
·  “I’m not going to give my real opinions because I want to keep my job.”
·  “I’m too busy.”
The most immediate communication task is to convince employees that the survey responses will be used by management to make improvements. Before this happens, managers need to ask themselves several questions.
·  “Why are we conducting an employee survey?” The survey should be conducted for ‘need-to-know’ reasons rather than ‘nice-to-know’ reasons.
·  “How do we intend to use the results?”
·  “What is our track record in acting on the results of previous surveys and in communicating the subsequent changes?” (What benefits will employees get by participating?)
·  “Have the results of previous employee surveys been used to make managers more accountable?”
·  “What guaranteed commitments can management make to follow up the results?” For example, conducting follow-up focus groups, communication briefings, providing summaries to participants.
Senior managers need to communicate good reasons for conducting the survey and the specific actions that will emanate from the results. This lets employees know their views are valuable and that their managers will be accountable for acting on the results. If managers try to hide unfavorable results, the news will inevitably leak out on the organizational grapevine and thus undermine the survey completely.
Concerns about confidentiality can be addressed by telling employees that confidentiality is paramount and that a third party [if possible] is being used to conduct the survey, with all results being aggregated so that no individuals can be identified. The measures to ensure confidentiality should be repeated often enough to ensure the message is absorbed.
The “I’m too busy” response tends to be encountered most where employees believe management won’t take the results seriously. They may have good grounds for thinking this because management hasn’t acted on the results of previous surveys. In these cases the onus is on management to communicate credibly about acting on the results.
Incentives may help to increase participation in surveys, but recipients may think you can identify their response if you can identify them for incentives. Also, new incentives would need to be offered for future surveys or the response rate will drop. A way around these problems is to offer a reward to the department or location with the highest overall response rates.
The survey should be easy to complete. It should have a targeted maximum time of 30-40 minutes per participant and should be easy to access online. The expected time commitment should be communicated to employees beforehand. The response will drop with long questionnaires and too many demographic questions. Responses will improve if the CEO tells managers and supervisors that the survey is important and that staff should be given time to fill in the questionnaire. Paper questionnaires sent to the home will draw a lower response rate than ones distributed to individuals at work. Electronic surveys (Web, email or telephone) draw faster responses, but where sensitive questions are asked, for instance about employees’ intention to stay with the organization, the response rates will be lower because employees think they could possibly be identified.
Care should be taken to avoid surveying too often because this reduces the response rate. Ways to improve survey responses include coordinating all employee surveys through a central point to avoid overlapping, and introducing each survey with a summary of the main findings and changes made after the previous survey. When changes have been made in response to the previous survey, the employer should communicate this fact to employees so they know their responses are considered important. In fact, as changes are being introduced into the workplace as a result of employee surveys, this should be communicated as part of the implementation process.
Guidelines for getting the best results from online employee surveys
·  Communicate diligently
Online surveys require more communication support than printed surveys because they are less visible. Printed surveys have a tangible presence that employees are less likely to forget. The communication plan should raise awareness of the survey, confirm management’s support for the process and reassure employees about confidentiality of responses.
·  Provide multiple access points where possible
Participation rates will increase if employees have several ways to access the survey. The most common method for conducting online surveys is to provide employees with a link from an email to access the survey website. Not everyone is comfortable doing this because some employees believe their identity can be tracked when they use their own computer to respond. Employers can counter this problem by setting up dedicated survey terminals in work areas and training rooms. One employer increased their participation rate by 13% doing this.
·  Provide passwords to participants
The survey software program should be able to issue passwords to enable employees to participate. The use of passwords reinforces the confidentiality of the process, it enables respondents to return later to finish an uncompleted survey, and it prevents managers from completing several questionnaires themselves to inflate the response rate and positive scores for their area. Unlikely as it might seem, this has happened!
·  4. Make it easy
The online process should be quick and easy to use. On-screen questionnaires that are slow to respond are frustrating to use, and when the word gets around, will put off other employees from participating.
·  Ensure IT flexibility
The selected survey software should be able to work on all the organization’s computer operating systems. This can be an issue in organizations spread over several locations and even multiple countries. A careful check is required in multi-national organizations to ensure the survey doesn’t need to be available in languages other than English at overseas locations.
·  Ask open-ended questions
A big problem with paper-based surveys is the cost of transcribing the responses to open-ended questions. This can cause employers to eliminate open-ended questions, which can limit the value of the survey. Electronic surveys process open-ended questions automatically, cutting the cost significantly. Employees tend to offer their feedback more willingly with electronic surveys because they feel more anonymous when typing their comments rather using their handwriting, which may be identifiable.
·  Make the most of the email system
The survey software should be able to link to the employer’s email system to invite participation. Accordingly, it is vital to ensure the email addresses of all employees used for the survey are up-to-date. The survey administrators need to ensure former staff and old addresses have been deleted from the list, along with group email addresses.
·  Use real-time results to enhance the response rate and quality
The software should be able to provide continuous, real-time response rates and survey scores for the overall organization and specific sub-groups such as the sales department or staff in a particular city or country. The ability to check response rates in real time allows management to urge greater participation in areas where participation has been low. From a communication point of view, the response rate for all significant areas of the organization can be progressively checked and managers can be updated on the response rate for their area in front of each other. This can stimulate managers to lift the response rates in their respective areas. 1
1.McCauley, Dan P., Gilbert, Patrick J., Fralicx, Rodney D. “How to make online surveys work for you: observations and ten best practices.” Retrieved from Mercer Human Resource Consulting,

About the Author

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website,, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

LET’s CHALK: Creative way to go about in Public Relations

By Aznan Mat Piah

CHALK is the acronym for Chat, Listen and Knowledge. Going back to school days, Chalk brings the connotation of school or classroom where the teacher would use a chalk to write on white board to explain to students on any topic. So, in simple terms, it symbolises teaching and learning to acquire education and knowledge.

Using the chalk concept, the Institute of Public Relations Malaysia (IPRM) has strategically coined the term CHALK to excite practitioners to come forward and share their experience not only among practitioners from the public or the corporate sector to help improve on their profession, but also with university undergraduates who would soon join the communication and public relations industry.

A gathering of the third CHALK session was held at the Dataran Sastera, University of Malaya on 30 September 2014, which turned out to be welcomed by communication students and lecturers. The last two CHALKs were previously held among public relations practitioners in corporate premises amidst corporate environment. This time, IPRM chose to hold the event in a university campus.

Apart from the social gathering to allow networking, interaction and building of relations between the university students and practitioners, the participants were also exposed to a knowledge session where practitioners readily shared their professional experience, skills and tasks.

Jaffri Amin Osman, an experienced public relations practitioner from World Comm who was the anchorman for the knowledge session reminded CHALK3 participants of Pablo Picasso’s words of wisdom which read, “The principal enemy of creativity is good taste”.
"What does this quote mean to us?" he asked. He told the participants that as public relations practitioners, they should never be contented in their jobs.

"Once the practitioner feels contented, that spells the end for creativity and they would lose their competitiveness. Always move forward and be excited about new things or new development in life and in your job,” Jaffri added.

Jaffri gave his success formula where there’s the need for the public relations practitioner to strive to be number 1, must always seek repeat business (or continuously doing it), pay attention to PDC (Performance, Discipline, Creativity), always DRESS or take care of yourself (Drink, Read, English, Sleep and Spiritual belief), and to apply the DAMN IT principle (Diary, Attendance, Money, Notebook, Integrity and Teamwork).

In public relations, there’s always the need to act quickly especially during a crisis situation. He said in communication it is not so much the message that is important, but rather the messenger, hereby he’s referring to the public relations people as the individual. So there’s the need for the public relations executive or practitioner to make his or her individual effort to build good rapport with the media.

He gave the example of a situation, which his company had to handle to campaign and promote a health product (plaster product to stop snoring) by a known pharmaceutical company in the media. As a public relations consultant, he said his company had a difficult time to strategies their publicity campaign to attract the media to focus attention and coverage on the product and product launching for the client.

He mentioned they had to resort to different techniques and creativity in their approaches to convince and capture the attention of the media. Which media would bother to focus on such a product that concerns with snoring, he asked the participants? So there were so many challenges the company had to face to bring to public attention about the product through the media. This can be a classic case studies for public relations involving media relations.

Finally their strategies worked and he showed evidence of the publicity that appeared in both the print and the electronic media. The product and the product launching drew excellent attention in the media and indeed there were overwhelming coverage in the media. All was done through sheer hard work and excellent media strategies.

Tengku Adrian who was with Maybank and Global FELDA Ventures previously spoke of the need for public relations people to have both patience and passion in order to deliver a good job. He also said public relations executives should develop relationship as they progress within the organisation.

“You need not have to feel inferior of having to deal with the media because you can start making your contact with the reporters," he added.

“Being a young executive you may not have access to someone in a higher position in the media. Leave that to your boss to handle, but you can start with building contact with a young reporter. In no time, the reporter will also move up in his or her position in the media, and you too will move up the ladder in your organisation,” he added.

Former journalist and now public relations practitioner, Shikin, shared her experience in handling the media where her early years in the industry had taught her a lot of lessons. She said the situation she was in often put her to tears when she faced difficulties to get the media to cover the events hosted by the organisation she worked for.

Each time she faced a problem she would call her colleague for help but her appeal was rejected and she was told to learn for herself. But she said she had gone through the experience and finally learned the hard way. Finally, she said, what is most important is to make people interested in you and to make them remember you.

“This is only achievable if you have the passion for the job,” she said.

Earlier the President of IPRM, Dato’ Ibrahim Abdul Rahman spoke of the importance for public relations practitioners to be global in their outlook and be sensitive of intercultural relations and cultural norms and values of others. He shared his experience following his recent attendance at  the World Public Relations conference in Madrid organised by Global Alliance of the importance of multilingual, to pick up foreign languages and understand foreign culture in a globalised world.