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Guide to launching a survey during an emergency
Guide to launching a survey during an emergency

A guide to launching a survey during an emergency, how to understand the results and take action

Jared Ellis avatar
Written by Jared Ellis
Updated over a week ago

What can I learn from this page?

A guide to launching a survey during an emergency, how to understand the results and take action

Who is this guide for?

Account Admins, Survey Admins, Survey Creators

This article provides guidance on how to launch the Emergency Response Survey templates, understand results, and take action.

💡 Tip: Learn how to launch the Emergency Response Surveys through this guided course on Culture Amp Training.

The Emergency Response Survey template is available for free. Customers can locate the template in the template library.

We launched the Emergency Response Survey templates because we know it is vital to maintain a dialogue with your employees and colleagues during emergencies and difficult times. We recognize that during times of high pressure or uncertainty there is a tendency to cast aside best practice in favor of seemingly more pressing issues. However, collecting feedback from your teams during an emergency helps you inform your evolving strategy and business response.

Launch your Emergency Response Survey

The questions you ask your employees help your organization in two key ways:

  1. They indicate that you value employee input: Asking questions sends the message that during difficult times your employees’ feedback is incredibly important to the organization

  2. They help you focus on the actions that matter most right now: emergencies are inherently unanticipated. Organizations will do their best to respond, but are unlikely to be able to think of everything. It is critical to be able to check in with our teams, how they are feeling, what they need more of, and any requests they may have so efforts can be prioritized.

When should I launch an Emergency Response survey?

The launch of an Emergency Response survey is due to large scale unforeseen changes occurring. In general, we recommend launching sooner rather than later following this change. In times of uncertainty, it’s a balance of being proactive while also being mindful of how relevant the information you are seeking is. Also, consider that employees are likely experiencing increased levels of stress, anxiety, and ambiguity. And so, when considering the timing of launch, you want to ensure that you are being proactive, but sensitive to the current experience of your employees.

Prior to the launch of your survey, spend as much time preparing resources and aligning internal stakeholders, so that you can take action as soon as possible. Finalize resources and stakeholder alignment in the days that your survey is live and while feedback is being collected. This allows you to collect feedback quickly, while also adequately preparing to understand and act on data as soon as your survey is closed.

How should I communicate about the survey?

As with any survey, pre-survey communications are important. Check out this article to learn more about our typical advice. Because emergency situations are unanticipated, you’ll likely have a shorter period of time to socialize the survey. Ensure you are including supportive words and clear information on how to reach out directly to the HR team if employees have specific needs or concerns.

We highly recommend that any communications and policy changes and updates be shared before you launch, as much of what you will be examining is in relation to the response the organization has put in place. For example, if there are elements of your communication or policy release you particularly want feedback on, give at least a few days following these communications before assessing employee sentiment.

How often should I be surveying throughout an emergency?

At Culture Amp, we recommend surveying as often as you can respond or pivot your approach and this advice still applies in an emergency situation. The types of questions we ask in these situations are often more quickly actionable, meaning that you are able to survey more frequently and react at a quicker pace than your typical engagement survey. e.g., Are your employees prepared to work remotely? If not, we can swiftly provide the tools necessary to support them.

This also means that your survey may stay open for a shorter period of time, depending on the types of questions you are asking. If you are able to quickly take action, consider keeping a survey open for two to three days and committing to action start of the following week.

When thinking about the cadence that makes sense for your organization, consider the balance between aligning with other emergency response initiatives and keeping an open dialogue with employees. Typically, we recommend organizations survey frequently at the onset of an emergency situation (e.g., weekly or fortnightly) and then move to a less frequent cadence as the situation, and required organizational adjustments, plateau.

What questions should I be asking?

The People Science team has developed multiple templates for emergency response. For more information on how we chose to include questions, see the science behind our Emergency Response templates article here.

In a pulse survey strategy, often you will identify different questions that you want to substitute given your organization's industry, location, or ability to action. Here at Culture Amp, we recognize the specific nuances of your organization, and do not have a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Rather, we have provided a means of prioritization which will help you to decide which questions are most relevant for your own organization below.

If you plan on conducting pulse surveys, remember that your questions can change. For example, if you have just modified working arrangements so that everyone is now working remotely, your first survey may be very focused on whether employees have the resources and tools necessary to adequately complete their work in a new environment. Future surveys may include other questions around understanding policy and managerial support.

Should I modify questions?

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you modify questions:

  • Keep in the free text question - our templates include one or two open ended questions, which allow employees to add additional context. Now, more than ever, you want to be able to hear firsthand what your employees are experiencing and want to share.

  • Maintain the outcome items.

If you have access to a tool like the Culture Amp platform, we recommend keeping the outcome questions - confidence in the organization’s response. If you retain this design, the platform will run driver analysis for you, helping you to determine which areas you should prioritize action on in order to impact Company Confidence.

If you do not have access to a platform that allows you to conduct these types of analyses, it is still helpful to understand your employees’ sentiment regarding the outcome items - just remember that these items are inherently inactionable, so focus your action(s) on the driver items.

  • When considering omitting items, we recommend thinking about the following, and if your response is yes, omit (or amend) the question: i) are there any questions which don’t apply to us (e.g., reference to remote working, but your organization isn’t working remotely), ii) are there any questions which we cannot take action on (e.g., questions around policy updates, but your organization hasn’t released official policy yet).

  • When considering adding additional questions, we recommend thinking about any policies or strategies that are unique to your organization. Remember, all your questions should be worded positively, so that when rating on a scale of 1 to 5; 5 is strongly agree (and positive).

  • Consider the survey length and how long it will take. For a pulse survey, 3-4 minutes is ideal. We often see that quantitative items take ~10 seconds to complete and open-ended items take ~50 seconds.

Can I incorporate some of the Emergency Response items into my Engagement survey?

Absolutely. We recognize there is no perfect time to survey. However, it is imperative to continue listening to your employees, especially in difficult times. There are instances where your organization isn’t directly impacted by an emergency, but you still want to ensure that you are supporting your employees and gathering insights on their experiences. Consider including a factor in your survey that is a measure of emergency response; we recommend placing this factor at the end This way, you can gather feedback on employee engagement more broadly, while still understanding employee experiences regarding the specific situation at hand. We've created a workbook with our recommendations for updating the Engagement survey during an emergency.

Should I add any additional self-report demographics?

Self-report demographics are a helpful way to understand the nuanced experiences of your employees. Remember, similar to other employee feedback methodologies, the demographics that you collect are communicating to employees what you value and how you are willing to take action. For example, you may want to ask if employees are in a care-taking role at home; however, if you are asking these types of questions, be open to taking action based on the results (e.g., if a majority of your employees indicate “Yes,” will we consider putting together resources to help with this transition?). As always, with any sensitive demographics or questions, consult with your legal team.

Should my survey remain confidential?

A majority of Culture Amp surveys are confidential, check out this article to learn more. We recommend maintaining confidentiality as the purpose of the Emergency Response survey is to action at a department, team, or organizational level, and not at the individual level.

My Engagement survey was already live and then an emergency happened. What are my options?

If you have found that your engagement survey is already launched and an emergency situation arises, there are a few things to consider:

  1. Will the data be helpful? An emergency situation likely will skew the responses of your employees who may be biased to think about the situation at hand, rather than the typical employee experience. You may not want to benchmark against prior surveys or trend these results against future surveys.

  2. Consider leaving your survey open for a longer period of time than you had initially planned. Remember, we want to be sensitive to your employees’ experience and encouraging participation in a survey that doesn’t address the emergency may not be the message you want to send. Consider limiting your communication on the survey until the situation settles and workplace norms are returned to.

  3. You may want to consider closing your survey. In emergency situations, organizational priorities often shift. While employee experience and culture still need to be at the forefront, we may not be able to act on the things we were originally open to actioning upon (e.g., improving the physical workspace). In an instance like this, we may want to pivot to utilizing the Emergency Response template in the place of our original survey. Check out this blog post that explains the importance of surveying, even through difficult times.

Understand Your Survey Results

If you are able to collect your data in Culture Amp or a similar platform that allows for driver analysis, we recommend:

Similar to other surveys you’ve launched in the Culture Amp tool, you will see an Impact column that will allow you to understand which items are most impacting employees’ sentiment around whether your organization is responding appropriately to the current situation. Take a look at this article to learn more about our recommendation when analyzing results.

If you are unable to run the analyses in a platform that provides you with driver analysis, we recommend:

Take a look at which (actionable) items are least favorable. Remember that if you have maintained the Company Confidence items (Outcome Items), they are inherently inactionable, but are helpful to understand the sentiment of your employees overall experience. When considering which least favorable items to action on, consider the tradeoff between actioning upon a low scoring item and the company’s goals/priorities/values/mission. Is there a quick win that you can action upon in 24-48 hours? Start there to show your employees you’re committed to taking action as you work through some larger projects that may take more resources.

Will I be able to benchmark against other organizations?

The Culture Amp team knows that comparisons are an important part of your employee feedback strategy. First and foremost, we recommend quickly reviewing this article on the pros and cons of various comparisons.

We have a COVID-19 benchmark which can be helpful to provide context, however, our recommendation is to focus on internal benchmarking over time. This will be especially insightful if you plan to regularly pulse throughout the duration of an emergency, as you will be able to identify the impact of the actions you’ve taken and adjust accordingly.

Take Action on Results

At Culture Amp, we strive to be the Action platform, meaning that we spend a lot of time focusing on the importance of taking action on employee feedback. In an emergency situation, it is just as (if not more) important to commit to taking action (likely on a much shorter timeline). Once your organization has identified areas to take action, we recommend having a dedicated project manager who can drive the action(s) forward.

In this article we give our tips for taking action quickly since one of the most important things to remember during a crisis or emergency is to be agile. You will likely have to shift your programs and plans of action as a situation unfolds, so be prepared to shift your approach as the larger situation changes.

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