Confidentially Speaking.
By Gene Ference
Thursday, 26th May 2005
Confidential employee surveys that are professionally administered by a neutral party can offer feedback that can not be acquired in any other way. Results can then be "sliced and diced" so that management can make improvements in many areas.

As a manager, obtaining complete and honest feedback from staff about their job-related wants and needs, as well as their thoughts and suggestions can be a difficult to almost impossible task. Unless you are one of the special few that can get their employees to "fully open up" to you in a trusting manner, you most likely will have only limited success in finding out what your staff is thinking, feeling and doing so that you can ensure that the work and environment are positive experiences. Let's face it, though you get along with your employees very well, there are always those who will not confide in you to the extent needed in order to delve into improving levels of employee and guest satisfaction.

In order to alleviate this problem and learn more about the real thoughts and ideas that your staff has about making your property a better place to work and serve your guests, confidential employee satisfaction surveys should be employed. This avenue of communications enables staff members to feel comfortable about both answering questions and making comments about the workings in and around the property. The results will allow management to focus on offering increased excellence in service to guests and making improvements to work-related concerns of the employees.

At HVS/The Ference Group and The Center For Survey Research, we serve as a professional neutral party ensuring that all surveys are treated with the utmost in confidentiality. When surveys are sent to individual properties, comprehensive instructions for administering the program are included. The instructions specify how the surveys should be "advertised" to employees, how to monitor survey participation and how to keep completed surveys confidential by using a confidentially sealed drop box. Instructions also cover the shipping procedures for all surveys back to our Center For Survey Research in Connecticut.

Specific instructions to employees include a sample of how to fill in their hotel and department codes, instructions to NOT sign their name on any response sheets and how to fill in the response sheets in order to be properly and efficiently scored. The instructions and the surveys themselves are provided in the appropriate languages necessary for the property to conduct the surveys in a uniform manner.

Upon the return of responses from individual hotels, the receipt of each package is noted, responses numbered and scored, and reports produced for the hotel with various breakdowns. These profiles will include departmental administration codes allowing reports to be tallied by division, executives, managers, directors, salaried and hourly employees, etc.

Reports are generated based on the overall responses and breakdowns of levels and departments. We build flexibility into the survey process to generate information that can be analyzed and "sliced and diced" in many ways for use by department or by corporate executives. Results are available either in hard coy reports and/or over the web.

Management employs the reports to help improve their leadership style and correct any inadequacies consistently noted in the results. An important component of these reports is that the results need to be communicated back to each department and to the staff. Moreover, employees must be able to see that progress is being made and that management is indeed working on bettering the working conditions and upgrading the service level to guests – all under the umbrella of continuous improvement.

It is important for both management and staff to actually see statistical improvements in their performance areas. One hotel/casino has recently tracked improvement numbers on Organizational Communications and over a two year period saw a rise in satisfaction from 79% to over 86%, while Training and Career Development over the same two years increased by nearly 9%.

Don't be afraid to post notices in employee areas concerning improvements and changes being made. For example, let staff know that the cafeteria food they complained about in the survey is being changed and upgraded as a direct result of their feedback and that departmental "overviews" will be communicated in pre-shift meetings. This lets employees know that their comments count. It will also positively influence staff responses for future surveys, in as much as they know that their suggestions and comments are valued and acted upon.

But even when changes are put into place after analysis of the survey data, don't be lulled into a false sense of security. Employee surveys should be conducted at least once a year to be able to stay abreast of changes and new opportunities.
As staff, economic conditions and competition change, regularly scheduled surveys will help in creating plans for the continued success and growth of the property.

Employees are your most valuable asset. Keeping them "in the loop" and knowledgeable about what is happening, and asking for their input, can make a world of difference in their loyalty and work satisfaction level. It's important to know what is happening at every department level, and through the use of surveys, feedback can be a huge benefit to your property, confidentially speaking, of course.

HVS/The Ference Group provides programs in TeamStrategics: organizational development, business health assessments, and strategic planning. Our clients include successful applicants for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, Employer of Choice, Best Human Resources, Employer of the Year, as well as quality of work life and service culture awards of Great Britain, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, The Netherlands and Singapore.

About the author
Receiving a Doctoral Degree in Organizational Development from Cornell University in 1977, Gene Ference earned post-graduate certification in Change Management Leadership from the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Sciences. For over 25 years, he has conducted management retreats in Strategic Focus, Leadership Development, Team Dynamics and served as an Executive Coach to many of this industry's business professionals.

For more information, please contact HVS/The Ference Group at + or GFerence@HVSInternational.com

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