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14 Steps to Using Surveys As Powerful Communication Tools

By Lisa Woods (1107 words)
Posted in Communication Skills on June 13, 2012

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There are several great online survey templates you can use for standard measurements such as employee reviews, customer satisfaction surveys, product ratings and many others.  My message to you, however, is to go outside of those templates and understand that a survey, in its simplest form, is a communication tool that serves three important purposes:

  1. It allows you to ask consistent questions in order to see a trend of answers.
  2. It provides data points you can use to make informed decisions.
  3. It becomes a great communication tool that allows you to “prove” your approach to others; you can explain your decision is based on collaborative information, not just your impression, allowing them to feel comfortable buying in to new ideas.

Gather information, make informed decisions, get others to follow your decisions…how many times do you do these things in your everyday work life? Surveys can pretty much help you in everything you do.  Don’t be intimidated by the process, you can make surveys a key communication tool if you know how to use them effectively. Here are 14 Steps to Using Surveys As Powerful Communication Tools.
Step One:  Define your goal in simple terms.
Here are some examples where surveys can provide the information you need to make decisions others will follow:

  • Fill an open position on my team
  • Develop a new product line
  • Improve operational process flow
  • Reduce work errors in my department
  • Increase customer retention
  • Improve accountability in the management group
  • Improve the corporate culture
  • Increase market share

…the list of potential subjects is endless.  Define what you want to be able to achieve and write it down.
Step Two: Re-write your goal using action oriented & descriptive wording.

  • I want to fill an open position on my team = I want to convince my team to hire the best candidate
  • I want to develop a new product line = I want to understand what the market needs but is not getting from our current product range.
  • I want to improve the operational process flow of my department = I want to chart my group’s workflows to ensure they are efficient and useful.
  • I want to reduce work errors in my department = I want to evaluate the type and cause of errors and implement processes and training to fix them
  • Increase customer retention = I want to provide customers with the products and services they need to continue to grow with us, instead of seeking out alternatives from competitors.
  • I want to improve accountability in the management group = I want to create awareness amongst my team as to how they are perceived by myself and their employees in order to create objectives to achieve positive change.
  • I want to improve the corporate culture = I want to transition employee attitudes from where they are today to where they need to be in order achieve our business objectives.
  • I want to increase market share = I want to understand what customers & target accounts are buying from the competition then modify my products and services to entice them.

…This part of the process is the most difficult because you really have to clear your mind of preconceived solutions to problems and craft unbiased goals with intent to seek out information to make the best strategic decisions.
Step Three:  Define your target audience.
            Target Markets
            Interview Candidates
Step Four: Determine what format you will use to get the survey administered.

  • In person interviews (sitting down with individuals and asking them questions directly, while you write down their response)
  • Online survey service (posting your survey using a secured survey system)
  • Mail distribution (pre-printed survey mailed out with a prepaid postage reply)
  • Independent third party (a consultant or service that will conduct phone or in person interviews for you in order to get a more impartial perspective)
  • Informal discussions (a set of consistent questions that are asked to multiple people without them knowing that you are tracking responses)

Step Five: Construct a couple multiple-choice questions.
These are closed ended questions that have a Yes/No option or you can create a list of responses that people can choose from.  This type of questioning is important to get an idea of the general feeling about something.  For example:

  • Would you buy this product: yes/no/maybe
  • Do you enjoy working here: yes/no/maybe
  • How would your employees best describe you as a manager: demanding but fair/distant & unapproachable/visionary and a good mentor

Step Six: Construct a couple open-ended questions.
These are questions that allow the respondent to answer in their own words.  For example:

  • What do you like about the product you currently purchase?  What don’t you like?
  • If you could change one thing about your relationship with your boss, what would it be?
  • How would you describe the company’s business objective and your role in achieving it?

Step Seven: Populate your questions into the survey format you decided on.
Step Eight:  Write out an introduction that invites your target audience to participate.
Step Nine:  Administer the survey.
Step Ten:  Tabulate and compare your responses.
Keep in mind that “maybe” is the same as a no answer.
Step Eleven: Review your results and seek out an unbiased answer to your question from step two.
Step Twelve: Determine what path to take based on your answer.
Step Thirteen: Communicate your direction to others.
Use the survey’s action oriented question, survey results and your action plan as a communication tool to get people to buy-in and follow your lead to improve and change.
Step Fourteen: Save your data and methodology for reuse over time.
You should go back after you have implemented changes and verify that the change has actually made a positive impact compared to your original survey result.


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I hope this perspective is helpful to you in your day-to-day life.  Test out these concepts and share your results with us.  Others can benefit from your experiences.  Good luck!
L.J. Woods
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Comments (3)

JohnS posted on: June 13, 2012

Interesting perspective. I have always thought of surveys as some formal process where numbers are tabulated, etc. I think it is unique to look at them as a tool to either prove or disprove your position..if nothing else learn a lot along the way.

Align Social posted on: June 29, 2012

Great article! Anything that starts with knowing your goal is off to the RIGHT start.

Robert Markovetz posted on: June 29, 2012

I am working on a survey for work, and this information is on target. Thanks.

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