What’s on Employees’ Minds?  Common Content-analysis Issues

One of the nice things about having almost two decades of experience in the employee survey business is that there is a vast store of information available to be analyzed. From this information bank we distilled the results of hundreds of thousands of comments we’ve categorized in our content analysis.

When we ask a generic question about what could be improved at the organization being surveyed, the type of comment we most often see is a positive mention of the company. This can be anything positive, such as “I really like my boss,” “I’m happy to work here,” or “the benefits are good.” One in 15 comments we see mentions something positive.

The next items on the list are, in decreasing order of mention:

  • Communication (not between departments)
  • Reduce workload/ increase staffing/ reasonable goals/ less stress
  • Training/Education
  • Increase compensation
  • Career growth/promotional opportunities/ job enrichment
  • Listen to/ trust/empower employees/ reduce micromanagement
  • Better relationship between pay and performance/responsibilities/ incentives/ bonuses
  • Treat employees with respect/courtesy/ value us

Communication is mentioned essentially the same percentage of the time as the positive mentions we see – one in 15. The last item on the list — Treat employees with respect/courtesy/ value us” — is mentioned 3.6% of the time. Together, the top-ten items (including positive mentions) comprise almost half of all types of comments made.

Some of these items cost little money, if any at all, to fix. I suppose a company could spend a lot of money improving communication, but it really shouldn’t cost much to do a better job of keeping employees informed. It certainly doesn’t cost money to do a better job of listening to employees and empowering them. Indeed, companies can save money, increase revenue and increase profitability by doing a better job of listening and empowering employees. It also costs nothing to smile and be kind to people.

Other items that might seem to cost money may not cost much money at all to fix. Complaints about workload and staffing might be addressed through proper planning, changes in workflow, or reduction in bureaucracy. Online training, if properly structured, sometimes can be substituted for traditional training methods and boost training scores while simultaneously resulting in a cost and time savings. Providing career growth to stellar employees probably is less costly than not providing it; you want your best employees to stay at your organization.

Employees certainly are opportunistic in their attempts to increase their pay when it comes to these employee surveys, and there certainly are instances where employees are underpaid. But isn’t it interesting that it isn’t the top-mentioned item on the list? It comes in at positions five and nine.

These comment-analysis results are more than just interesting fodder. Because we know how often various items are mentioned, we have a useful frame of reference to use when we report employee survey results. It is one thing to find that five percent of comments made by employees of your company mentioned the need to improve morale or reduce turnover. It is quite another thing to realize that this normally is mentioned by just over one percent of employees. Likewise, you might be tempted to panic if you saw that five percent of comments were related to training, but we’d tell you not to panic, since that’s about what we usually find. You still might want to improve your training program, but we’ll use a combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis to determine how high a priority it should be.