Having trouble with employee surveys? Then read on…

Let’s face it, nobody really likes surveys.

If you are asked to complete one, you can feel confronted. You may worry about whether your honesty will backfire. If you see many surveys hit your inbox, one more survey can feel like “just another HR thing.” You give it a half-hearted response as you fly out the door.

Many of our clients experience this. Engaging people presents many challenges. So we’ve decided to feature some insights from our long-term clients. We hope this will help anyone needing to trial our Employee Attachment Inventory (EAI) survey, or any other climate survey.

Today we introduce Nate Phelps from Fairfax.

Nate has a huge role at Fairfax managing the recruitment for Metro Media. His remit covers the Digital Publishing group, the National Commercial group, Fairfax Magazines, the mastheads of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (across print and online), and the community publications.

Nate was part of the HR team at Fairfax Digital who used the EAI for two years. Today, after a restructure, they are introducing it across other areas of the Fairfax business.

Here’s what he told us.

How have you used the EAI?

For us, it has been useful in two ways – it has advantages for managers who are new in the business and for HR. We can use it to enhance the support we provide managers.

Where do you see the impact of the EAI?

It is easy to forget what it is like to start a new job. We have invested a lot of time in recruitment processes, which are now really tight. But when a new employee starts it is easy to “set and forget.” We have found the EAI has uncovered other attachment drivers that we have not thought about, but are important to the new starter.

For example, we were not aware how important learning pathways were to new people. This consistently came up as a low scoring driver. In the early stages of someone’s employment, their training and learning and development tends to be focussed around the new role, not around future development. It’s easy to overlook this driver.

For new staters we were able to have discussions about future learning. This was not about booking them into a training course, but about communicating the training and development that was available in the future. We could put into place a learning and development plan at an early stage. This process tied in quite nicely with performance management and talent management systems.

How have you embedded the EAI to become an established part of HR practice?

Education is a key part of this process. We worked hard in this area. Then we introduced it as part of the recruitment education process for new managers.

When you introduce metrics, it is important that you can demonstrate tangible results. Show that you are responding to anything you identify, and any upward trends in results as a result of actions.

The EAI highlighted issues we had with using two staff intranets. Each site had national induction materials for managers to use which often caused confusion, so we instigated a process of evaluating induction manuals and created a central induction guide specific to our business.

Lessons learned from implementing the EAI

Always make it clear that this is not a performance management tool. Make sure that people understand how you will be using the results, and that the tool is not a reflection on them, but a scorecard for the organisation.

Has the EAI improved staff retention?



It highlights areas that we can explore. It pinpoints areas of concern. Often issues new employees are easily resolved with a conversation.

Some simple things are important. For example, we can forget how important pre-employment communication is for employees. They may have received a job offer, but then receive no communication before they start.

We now know how important it is to keep in touch with people, and reinforce that they have made the right choice. I have been here for four years and it is fantastic. You do sell the experience when you recruit people. The rest of their employment experience should reflect that.

Top Tips for Implementing the EAI

-       Educate both managers and employees about the purpose of the EAI

-       Act on the results of the findings

-       Show the impact of any actions

-       Show the improvement and changes in scores

-       Do not bombard people with surveys

-       Link the EAI with other people management measures – the discussion around learning pathways provides a link to other employee development plans

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