When you're running a middle market company, it's impossible to be aware of everything that's going on. Your employees are a potential gold mine of information and can tell you what's going well and what isn't — but you have to ask them. One way to get their feedback is through regular employee satisfaction surveys. Here are some guidelines for creating effective surveys.

Your employees may be able to share quality information, but only if you ask them.

Why Use a Satisfaction Survey?

Back when your company was a startup, it was easy to gather information yourself because you could interact regularly with your entire workforce. At your company's present state, this isn't realistic. Sending out an employee satisfaction survey can help you gauge what changes should be made, resulting in a more productive company.

Your employees might have some new strategy ideas or suggestions for improving the workplace, but they might be too shy to them bring up in person. In addition, if there are any problems brewing, like people struggling with a supervisor's management style, surveys could bring them to light so you can find a solution before they spiral out of control. Otherwise, you might only realize there is a problem after quality employees leave your organization. You can't afford to lose key people as you continue to expand.

You can also create a more cost-effective benefits program by knowing what your employees value. Should you add 401(k) matching or pick a health plan with a lower deductible? Surveys can help you ensure you're delivering compensation that employees will appreciate and actually use, which helps your bottom line and retention rate.

How to Set Up an Effective Survey

Your survey should ask employees to rate how they feel about different parts of your company. This could include questions about responsibilities, supervisors, co-workers, compensation, training and the overall company culture. Make the questions simple and straightforward so employees know exactly what you're asking. Once you've designed a survey, keep the questions the same each year so you can properly compare the results. A small change of wording can alter how people respond.

It is imperative to make the survey anonymous. If you don't, employees won't feel as comfortable sharing their true thoughts and opinions about work-related issues. In addition, don't make the survey too long. You don't want employees to give up midway through; the participation rate should be as close to 100 percent as possible so you can understand the full spectrum of what's going on. Let them know at the start of the survey how many questions there are so they know how much time it will take, and as an extra incentive, consider setting up a raffle for those who complete it.

Putting Results Into Action

You should designate one person (e.g., a human resources leader) to be in charge of managing the survey. This will ensure the results are accurate and the survey stays consistent. Once you've collected the data, identify one or two areas that need improvement. There's a better chance that you'll be able to enact positive change if you focus on the goals that need the most attention rather than trying to fix everything at once.

From there, communicate the survey results and your new goals — especially if you discover a problem or come across a new great idea. You can hold an all-company meeting or rely on your department heads to disseminate the information to their teams, or even a combination of both: Use the big meeting to communicate overall results, then ask directors and managers to discuss department-specific takeaways with their staff. This will boost morale because employees will see that you're listening to them. Above all, make it a priority to put the survey results in action. Don't just collect the data and forget about it.

Keeping your workforce happy is the key to keeping them effective. Through regular satisfaction surveys, you can work with your employees to take your company to the next level.

Does your middle market company use employee satisfaction surveys? How have they helped company production and employee morale? Let us know in the comments below.

David Rodeck is an NCMM contributor and professional writer. He specializes in making marketing, recruiting and business planning understandable for middle market companies. His writing samples and client history can be found at davidrodeck.com. Prior to writing full-time, David worked as a financial adviser and passed the CFP exam.