Employee communication — Employee research

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How engaged are your employees? This is one of the areas where no news is not necessarily good news. In fact, silence might mean a disengaged workforce. Employee research is a powerful tool that can guide your human capital strategy and protect your most important asset: your employees.

How can you be sure your communication efforts are achieving your goals? How can you improve your communications to ensure they’re meeting the needs of an ever changing workforce?

Through effective employee research, you can:

  • Learn how to improve communication effectiveness
  • Uncover difficulties or problematic areas from employees’ perspectives before they become serious
  • Ensure that employees feel a part of the organization and, depending on the situation, the decision-making process
  • Increase employee satisfaction of their workplace
  • Spend benefit, training, etc. money more effectively (and avoid paying for unappreciated, lower-value programs and services)
  • Give leadership information that is helpful in making difficult decisions

Driven by your objectives

The most valuable research is driven by your objectives. What are you trying to accomplish and what will you do with the information? Using your objectives as a guide, we focus the research in a way that will provide actionable data and maximize results.

Which research technique is appropriate for your situation

Ask yourself... Interviews Surveys Focus groups
Is the topic difficult to understand?  
Is it sensitive information that could push “hot buttons” and require face-to-face communication?  
Is it important to involve all stakeholders?    
Are employees spread out in many different locations?    
Is an important audience senior leaders with limited time?    
Are you trying to get a “lay of the land” at first (understand the what)?    
Do you have a sense of the issues/perspective but not why or what to do about it?    
Is it helpful to have your audience discuss the issue with others to get the information you need?    


Employee attitudes and job satisfaction are key elements in productivity, retention, and engagement. Employee perceptions of the company can shift over time as economic conditions, the direction of the company, and the mix of total compensation elements change. Often, it’s the non-monetary elements such as the culture of the organization and relationships with managers that have the biggest influence.

By taking the pulse of your organization through an employee survey, you can get answers to questions that may help inform business strategy, practices, and operations – depending on your objectives and what we find.

Survey objectives can include:

  • Learning what employees are currently thinking (about their job, supervisor relationships, work environment, the organization’s values and culture, etc.)
  • Understanding what motivates employees, their desired mix of total compensation elements, and what they value besides money
  • Exploring trends over time using previous survey questions as appropriate
  • Maintaining a positive and productive work environment that exudes excellence and avoids entitlement
  • Engaging employees and giving them a voice
  • Being up front and honest, clearly communicating about what you will and won’t take action on, and your rationale

Focus groups

Focus group research provides rich, qualitative data – narrative that is both interesting and insightful. This method allows for probing and face-to-face interaction, which leads to a better understanding of the audience. The personal interaction helps engage participants in the process and encourages them toward solutions-based, positive thinking despite any challenges and difficulties.

Because Milliman is an experienced third party, we can objectively conduct research. We have years of experience in not only strategy and planning for research to ensure you meet your objectives, but also in developing the best questions to ask, phrased in the right way to decrease bias and increase the likelihood of getting actionable results. We know how to engage participants and manage their expectations. Because of our deep knowledge and experience working with a spectrum of employees, we know how to delve into today’s hot button issues to uncover participants’ levels of understanding, misperceptions, and preferences when trade-offs are necessary.

If conducted correctly, focus groups can yield rich information that’s actionable. We will often recommend focus groups when:

  • Information you’re collecting is complicated and would likely require some explanation
  • You sense difficulty but are not sure exactly what the problem might be – or what question to ask – and you need to meet in person
  • It’s important to build advocates for change
  • Topics are sensitive
  • Brainstorming or idea generation is an objective
  • Testing complicated ideas
  • Qualitative analysis is an objective

Next steps