Employee satisfaction = customer satisfaction. It's a simple equation. However, simple ideas are often hard to execute.

An employee satisfaction index survey is a great tool if done right. Here's how:

  1. Management must commit to hearing what the employees have to say. That includes their gripes. Being thin-skinned guarantees failure.

  2. Management must turn feedback into actions to improve the workplace, make people happier and foster productivity.

  3. The survey should be short lest people run through with little thought. Ten questions, allowing for comments, is about right.

  4. Anonymity must be beyond question. If a credible outsider is not involved, participation and outcomes likely will be limited.

  5. The method should assure near 90% participation. Too many surveys are done in a way that participation is in the 50-60 percentiles.

  6. Employees must get core results in an open forum soon afterwards. Everything should be on the table for civil, business-like discussion.

  7. A complete strategy for implementing positive change should be thoughtfully designed and rolled out.

Implementation of initial quick but substantial wins should occur within 30-60 days. These should be announced in a Town Hall-style meeting.

Other aspects of the plan should be rolled out systematically over the ensuing months through similar forums.

Such a process was unfurled at Greenwood Chevrolet in Youngstown, OH.

Dealer Greg Greenwood has received top GM awards. His profits were up substantially over last year's first quarter.

So, why did he need to do an employee satisfaction survey?

He saw a chance to find out how he could do a better job of attracting, developing and keeping the kind of people who will be his long-term leaders.

An independent firm undertook the survey. Shift time was allotted to every employee to complete it.

The firm also did 1-on-1 interviews with a cross-section of employees.

A detailed statistical analysis was presented to the dealer in writing and verbally.

The two most common requests were:

  • Some increase in vacation and personal days off for long-term employees (10 years and up).

  • A decrease in the health insurance costs while expanding coverage choices.

The independent firm recommended that Greenwood do an appropriate financial analysis to see if it would be affordable to offer long-term employees additional days off.

He was also encouraged to consider the health insurance issue. This would be tough. Health care costs rose 18% nationwide last year.

Some things are beyond the dealer's control. If that was the case, the least he could do was offer a clear explanation.

Greenwood conducted a series of small Town Hall meetings over two days, encouraging questions and dialogue.

A summary of the survey results was handed out at the beginning of each meeting and time allowed for everyone to read it.

He assured staffers a detailed plan would follow addressing all the issues, even if all he could say was, “I'm sorry, we can't do that.”

Having done the financial analysis and woven it into his core values, he had decided to exceed his employees' expectations just as he encouraged them to do the same with customers.

He rolled out a program that provided an extra paid day of leave at the end of the first year of employment and kept adding another one until, after five years, people had two weeks off plus an additional five days of paid leave. The workforce could not suppress its delight.

He couldn't give them everything. He told them of the national crisis in the cost of health care. He had no magic wand.

However, he'd do two things. First, fully educate people about their current coverage. Too many weren't taking full advantage of their benefits because they weren't sufficiently informed.

Second, he put together a team of elected representatives from the front-line of each department. Their mission was to investigate health insurance options and make a recommendation to him. He emphasized that in a matter of such financial magnitude, the final decision was his but he would consider their suggestions.

Every meeting ended with applauds and personal expressions of gratitude.

Morale is at an all-time high. Profits are up. Greenwood plans to do it again at his other stores.

Bob Kamm is a 27-year veteran of the car business and President of Kamm Consulting in San Luis Obispo, CA. He's authored two books, The Superman Syndrome and Real Fatherhood. Website: www.kammtown.com. Email: kammtown@cs.com.