by Cassandra Tay,
Head, Corporate Communications, SNS
29 June 2000 - With the pervasiveness of the Internet and its unprecedented reach, the time-consuming process of gathering public feedback has become hassle-free as this could now be administered via cyberspace.
Not surprisingly, online polls have emerged as a new feedback channel. Look around and you will discover an avalanche of such polls seeking feedback on a variety of topics, from the next US president, to the tastiness of food in hawker centres.
However, have you considered online polls as the next channel to promote effective two-way and interactive communication between staff and management?
Online polls via the Internet
In Singapore Network Services (SNS), the idea of online polls came about when a new Chief Executive Officer(CEO), Mr V Mathivanan, came on board in late 1999.
One of his immediate priorities was to understand how staff felt about the organisation and management policies. However, the key concern was that staff might not be comfortable about approaching him directly to give their feedback as he was the "new kid on the block." Thus, in response to the challenge of getting staff to provide honest and open opinions, an online poll was then developed and implemented as the channel of communication.
To ensure that the poll was easily accessible by all staff, the online poll was made available on the corporate Intranet. The response? Overwhelming, unadulterated opinions.
With realistic feedback garnered from staff across all levels from various departments, the CEO and the management had a good understanding of staff sentiments and opinions on the management policies.
Being an advocate of democracy, the CEO also used the online poll as a means of gathering staff consensus on the choice of a newly designed name card.
It is easy to get excited and carried away when designing and implementing an online poll. However, the main purpose of gathering feedback must not be lost. Below are several tried-and-tested elements that ensured our opinion poll was a success:
Confidentiality: Assured staff that their views were anonymous, giving them the freedom to air their feedback openly.
Multiple choice and optional open-ended questions: Ensured that feedback would be expressed in various ways.
Focused: Allowed management to address the issue at hand as questions were kept minimal and focused.
Evaluation mechanism: Facilitated the correct interpretation of the data as it was consolidated and evaluated electronically.
Direct access to feedback: Guaranteed the authenticity of results as the data could not be intercepted and manipulated. Also facilitated immediate management resolution as they had direct access to the feedback.
The culture of an organisation also plays a critical role in the outcome of staff's responses. That is, whether it has always adopted an open policy to encourage satff to voice their opinions freely.
Nevertheless, the process of consolidating invaluable feedback and understanding ground sentiments via online polls can act as a springboard to encourage and facilitate staff involvement.
As management acts swiftly on feedback received, staff is aware that the management is listening.
In short, if designed and implemented correctly, together with the appropriate corporate culture and prompt resolutions of issues, online polls can become an effective force for corporate cohesion.
A new dimension
With online polls now easily accessible via the Intranet, this shatters the single-dimension perspective of "corporate cyberspace."
Gone will be the days when the Intranet is merely a cosmetic site, comprising HTML documents of corporate policies and procedures for knowledge distribution and knowledge transfer.
Online polls can now extend the use of the Intranet effectively to optimise its functionality as a catalyst for change and promoter of internal consensus amongst management and staff.