Survey Manual

370.400.1 - USGS Employee Survey Program

This program plan creates a framework and sets guidelines for planning and conducting employee surveys as well as developing follow up actions based on feedback received.


OPR: Personnel Office

1. Purpose. Appendix A sets forth the policy for conducting surveys in the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

2. Background. The Employee Survey Program evolved from the increasing use of and need for surveying USGS employees. This program plan creates a framework and sets guidelines for planning and conducting employee surveys as well as developing follow up actions based on feedback received. The importance being that we make the most of our employees’ time and we have a strategic and professional approach to surveying.

3. Responsibilities. All USGS offices must adhere to this policy when conducting surveys. Those conducting surveys must submit a survey plan as described in Appendix A.

4. Effective Date. This policy became effective February 1, 2002, and remains in effect until superseded.


Appendix A
Part 370, Chapter 400.1


The USGS is committed to taking a consistent and integrative approach to surveying of employees. In order to provide guidance on employee survey activities and to ensure that sound survey practices are applied, USGS has established the position of Employee Survey Program Manager within Headquarters Human Resources.

Guiding Principles for Employee Surveys

Employee surveys require an understanding of the special considerations involved in this type of information-gathering method. The following principles have been identified to help ensure that all USGS employee surveys are conducted in ways that will yield the maximum return on the survey investment, and that will continue to earn the trust and confidence of USGS employees.

  • The Bureau’s use of employee surveys should be integrated and additive
  • There must be accountability for follow-up communications & action planning for all employee surveys
  • Demands on the time of managers and employees for survey purposes must be anticipated and managed
  • When designing surveys, consideration should be given to using items that allow for important benchmarking (e.g., within DOI) or assessing trends from earlier surveys
  • Employee surveys should be easy to access, administer and report
  • Employee anonymity will be protected
  • There will be “zero tolerance” for seeking retribution against those who have provided feedback.
  • Survey items and key findings will be shared and accessible to others who may make use of them to address relevant information needs, or as a resource for survey items

Implementing an employee survey initiates a dialogue with employees on issues of importance to them and to the Bureau. Employees will have a reasonable expectation for follow-up and follow-through. Therefore, surveying employees must be done in a context of trust, and with a commitment to using the results for important strategic or operational management purposes. Employees must be told the purpose for surveying, how their input will be used, and a time-frame for reporting of results and for taking any necessary follow-up action. In addition, changes or decisions made, or actions taken, as a result of survey input from employees must also be communicated to them. Such communications serve to “close the loop” with employees on important issues that have been raised and addressed, build trust in management, and establish a solid foundation for future survey-based assessments.

The Employee Survey Program Manager (ESPM)

The Employee Survey Program Manager is responsible for providing oversight for the Bureau’s survey program, including all employee surveys. Responsibilities include leading the design team for the Bureau-wide Organization Assessment Survey and facilitating integrated planning efforts for other large-scale employee surveys. Additional responsibilities include providing guidance on survey design and administration issues, ensuring that follow-up action planning activities are anticipated and implemented, and ensuring coordination of survey administrations in ways that minimize demand on managers and employees.

The ESPM will coordinate employee survey plans and provide limited consulting support to survey planners. The ESPM will help ensure that no individual managers or employees are over-burdened by survey requests or involvement in survey follow-up activities, and that standards for ensuring employee anonymity are maintained.

Survey Planning Expectations

The above guidelines apply to anyone who is planning or considering conducting an employee survey within USGS. The first step in doing an employee survey is to develop a survey plan to document and guide your efforts. Figure 1 outlines a 5-phase approach to conducting employee surveys that might be of help to you in thinking though your survey plan. Your survey plan should identify the survey sponsor, survey purpose, target sample(s), key topics, intended use of results, reporting requirements / break-outs, and follow-up communications and action plans stating how the results will be reported back to employees, how employees will be get informed of the actions that are taken as a result of the information they provide, and what types of decisions or actions the information is to be used for.

Once you have a preliminary survey plan, you should review your plan with the Employee Survey Program Manager. The ESPM will help to ensure that your survey plan is consistent with the Bureau’s survey guidelines and standards, and that the purpose and focus of your survey are clear. In is also the responsibility of the ESPM to ensure that your survey is integrated in content and timing with other surveys that are being planned or have already been conducted. In some cases, external consulting support may be needed to assist you with survey design, administration, reporting and/or follow-up action planning.

Program Planning and Review

USGS recognizes the need to evaluate the benefits and impact of the employee survey program and to learn from its experience with implementing it. Therefore, each survey implemented under this program will be evaluated to assess the return on investment of resources. The ESPM will develop a thorough program planning and review process that will assure that the Bureau achieves the right burden-benefit balance in its survey program.

A Five Phase Approach to Employee Surveys

Phase I


  • Clarify survey purpose, objectives
  • Identify key constituents, planning team
  • Identify topics, required sample, reporting
  • Establish timeline, resource requirements
  • Draft survey plan document
  • Review with Employee Survey Program Manager
  • Finalize survey plan, sampling, timeline etc.

Phase II


  • Get input from key constituents
  • Develop survey items, demographics
  • Design survey
  • Review draft with key constituents
  • Prepare survey web-site
  • Pre-test and finalize survey

Phase III


  • Prepare survey data base
  • Select final survey sample(s)
  • Announce survey
  • Schedule "open window" for responding
  • Use "reminders" to boost response rate
  • Aggregate responses in survey database

Phase IV


  • Analyze data
  • Generate results report(s)
  • Analyze write-in comment
  • Interpret results => key findings
  • Implications of findings for action planning

Phase V


  • Determine priorities based on results
  • Communicate results / priorities to relevant managers for action planning
  • Involve relevant managers, employees in action planning
  • Develop integrated action plans
  • Monitor and communicate progress and impacts