When it comes to find ways to make your firm more attractive to employees, it makes sense to look at what successful firms are doing – but it also makes sense to go straight to the horse’s mouth and ask your employees themselves.

Many of the firms on our 2015 Best Firms to Work For list use employee surveys to learn what their employees want and expect, what’s working for them (and what’s not), and much more. Brown Smith Wallace, a 230-employee Best Firm in St. Louis, uses surveys “to gain insight associated with firm management, supervision, employee relations, talent management, and compensation/benefit programs.” The survey is confidential, but the aggregated results are shared with employees.

At HeimLantz, a 29-employee Best Firm in Annapolis, Md., they keep it simple: During monthly team meeting, they ask team members “what the firm should start doing, continue doing, and stop doing,” and they have come up with “great new ideas” and efficiency-boosters as a result.

Meanwhile, Bland & Co., a Best Firm to Work For in Omaha, Neb., with 49 employees, surveys staff on everything from locations for firm parties to the pros and cons of software vendors, while at Wilkins Miller, a 65-employee Best Firm in Mobile, Ala., the firm uses surveys to get feedback about its culture and work environment – and then commits to analyzing the results and taking action.

That last point is crucial: If you do ask employees what they think, they’ll expect you to act on it, which will mean that you’ll need to commit to more than just running the survey; you’ll need to follow up, as well – even if it’s just to explain

Finally, while there are a host of Internet-based tools and services that let you run both named and anonymous staff surveys of varying lengths and sophistication, you don’t necessarily need to run a formal survey to give staff a voice. One of the staff favorites at Horwich Coleman Levin, a 17-person firm in Chicago, is their “writable wall” – a wall of their kitchen that they’ve painted with dry-erase paint. It’s not the most structured format, but it sounds like a great way to help your employees express themselves.

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