If like me, you keep up to date with industry publications about employee engagement, you may have encountered several articles announcing the death of the annual employee survey. This to me seems a little bit premature. After the ‘grabby’ headline, when you scratch below the surface it turns out that employee surveys are not dead, but rather an opinion is forming that we should be surveying employees all the time.
Instant data and insights is an interesting idea and in some quarters may work, however taking action and making change happen is where the real benefits of an employee programme come from. Getting more data into the business faster is not really the challenge that I see facing most businesses when they are looking to create an employee engagement culture. It is the ability to utilise those insights to drive improvement and deliver meaningful results to the business that matter.
In a number of organisations, the decision makers I meet talk about having too much data and not enough action, data rich, time poor if you will. I also understand the allure of the smaller more agile questionnaire, just asking a couple of questions to gauge the opinions of your employees. I can see how this could be a great barometer of ongoing feedback but there is a danger of survey fatigue by asking for something every week, especially if there is nothing coming back in the form of action or change.
It is a real fine line to get the right frequency with which you ask for feedback and the depth of questioning you apply. It is interesting that a number of the articles denouncing the annual survey have been written by companies looking to sell online tools to conduct the weekly poll style surveys. When you look at their advice it is very much aimed at the effectiveness of the annual survey, claiming that for many organisations it has become wallpaper, or a box ticking exercise to please senior stakeholders. For me this is still a risk with the weekly survey, that once the novelty has worn off and things normalise that employees will grow cold towards the weekly email that drops into their inbox.
The effectiveness of any survey is a crucial factor in successfully engaging your people. Investing the time to create a survey that delivers actionable insights, allows you to celebrate success and surface development areas is critical to the engagement part of the process. Striking a balance is really important, finding the right connection with your employees adds the benefit of bringing them along on the journey. Asking the right questions not only demonstrates commitment to your people but you get the insights that can help you deliver continuous improvement throughout the organisation.
This is where a program of engagement that starts with an annual survey and uses smaller ‘pulse’ surveys at sensible intervals comes into its own. Choosing the best interval with the right depth and breadth of questions can be a great way to ensure that engagement is a continuous process, without leading to survey fatigue, but leaving the organisation with enough ‘gold’ to create lasting change and ensure that progress is monitored ongoing.
I applaud any organisation that attempts to understand how its employees feel and I accept that there are any number of ways to do this. So I am disappointed to read articles that are dismissive of a tool that can be extremely useful because of some examples of poor execution. Finding Innovative solutions can be good, innovation can help to drive engagement forward but I think it is far too early to call time on the annual engagement survey.
instead I believe you should be looking at innovative thinking to increase the effectiveness of the annual survey and particularly the pulse surveys that we have found so effective with a number of organisations we work with.