Blog | 6 Reasons Your Employee Engagement Survey isn’t Working

Published November 10, 2017 by Julie Brophy

Employee Insight
6 Reasons Your Employee Engagement Survey isn’t Working

Businesses understand the importance of employee engagement surveys to understand how engaged their staff are and gain their feedback on a range of issues about the organisation. The insights they provide help identify areas where performance can be improved and give early warnings on issues before they develop. Yet too many survey projects fail to deliver the results that companies are looking for. Why is this – and how can this challenge be overcome?

You’re not asking for feedback frequently enough

The employee engagement survey process has typically been centred on an annual questionnaire. In enterprises this is a major project – you need to map your organisational hierarchy, create a questionnaire, deliver it across the business and then analyse the results. Often, a consultancy will be involved in running the survey, which may lessen the workload, but increases costs. Given how much effort and budget goes into the annual survey it isn’t surprising that many organisations have neither the time nor resources to collect feedback from their staff more often. Indeed, many run them every two years, rather than annually, given the challenges involved.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Switching to a technology platform that underpins all of your employee engagement surveys helps automate the process, freeing up time and resource that can be used to collect feedback more regularly, such as through pulse or always-on surveys, or via surveys which run across the whole employee experience.

You’re not asking the right questions

Many employee engagement survey questions are based on widely used consultancy models. This means businesses can benchmark themselves against others in their market, but risks delivering results that are too generic to benefit your organisation. Look at how you can change the questionnaire so that you are gaining meaningful responses that directly impact the issues that your business faces.

It is always worth including a free text question that will allow people to share additional feedback using the own words. This adds a qualitative richness to the feedback and gives you a greater understanding of why people responded the way they did.

You’re not engaging your people

Low response rates can bedevil engagement surveys. Even worse, some employees may be so disengaged with the questionnaire that they give random answers, ticking boxes as quickly as possible so that they can get to the end. But employee engagement survey questions don’t have to be drab. Make the experience more compelling with better survey design, starting with questions that speak to the employees, avoiding jargon and using the language of your organisation. How people are able to respond can also be made more engaging with features such as natural language options, emojis, sliders to measure sentiment, or even multimedia or gamification to boost completion rates.

You’re not making it easy for employees to participate

Thanks to technology we now carry powerful mini-computers around us all the time. This is essentially what the smartphone in your pocket or handbag is. As your employees are using these every day it is logical to use these devices as a feedback channel. So make your employee engagement survey mobile friendly as well as PC compatible to offer choice in the methods your employees use to engage. 

However, it is always worth remembering that not everyone has a smart device that they can or are willing to use for survey completion, so it is important to think about how you can engage them in providing feedback through other channels, such as kiosks, an assigned PC, or even, in a small minority of cases, via paper questionnaires. The key is to make it as easy as possible for people to provide you with feedback, through ways that fit in with their lifestyle.

You’re not reporting quickly enough

The pace of business is accelerating – yet the results of many annual surveys can take weeks or months to reach managers. By then the feedback may feel out of date, problems may have escalated or unhappy staff could have left. Getting feedback into the hands of managers as quickly as possible, followed almost immediately by an honest and open conversation with their team is therefore an essential part of the feedback process. People want to know that their opinions, good or bad, are being listened to. 

However, results from large annual surveys can often be delayed by ‘cascading roll-out’ with more senior managers having to review the overall results, before managers see their own data. As companies move to more two way continuous listening these organisational delays will reduce the effectiveness of this approach. If you want managers to take ownership of their feedback, then put the information in their hands as soon as possible and provide it in a way that makes them easy to understand and action, such as through interactive drill-down dashboards.

You’re not making it easy to act on the insight

Running an employee engagement survey doesn’t deliver benefits on its own. You need to act on the insight that it provides, otherwise the whole process is meaningless. Therefore, ensure you embed action planning tools into the reports you deliver to managers. Help them by providing materials to solve specific problems and by sharing best practice from across your organisation. 

Managers will be doing this in addition to their ‘day job’ and, while willing to act on results may not know where to start. Look at providing a peer-to-peer tool that allows managers across your business to share ideas and support each other. You could also assign mentors to advise managers.

Equipping your managers in this way you can ensure that the whole business is taking action on survey results, and is reaping the benefits.

Want to find out more about how you can transform your employee engagement surveys? Learn learn more on our Employee Engagement Page.


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