Blog | Running an employee engagement survey? Here’s what to consider

Published July 20, 2016 by Alex Wilke

Employee Engagement
Running an employee engagement survey? Here’s what to consider

There are a variety of reasons why you can’t disregard Employee Engagement these days. First off, for many organisations, employees constitute the biggest part of the cost base, so you want to keep them happy and motivated - and keep staff churn low. Next, with products and services commoditised in many sectors, staff skills, experience and knowledge are the main source of differentiation – so staff engagement and employee retention strategies are essential. Employee insight is therefore at the heart of success.

Taking a once a year approach

To measure engagement most organisations still start by selecting a model based on a shared definition of what employee engagement means to the key stakeholders. Engagement consultancies have tended to use their own models, and in most cases these are built around an employee survey with a set of standard questions, a methodology for converting staff responses into an engagement score and a reporting format that lets managers and executives make sense of the employee feedback.

Irrespective of the model you use, the underlying process of the Annual Employee Survey (AES) is the same. You agree a set of questions and distribute a survey, either online or on paper. Response rates are monitored and encouraged, then data is aggregated and analysed and segmented by business unit so that line managers can receive reports about their teams’ engagement and satisfaction levels and compare them against internal and external benchmarks as well as against previous years.

As this process is normally annual, the expectation is to achieve a year on year improvement in employee engagement scores. Each year the findings and scores are used to understand engagement levels and to inform action plans to drive improvements – which it is hoped will contribute to an overall increase in business performance.

This is of course a fairly basic overview of an Annual Engagement Survey. A variety of factors, such as remuneration, rewards & benefits, health & wellbeing, performance management, leadership development and training all impact engagement. Clearly organisations want to achieve a balance between their investment in employees and working conditions and optimised employee performance. This is a tough ask considering large organisations usually employ multiple generations of workers from different cultural backgrounds, all with different expectations and needs.

The disadvantages of the Annual Employee Surveys

While it sounds straightforward rolling out and annual survey is a major task which can eat up resources. Even the planning and comms effort can involve weeks or months of effort. Complicated and evolving organisational hierarchies can mean it takes work to correctly map company structure and to segment the data. So getting meaningful, comparative results, takes considerable cost and time.

In addition to using up significant resources people criticise annual surveys on two main ways:

  • Because it’s often such a lengthy process that’s only carried out once a year the company has to rely on engagement data that is almost a year old. This is no longer fast enough to react to problems or embrace opportunities – or to compete against more agile competitors.
  • Repeating standard questions allows you to track scores over time and make internal department and external comparisons, but it doesn’t give you the flexibility to explore  specific challenges and issues that might inform real decision making.

Building on the AES

The annual survey continues to be a key part of engagement strategies and has a lot to offer. Using the latest technology, however, you can build on it to get even more value. Technology can significantly streamline your process so that costs are lower and insights are available much quicker.

Here is a list of the key ways technology can help:

  1. It helps make it easier to understand your organisational structure, reducing the need to manually map hierarchies which can take up substantial time and effort
  2. It can enable you to create surveys that can be answered though digital channels, as well as paper. So employees get the chance to respond online, via their PC or mobile device, to drive up response rates
  3. It can help make your questions more compelling with better questionnaire design including features such as sliders to measure sentiment, rather than more rigid number scales
  4. With features such as free text options and online research communities for employees, technology lets you generate more qualitative questions in addition quantitative feedback, 
  5. It can ensure that there is a clear link between feedback and action planning for managers, and that they are supported and measured to ensure that best practice is shared and improvements are made.

While annual employee surveys generate plenty of valuable benefits, technology and automation can make them more effective and efficient and help ensure they are value for money and drive real improvements across the organisation.

Questback has been supporting enterprises and consultancies with the AES process for over a decade. We have developed smart solutions to complex workflows to greatly reduce the burden of processing a large employee survey – to find out how we can help you improve your engagement projects, get in touch.

A version of this blog first appeared on HR Zone on 18th July, 2016.


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