THE BLOG
10/23/2014 01:35 pm ET Updated Dec 23, 2014

What You Need to Know About Employee Engagement Surveys

Employee engagement surveys, when done right, can be great.

They can really help you understand what's going on in your organization. I like to think of employee engagement surveys like giant feedback sessions for your entire company.

If we think about it like that, then it makes no sense to only do a survey once or twice per year. We all know the importance of frequent 11 Remarkable Statistics About The Importance Of Employee Feedback (INFOGRAPHIC) employee feedback for growth and development, so why wouldn't you do frequent surveys?

If engagement surveys are done wrong, they can have a huge negative effect on the engagement levels on the organization. Ignoring your employees is one of the easiest ways to disengage them.

I want to explain what to do, and what not to do, in the hopes that anyone reading this can learn, and fix their current survey strategy.

What Not To Do In Engagement Surveys
We recently released an infographic about employee surveys, and the research in there is very helpful in understanding what not to do.

Let me highlight 4 very important points from the research.
  • 20 percent said their boss never bothered to follow up any concerns raised
  • 52 percent reviewed survey results but took no action
  • 27 percent of managers never review survey results at all
  • 48 percent of senior managers reported the surveys were highly valuable, while 45% of employees say surveys had little or no value

There are two major themes here, and they're both important to address.

The first theme, is that low-mid level managers don't take the process seriously, and often don't bother doing anything with the results. Like I mentioned, this is one of the easiest ways to get employees disengaged.

Why ask them for their input if you're just going to ignore it.

The problem here, is that it's often an initiative by senior management or HR, the low-mid level managers aren't part of that decision making process, they never asked for this, so they don't care as much about it.

The second theme, is somewhat related, and it's that there's a big disconnect between what senior management thinks, and what front-line employees think. The problem is in the lack of communication.

Too many companies do this as a reaction to something, and even if your intentions are good, employees don't trust them, and don't believe in you or the process.

They don't trust that it's truly anonymous, and they don't trust that anything will actually be done with the results.

So, the question then becomes, how can we make employees trust them?

You need to communicate with your employees before the survey actually begins. Tell them that it's okay for them to be honest, you want them to be a part of the process, and explain to them the point of the survey.

If you communicate properly with them, and explain to them that the whole point of this is to improve what's wrong with the business, they might be more receptive to submitting honest answers.

How To Make Engagement Surveys Better
Here are four tips for improving employee engagement surveys.

1. Make It Anonymous
In a perfect world, survey responses wouldn't need to be anonymous, and people could be free to speak their minds.

If I'm being realistic, most employees are too scared to speak the truth, so ensuring anonymity is very important.

2. Short And Sweet
People get survey fatigue very easily, no need to overwhelm them. I would say the best thing is to keep every survey you do at a max of 10-15 questions.

3. Do Them Frequently
If you are only asking 10-15 questions at a time feel free to do them more often. The beauty of doing them frequently is that you'll get a much more accurate picture of where your company stands. Taking a snapshot at one point in time isn't that accurate.

4. Act On It
Like I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest problems with employee surveys is that far too often, nothing is ever done with them, so the employees feel like it was a giant waste of time.

One idea, is instead of trying to come up with an action plan all by yourself, you can crowdsourcing the ideas.

This actually has 2 benefits. You'll get great ideas that employees will actually like, and you'll be giving employees a sense of ownership, which will increase their engagement.

Good Company Example Of Engagement Surveys
As a company that continually wins the "best places to work" award, leave it to Google to do them perfectly.

Google does tons of "pulse surveys," which are short, frequent employee engagement surveys to check in on things.

From their Think With Google page:

"We regularly survey employees about their managers, and then use that information to publicly recognize the best managers and enlist them as teachers and role models for the next year. The worst managers receive intense coaching and support, which helps 75 percent of them get better within a quarter."

What Do You Think About Employee Engagement Surveys?
Do you think they work? Are they a waste of time? Any experiences you can share? Let me know in the comments!