As a senior leader within a big organization, I was the victim of Employee Engagement Survey Fear Syndrome.

Employee Engagement Survey Fear Syndrome is a syndrome that causes various body orifices to pucker as you await the results of an Employee Engagement Survey.

This syndrome was cured when the results came in and were ‘okay’ or ‘not-bad’ or even ‘pretty- good.’

 Some of my peers were cured with the ultimate in mediocracy: ‘Wow, that wasn’t as bad as I expected.’

Then everyone promptly revelled in OK’ness or Mediocracy remission for the next year until the Employee Engagement Survey Fear Syndrome returned.

We hope engagement surveys provide employees with the opportunity to tell their management team how they’re feeling at work. And, in 100 uncomfortable questions employees are going to share all the positive AND negative thoughts & feelings that are supposed to paint a perfect picture of what’s going on in the office.

Are these surveys accurate? No.

Most employee engagement surveys do not give an accurate reflection of what’s going on. They be the chief motivation behind employee disengagement, creating the very problem these surveys mean to solve.

Here are the four most significant problems with employee engagement surveys — and how to solve them.

Engagement surveys are too little, too late.

The first problem with employee engagement surveys? They give employers a snapshot of how their employees are feeling at a given time.

If an employee is having a particularly bad day or week, that bad energy may be channelled into their responses to the engagement survey. Even if they’re generally happy at their job, surveys are given so infrequently that an employee feels compelled to voice complaints at one time.

The same is right on the flip side; if an employee is having a week full of big wins, they’ll fill their survey full of positive feelings, even if this enthusiasm is not the norm.

The solution: a once-a-year engagement survey is not insufficient to take the temperature of morale.

Consider taking regular samples monthly to see if employees are feeling engaged. For example, if your company is big enough, the survey randomly selected employees every month. 

Better yet, get off your ass and walk around and talk to your employees.

Read about asking the right questions

Employee engagement surveys are too long.

Employees dread the annual employee engagement survey. It’s too long, and it takes workers away from their work. Survey fatigue, anyone?

The Human Resources team will be swamped with results and distract them from completing anything else while they interpret the survey results.

You might hire an outside surveying firm — though this can be costly ($25-40 per employee plus setup costs) and may not give you the data you seek. Or, conduct regular, monthly, shorter surveys.

Better yet, get your managers off their asses and properly supervise & lead our employees.

Read about the high cost of poor supervision

Engagement surveys don’t lead to lasting change.

If an employee engagement survey shows a lot of negativity, the impulse from management is likely to try to put a band-aid on the problem.

Time off, or free coffee, or yoga, or even pay raises, may boost company engagement in the short term, but studies have shown that these actions don’t lead to lasting change and engagement scores are nearly guaranteed to slip back down.

Responding to criticism with quick-wins can harm employee engagement. When a worker takes the time to give thoughtful feedback, they expect to see a thoughtful response.

Even if the results of an engagement survey are seriously discussed at management level, if an employee can see this progress, they’re unlikely to feel satisfied.

To make the employee engagement surveys a positive experience listen to employee feedback, create lasting change, and being open and transparent when certain things can’t change.

Not all employee wishes can be granted, but engagement is only improved by transparency, allowing employees to they feel they’re making a positive impact in their work and that their views matter.

Employee engagement surveys may not give you a clear picture.

Employees will not provide the most truthful answers when data collected in the survey — pay grade, department, how long they’ve been with the company, position, etc. — make employees feel that anonymous reviews are the opposite of anonymous.

The employee may feel hesitant to report their concerns as they think they’ll be easily identifiable.

Instead of referring to a survey as anonymous, title them confidential. This way, regardless of whether an employee is pinpointed or not, nothing individual can be done about their responses.

Using an outside firm can add a layer of confidence that confidentiality is maintained.

A word of caution.

At worst, all of these points boil down to one potential problem: employee engagement surveys breed negativity.

They surface negative emotion without leading to resolution.

Perceived lack of anonymity can lead to further disengagement — worsening the problem you’re trying to solve.

2 Phrases A Boss Needs To Respect The Truth And Your Team

The solution?

Get off your ass and walk around and talk to your employees.

Get your managers off their asses and properly supervise & lead our employees.

And Finally, address the things your employees are telling you about or tell them you can’t and why not.

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