One of the common worries about employee surveys is that people won’t tell the truth. When you spend the money and go through the trouble of doing a survey, you want to believe that you’re getting the truth about what’s going on. Here’s some bad news. People lie on surveys. Sometimes they tell small lies and sometimes they tell big ones. Sometimes they don’t even know they’re lying. In fact, even on customer surveys, some experts suggest that as many as 50% of people are less than truthful in their answers. So, even when people have little to nothing at stake, they aren’t totally honest.
Employee engagement is top of mind for many organizations today. Realizing that their biggest assets are their employees, countless companies have scrambled to implement initiatives aimed at boosting workplace engagement in the hopes of improving retention. But despite these efforts, the average U.S. company is only running at 33% efficiency, according to Gallup research. On a global scale, the outlook is even bleaker. That same study found that just 15% of the world's workers are engaged and reaching their full potential in the workplace. This points to a major flaw in the system. Companies are pouring time and money into engagement programs, yet employees are still disengaged. So, what’s going wrong—and what can companies do to align their initiatives with what employees truly need to be successful?
My job requires that I fly pretty frequently. Over the past few years, the airline I use most often has adopted the practice of sending me a survey following every flight. The email with the survey invite usually says something about how much they value my opinion. When these first started showing up in my inbox, I would occasionally respond. Typically, it was after a less-than-optimal flight experience when I was a little disgruntled. These were the moments when it seemed my feedback would be most valuable. Or at least, it was the time I most wanted them to hear me so future flights might be better. I took them at their word that my opinion mattered to them (although I’ll admit to being skeptical). Each time, after clicking send on the survey, I’d wait for some kind of response. I’m still waiting.
The term “employee experience” is kind of a misnomer, isn’t it? It implies something singular—a walled-off experience that each individual employee goes through on their own. In actuality, the employee experience is much bigger than that. The average employee will interact with countless people and departments over the course of their lifecycle at your company, and each of those interactions feeds into their overall experience. But we don’t tend to think of it that way. Today, many HR departments try to boil the employee experience down to a series of boxes on a checklist, especially when it comes to onboarding. Ticking off each box is viewed as something that just has to be done, with no one really stopping to think about why it has to be done—or whether it could be done better.
A well-executed employee survey can be a powerful tool to improve engagement and performance in any organization. At the same time, a poorly executed survey can actually create confusion and disillusionment that negatively impacts these same outcomes. As you prepare for your next survey, take care to avoid these mistakes to ensure you make a positive impact instead of an unintended negative one.
Listening is one of those things that you probably don’t spend much time thinking about but ends up having a big impact on your life. For example, I’m the parent of a “tween” daughter who is finding it more and more challenging to listen to me. Just yesterday, I asked her nicely to clean up the mess she’d left the evening before. She had nodded when I first asked. To ensure that she heard me, I reminded her again a bit later. She nodded again. I assumed we were good and that I was understood.
It's become easier than ever to survey your employees. The technology is at your fingertips to create and send a survey whenever you want. This is both a good and a bad thing. While a survey can be one of the most powerful tools at your disposal in HR and management, the data you collect through a survey is only as good as the employee survey design. Poorly designed surveys can result in misleading or unusable data. And to make matters worse, they’re confusing and frustrating for your employees. Good design is essential to ensuring that your survey has its desired effect.