You’ve probably heard (or used) this phrase before: survey fatigue. Before surveys became as common as they are today, if your company conducted an annual employee engagement survey, it was considered progressive. Those were different times.
Conventional wisdom is that employee surveys must be anonymous to be effective. If employees don’t believe that their responses are anonymous, they might not complete the survey. And even if they do, they won’t be honest because it’s too risky to tell the truth. Therefore, to get more candid and accurate feedback, the perception of anonymity is required. That’s what we’ve been told for decades and we’ve come to accept it as fact. But there’s a problem. All of this conventional wisdom might be wrong.
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.
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.
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.