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Send Fewer Employee Engagement Surveys – Talk with Employees Instead

employee engagement surveysLots of organizations send out employee engagement surveys with the desire of improving employee engagement and retention; unfortunately they often damage both in the process.

There are a few employee engagement survey pitfalls that are luckily easy to avoid.

Here are three practices to follow when sending out employee engagement surveys:

  1. Shorter is better. I hate to say this, but no one wants to fill out your employee engagement survey. It’s time consuming, employees doubt the survey will yield results, and employees worry that their feedback isn’t really confidential.

Make your employee engagement survey easy to fill out by making it short. And by short, I mean 10 questions or fewer.  You’ll get a better response rate to a 10-question survey than a 65-question one. And do you really need more information than the answers to ten well-written questions?

  1. Provide employees with survey results quickly. Most organizations ask for too much information. Leaders are overwhelmed by the survey information, so they spend months and months reviewing it, while employees comment on yet another employee survey with no communication.

Send out a communication sharing the top few learnings – the good and the not-so-good — within a few weeks of sending out the survey. You don’t need to take action at the same time. Simply keep employees in the loop by communicating a quick summary of what you learned. If you wait too long to share the feedback, it often never gets communicated. And the next time you send out a survey, employees will remember the absence of information and be hesitant to fill it out.

  1. Within 90-days, tell employees what you will and won’t be changing, based on the survey feedback, and tell them why. Employees don’t need or expect all of their input to be utilized. Closing the loop with clear communication about what you are and aren’t changing, and why, is often sufficient.

All of that being said, I’m going to recommend you send out fewer surveys. Employee engagement surveys are a good way to quickly collect lots of information. Engagement surveys are not a good way of building trust and relationships with employees, which is what leads to employee engagement and retention. Employees don’t feel closer to an organization’s leadership team after filling out an employee engagement survey. Trust isn’t built. Instead of sending out so many surveys, I’d suggest cutting the number in half and have leaders and managers hold roundtable discussions with groups of 6-8 employees a few times a year instead. Roundtable discussions achieve several goals at once—they give leaders visibility, which builds trust, they help leaders build rapport and relationships, and gather the same data that a written survey provides.

When leaders participate in our Be a Best Place to Work program, we teach the five things leaders need to do to engage and retain employees. Holding roundtable discussions and asking these questions is a key recommendation of the training. Sending out written surveys is not. Engage and retain employees by talking with employees. Ask employees for their input. Listen. And watch your employee engagement survey scores sky rocket.

employee surveys leader cards

About 

Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at www.candidculture.com.

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2 Responses to “Send Fewer Employee Engagement Surveys – Talk with Employees Instead”

  1. Regina Cox says:

    Perfect timing of the topic for me here in my work group at AT&T. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Steve Perry says:

    Your post is wonderfully informative, as always. There’s one small thing I would mention, though. Make sure the surveys are truly and completely anonymous.

    Unless the company is a fantastically great company, with an amazingly open and honest corporate culture, employees will provide what they think is the “correct” answer for fear of retaliation. Maybe not from the top or C-suite levels, but from managers and supervisors. While there should be immunity for providing “bad news”, in my experience, there is rarely any such protection.

    If the employee feels they will be identified, they will typically provide the “yes, boss, you’re absolutely correct. Everything is great.” responses. This is bad data and makes the survey results incorrect at best, to completely useless at worst.

    Face-to-face discussions with employees is not much better for the same reasons. Anonymity is crucial, if not key.

    In my humble opinion and I could be wrong.

    Thanks again for your work.

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