Your Employee Survey Won’t Tell You $^&%

Marisa Keegan Employment Branding and Culture, Engagement and Satisfaction, Marisa Keegan

Companies love throwing surveys at their employees but it’s my guess that 95% of employee surveys aren’t even useful.

I was recently helping a small business streamline their employee engagement initiatives and was on-site reviewing a specific survey they were using to gauge how their employees were holding up on each of their client projects. The questions, timing, and methodology were sloppy at best but what I found to be most interesting was what I learned when I was tucked in a cubicle in the middle of the office listening to employees chatter (my favorite thing to do).

One employee started carrying on to someone else about how much he hated the project he was on. I believe his exact quote was, “Working with Client X is a total pain in the ass.” He went on about how he couldn’t wait to move to a new project team.

Since I had access to the confidential survey results I looked up what the disgruntled employee had marked on the previous weeks survey and on all questions pertaining to Client X he gave them an 8 out of 10…which would lead the company to believe he was pretty happy with how the project was going. Epic Fail.

But I wasn’t surprised. Most corporate surveys end up missing the mark for the following reasons:

  • Employees aren’t telling you the truth because they don’t want to deal with a hassle or don’t feel like their opinion is going to drive change
  • The questions aren’t getting to the right information
  • Surveys are sent out to collect information that would be better gathered via other methods (like employee coaching, manager feedback, etc)
  • Employees have been bombarded with survey after survey but haven’t ever seen change come from them (which leads back to the first bullet)

Let’s be real here for a second. Do any of us really want to fill out another survey? No. I’m not saying that surveys are always bad or will always yield false results but I do think we sometimes get trigger happy when it comes to surveying the crap out of our employees. So instead of jumping on the survey bandwagon as the first option for gathering information consider setting up opportunities to gather information from employees face-to-face. The information you’ll get if you’re asking the right questions is going to be more robust and on-target then anything you’ll get from a survey.

Marisa Keegan

Marisa is a Culture Coach for small and quickly growing organizations trying to establish the infrastructure required to create a company full of passionate, motivated, and engaged employees. She has held culture and engagement roles for two nationally recognized great places to work, founded the research and networking group Culture Fanatics, and is an industry recognized blogger. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and twin boys and is looking forward to the day she can bike across the country to raise money for MS research. @marisakeegan.