3 Honest Reasons Why Employee Engagement Surveys Fail

Laurie Ruettimann Engagement and Satisfaction, HR, Laurie Ruettimann

I just read an article called 3 Good Reasons Why Employee Engagement Surveys Fail. Let me summarize it for you.

The author believes that HR doesn’t follow up on employee surveys properly, thus undermining the credibility of future endeavors. He also believes that most disengaged people don’t bother to answer the survey, which is true. And he observes that most surveys are published at the wrong time. The key is to catch people when they are feeling honest and reflective, not bitter, about their employment experiences.

I think that’s all good but I wanted to give you three honest reasons why employee engagement surveys fail.

  1. Engaged people are busy and don’t have time for your surveys. When I am in a state of flow — the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity — I don’t have time to tell you how I feel. I am too busy feeling it.
  2. Engaged people have an agenda and it probably doesn’t look like yours. Nothing is more disengaging than asking me to stop what I’m doing and talk about an agenda that isn’t mine.
  3. Engaged people would rather talk about the future than the past. If you want to understand your business and maximize productivity while increasing profits, stop talking about emotions. Don’t survey people on how they feel. Have regular and specific conversations about what they are doing and how they can do more of it to build a better company.

I think most engagement surveys suffer from the soft bigotry of low expectations. At its best, we hope to capture a nugget of information that will help us “switch on” our laziest employees and make them happy. At its worst, we ready ourselves to read a barrage of complaints.

You pay your people pretty well. They are adults. What if you stopped surveying your organization and asked your employees to take full accountability of their work experience?

  • How do they define success?
  • How would they like to take responsibility for solving problems?
  • How could they accept more ownership for safety, security and a positive work environment?

If you are going to survey your employees, I suggest you start right there.