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Do Employee Engagement Surveys Really Work?


Surveys are one of the most popular methods for measuring employee engagement.  

But do they really work? 
According to an article published by Forbes, over 3,000 HR executives took an online quiz titled “How Good Is Your Employee Engagement Survey?” 

The survey includes the question, “How have your employee engagement scores changed over the past two years?” 

Respondents were given four answers to choose from. Below are the results:

  1. "Our survey scores have declined" = 13%.
  2. "Our survey scores were low, but they've improved dramatically OR they were high, and they've stayed high" = 22%.
  3. "Our survey scores haven't changed significantly" = 31%.
  4. "I don't know, because we haven't surveyed regularly" = 34%.

Option 2 has the most positive outcome, yet only 22% of respondents chose it.
Many industry experts agree that employee engagement surveys often do not work. Usually, the problem isn't in the method — that is, the survey as a mechanism — but in the way the survey is crafted or administered. Let's examine the pain points and what can be done about them.

The survey isn't anonymous. 
Employees often refuse to complete engagement surveys because they don't believe the surveys are anonymous — and they're right! According to an article published by the Society for Human Resource Management, engagement surveys aren't anonymous, because if management really wants to find out "who said what, they easily can." 

These types of surveys are usually confidential, not anonymous. Therefore, it's important to assure employees that the survey will remain confidential and that demographic replies — such as the employee's department and number of years he or she has been with the company — won't be used as a strategy for detecting who said what. 

The survey is too long or boring.
If the survey is too long, employees won't want to finish it. And if the questions are uninteresting, employees won't feel motivated to respond. 

Questions should be straightforward, easy to understand and, when possible, situational. You might, for example, ask employees how satisfied they are with their compensation and benefits. Even the most disengaged employee may be inclined to respond to this question.

Another good inquiry is whether employees are likely to recommend your company as a great place to work.

Consider using a 5-point rating scale, which allows for variations in grading, instead of yes or no answers. 

The conditions for taking the survey are too restrictive. 
For example, instead of requiring that employees take the survey in one sitting, give them the ability to save their answers and return to the survey when convenient. Of course, you should give them a deadline for completing the survey. Also, allow employees to access the survey from their mobile devices, at any time, instead of limiting them to their desktop at work. 

Employees don't realize the significance of the survey. 
One of the best ways to get employees to realize the significance of engagement surveys is to act on the results. When employees see that their responses matter, they will be more interested in participating in subsequent surveys.

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