Why Employee Surveys Succeed…And Fail

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Why Employee Surveys Succeed…And Fail

Thirty days ago a top executive of a major employee survey company told me this about his survey division: “They don’t generally get involved in the actions taken by an org in response to the engagement results – really just delivery of the survey and then reporting.”

Here’s the context. I met this executive at an event and we then exchanged phone calls and emails which ultimately lead to my asking if his company had an interest in helping their client companies actually improve engagement or retention…or just sell them engagement and exit surveys with their accompanying benchmark data. And this is a very large, global survey company and it’s a certain bet some of you who are reading this post are paying money to this company today for survey results.

The implications of this are astounding to me. I’ve read most major survey companies’ reports to clients and they typically include company data, benchmark data, and recommendations for improvements. I always thought the recommendations were way too general, recalling one to be “Have your managers have open door policies”. But this remark makes those improvement recommendations even more shallow as the executive admitted his company does not “get involved in the actions taken by an org in response to the engagement results”.

Let’s find some good news first. Most survey companies provide good data, both for client companies and with the benchmark data that also include. There are two very major risks, though, which put the total value of these surveys in peril:

The first is it is so very easy to high-five each other if your company equals or slightly exceeds the benchmark. This is like saying, “Great news. We are mediocre,” because benchmarks represent average data. I wonder if your CEO would be thrilled to be average in sales and service.

The second peril-inducing outcome is we’re conditioned to think survey data leads to easily-intuitive solutions as in, “If all of our employees want more recognition, we’ll have employee appreciation week and also employee of the month.” Or worse, “We need to improve employee appreciation week. Let’s bring in a bouncy castle.”

Here’s the very missing piece. Employees never want nor ask for employee of the month. They ask for their managers to tell them they do something well. And there is no substitute for it. How many of your employees stay or engage more because of employee appreciation week?

Stay Interviews are the answer…and fast becoming the dominant solution to employee retention and engagement. My book, The Power of Stay Interviews, has just become the top-selling book in SHRM history.  I urge you to continue reading these blog posts and I’ll tell you more.

You may contact Dick Finnegan at DFinnegan@C-SuiteAnalytics.com