Monday, 10 October 2016

Employee surveys: what time works for you?

A recent webinar held by HR consultancy Aon Hewitt, indicated only 11% of companies they surveyed undertook an engagement survey more frequently than once a year. Indeed, for 34% of organisations, the frequency was 18 months and beyond.

I don’t think anyone would argue with the principle of asking your people what they think and feel. And it’s never been easier (or cheaper), but what does that say about frequency? Does it automatically follow that the ability to measure quarterly, monthly or in real-time is a good thing?

There are some great employee research platforms out there - TINYpulse, Hive and Culture Amp to name but three – but in the rush to embrace these new tools don’t lose sight of some of the long-standing issues that continue to impact the success (or otherwise) of the engagement survey. As one participant in the Aon Hewitt webinar stated: “It’s never been easier to do bad research.”

1.       Survey fatigue – it can impact on response rates and more widely, when linked to ‘capacity to act’ (see below), to a feeling of ‘what’s the point?’. Sure, if the survey mechanism can be assimilated into the day-to-day, operational workings of the company then perceptions and expectations of the process will be somewhat different, but many organisations continue to cite survey fatigue as a real issue.
2.       Capacity to act – many companies continue to struggle with taking action as a result of surveys. Whether that’s substantive change or simply not drawing an explicit link between “you said, we did”, any increase in research frequency must make absolutely clear what will happen as a result. Expectation management becomes key.
3.       Cultural relevance – the way the organisation operates and behaves may have a significant influence on the acceptance of a ‘research’ (or maybe that should be ‘listening’) culture. An entrepreneurial, consumer-facing start-up will have a completely different approach (and employee profile) to a large-scale, multi-site manufacturing company and this will influence likely frequency. Likewise, the extent to which customer ratings and feedback are part of the overall company proposition.

Now, more than ever, we have a plethora of data, tools and channels in our employee engagement armoury. In the coming years, we’ll have even more. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Use the new tools wisely and play to their strengths, but ensure the long standing issues outlined above are tackled head-on. If that means you’re surveying every month or so, great, but every year still works for you, don’t rush to change. 


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