10 Employee Survey Failures — And How to Fix Them

by Dora Wang on Apr 1, 2015 11:00:00 AM

10 Ways Employee Engagement Surveys Are Failing — And How to Fix ThemThe employee engagement survey is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal for building a successful company. It can not only help you boost engagement, but also quality of work, retention rates, and your company’s culture. But are you using the right one?

We asked managers how they feel about the annual employee survey. Only 11% said they are satisfied with it. Nearly 90% of managers gave us 10 reasons why they aren’t:

10 Employee Survey Failures — And How to Fix Them

These managers' complaints fall under a few common themes. Let's take a look.

A Glacial Pace

The number one reason managers don’t like annual surveys? Well, because they’re annual. Instead of being able to respond to employee needs when they arise, you’re stuck waiting up to a year for data to get to you.

And, per reason number two, there’s no way annual surveys can keep up with the month-to-month (or even day-to-day) changes that your company goes through. If you’re a fast-growing start-up, your workforce could double or even triple in size between surveys.

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A Bad Fit

What’s more, employees aren’t responding well to annual surveys. 14% of managers point out that employees are likely to focus on what’s happened lately. Others say that employees focus on the bad things. (Psychology calls these tendencies the recency effect and negativity bias, respectively.)

So your survey might miss a seasonally recurring problem, because everyone forgets about it by the time they fill in the survey. Or your responses might be all about the problems at the company without giving you any guidance about the good things you should keep or do more of.

Managers also point out that employees don’t trust annual surveys. This could be for any number of reasons — they’re worried about getting in trouble for giving criticism, or they aren’t confident that the company will respond to their feedback.

What’s more, annual surveys are just too long. After all, you’re trying to stuff a year’s worth of questions into one survey. So they either take up too much of your employees’ time, or your employees rush to finish them and don’t give thoughtful answers.

Lots of problems. So what to do about them?

The Tiny Solution

There’s an easy way to fix almost all of these issues with just one tool: pulsing surveys. A pulsing employee engagement survey is short and frequent — usually one or two questions a week — which means that you can actually keep up with what’s going on in your company. And since they’re spread out through the entire year, you don’t have to worry about eating up your employees’ time with an avalanche of questions.

To earn your employees’ trust, you’ll have to go a step further. Make your survey anonymous so they don’t have to fear retaliation. And plan to review the weekly responses and take action as necessary. But the cool thing is that pulsing surveys make all this manageable. If you only have one or two issues to tackle each week, it’s not nearly as hard as facing down a year’s worth of problems all at once. Also, it’s easy to make each weekly question anonymous, especially if you send them out digitally.

And once you’ve done that, you’ll be left with a tool that actually does what you want: help you make a better company.

 

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Free Guide to Pulsing Employee Surveys

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This post was written by Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement researcher for TINYpulse and managing editor of TINYinstitute. Having grown up in Texas, she is now firmly settled in Seattle, where she spends her free time reading comic books, wrangling her three cats, and (of course) rooting for the Seahawks.

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