The Infrequently Discussed Downsides of Annual Employee Surveys

2 min read
Apr 22, 2015

"Out of sight, out of mind" is not a saying well suited to fostering strong work cultures. Just check out what employees think about managers being part of their workplace satisfaction.

We asked over 1,000 full-time employees about their appetite (or lack thereof) for frequent check-ins by managers or leaders on their workplace sentiment. Turns out, nearly two-thirds of all respondents said they wanted a check-in every two weeks or more.

employee enagement survey

In fact, only a measly 4% said “Once a year.” We are in an increasingly plugged-in world, and that means employees expect their managers to be plugged-in too.  The tried-and-true staple of annual employee surveys is becoming obsolete.

They Take Forever to Complete

We’re increasingly used to parsing out information in 140 characters or less. So imagine a 50+ question survey that can take upwards of one hour or more to complete. It brings new meaning to the term survey fatigue.

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Humans are now reported to have shorter attention spans than goldfish, a trend that will not change any time soon. This means the way we gather employee survey feedback needs to reflect our rapidly increasing rate of moving through information. Something annuals surveys fail to accomplish.

No Timely Information

In a day in age where you can track the status of your pizza delivery order on your phone in real time, the idea of waiting 12 months to gather employee feedback is outdated.

Issue arises on a weekly, if not daily, basis, and managers must be empowered to tackle them as they appear. Annual surveys fail to give leaders the timely information they need to nip problems in the bud before they become attrition nightmares.

Suffer From Recency Effects

Try thinking back to what went well 11.5 months ago. Now try thinking back to what went poorly 11.5 months ago. It’s tough, isn’t it?

Trying to make employees remember what happened nearly a year ago is a very big ask. And it’s why annual surveys suffer from what’s called the recency effect. That is, employees have no problem remembering recent events, but events that happened well in the past are harder to recall.

If you truly want to assess various facets of your organization and how employees feel about them, they need to be addressed when they happen. Waiting several months out often results in them being forgotten.

These issues are largely driving companies to seek out pulsing surveys. By implementing weekly one-question employee engagement surveys, leaders are able to overcome all of the downsides addressed above. And more importantly, they’re getting the timely feedback they need to drive the types of workplace improvements that build engagement, innovation, productivity, and ultimately the bottom line.


Free Guide to Pulsing Employee Surveys

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