Do's and Don'ts of employee engagement surveys thumbs up and down

In a  recently blog post, we spoke about the importance of employee engagement and how a lack thereof can snowball into serious financial losses for an organization (or serious opportunity costs – depending on how you want to look at it).

Employee engagement is an employee’s passion for their job which influences their willingness to learn & perform at work. Because it has been shown that there is a direct correlation between employee engagement and business profitability, it is no wonder that engagement has been a hot topic for quite some time and that organizations are seeking to increase engagement as much as possible.

One of the tips that I offered to help boost employee engagement is to ‘ask’. Since informal polling of staff through casual dialogue is not always feasible or effective, conducting employee engagement surveys is a great way to gauge overall engagement and to ‘ask’ staff about engagement issues.

I just finished reading ‘One Page Talent Management’ written by Mark Effron and Miriam Ort. In the book, the authors serve up clear and simple suggestions for crafting and executing employee engagement surveys.


Ask as few questions as possible:

If this is the first time that you are creating and executing an engagement survey, it might be difficult to hone in on the exact data that you  should aim to capture  but time spent prioritizing items will be worth it. Employees are more likely to complete surveys if they are relatively shorter and survey results are easier to compile and share if they are concise.

Ask Questions that are Actionable:

You might have tons of questions that can gauge engagement; however, unless management can act on the results, they are useless and will not help to increase engagement. A good practice is to run the potential questions by managers and ask them to provide two action items should the answers be ‘low’. If the managers cannot name any items, then the question should be left out, or reworded.

Share the Results with as Many Levels as Possible:

If a properly formatted engagement survey indicates low engagement AND provides the action items necessary to remedy it, then the results should be shared with as many levels of management as possible. Sharing the results is the only way to improve the situation across the entire organization. If the survey process itself is fully automated, then this should not be a problem at all and would make sharing the results as easy as clicking a button. *

Conduct Engagement Surveys Annually:

If an engagement survey is formatted properly, offers a clear degree of engagement and offers actionable items for increasing engagement, then it just makes sense that management has timely versions to refer to. Some companies even find it beneficial to conduct very short engagement surveys semi-annually in order to have timely data and to gauge the effects of engagement initiatives.

Set Engagement Improvement Goals:

After you have conducted your first engagement survey, you should have a handle on the status of employee engagement across each department and the organization as a whole. Use these results to set measurable engagement goals that managers and the organization are expected to reach. Accountability will help to ensure that a company’s leaders at every level are committed to improving engagement.

* Included within emPerform is an eSurvey module that allows organizations to quickly create, distribute, and analyze web-based surveys. Also available with emPerform is a library of best-practice survey questions for all surveys types.

I read an interesting case study this week in the Harvard Business Review that brings up a question any CEO or HR professional may find themselves asking at one point or another: “Why are we losing all of our good people?”

It’s common for organizations to encounter staggered episodes of increased employee resignation. This can bring a great deal of concern and worry to the table for HR, and may very well be accompanied by a subsequent group of questions such as: “Are we doing something wrong?” “How can we fix this?” and “Is this something that we can prevent?

According to F. Leigh Branham (CEO of Keeping the People, a human resources consultancy and author of “The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It’s Too Late”), there are several “triggering events” that can push an employee to leave. The important thing to remember is not to panic when faced with such a circumstance. As shocking as it may be to lose top talent, there are preventative measures that HR can take to increase employee satisfaction and lessen the chances of them ‘hitting the pavement’.

Executing employee surveys are a great way to address the needs of your people, and also a way to receive valuable feedback from start to finish. Using employee surveys as part of your hiring process, alongside and in between performance reviews, and as part of exit interviews can generate optimal results.

Regular surveys are especially useful for “checking up” or for gathering specific information on employees throughout the year. Jean Martin, executive director of the Corporate Leadership Council confirms this by saying that companies should “conduct regular ‘culture audits’ to measure employees’ connection to the company’s work environment.” She continues, “These anonymous audits consist of a brief set of questions aimed at discovering cultural disconnects.”

An employee will not always be upfront and direct with their manager if they are unhappy with their working environment and are thinking of cashing in. As Branham puts it, “Most employees are reluctant to talk openly with management about any of these so-called push factors.” Anonymous employee surveys are great for this very reason, especially because they allow HR to gather data which can be analyzed and used to fix or prevent the problem. As Martin confirms, “Such studies followed by proper managerial attention, can reduce attrition rates by as much as 87%.”

However, as I discussed in last week’s blog (see common talent management traps), employee surveys should never replace human contact. Anna Pringle, head of international people and organization capability for Microsoft confirms that HR should “consider conducting ‘listening tours.’ These would involve visiting every department, gathering direct feedback from supervisors and staff, and taking the organization’s pulse.” While employee surveys are a great tool, they should always be accompanied by face-to-face interaction.

Want to learn more about employee surveys? Take a look at eSurvey – emPerform’s integrated online survey tool.