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Do Employee Surveys Work?

employee-surveys2As year end comes into focus, many companies are engaging in an annual holiday tradition: The employee survey.

These annual surveys, which leave many employees wondering whether their bosses see their answers, have become a central part of corporate culture. And because, apparently, there can never be too much of a good thing, the Wall St. Journal reports that many companies are upping the ante.

“In the era of status updates and instant feedback, so-called “pulse surveys” are now catching on at work. Employers say short monthly, weekly or daily polls—sometimes a single question at a time—provide data on how their teams actually feel and catch problems before they fester. Frequent surveys are even replacing annual employee surveys at some companies.”

The change, of course, is data driven, the Journal reports: “The trend is part of a larger shift toward data-driven work in which managers are expected to use data to make decisions large and small, from broad corporate strategy to which toppings to choose for an office pizza party. Mobile apps and faster analytics have put sophisticated polling tools within reach of even small firms.”

But do these employee surveys work? Some caution: Not so fast.

One piece in Forbes states: “Traditional employee satisfaction surveys make three assumptions that just don’t hold water.”

  • “Wrong assumption #1: Every employee response is equally important.”
  • “Wrong assumption #2: Every employee opinion is credible.”
  • “Wrong assumption #3: Engagement alone drives results.”

The biggest problem, writes the Head of Business Psychology at the UK firm Head Light: “Lack of concrete action, after an engagement survey, is the root cause of this engagement curse.”