Best Practices in HR

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Robert Brown
  August 12, 2021

Why Annual Employee Engagement Surveys are Dead [And What You Can Do About It]

If you’re relying solely only annual employee engagement surveys to gather feedback on the workplace experience, good luck. While popular, such surveys provide little more than incomplete information at best. Gathering accurate employee engagement feedback may seem like an impossible task, but it’s far from it. With today’s technology, it couldn’t be easier. 

What’s Wrong with Annual Employee Engagement Surveys?

So many things are wrong with annual employee surveys, but we’ll list a handful of the most important here, keeping in mind that what follows is not your only option to acquire employee feedback. 

A Lot Can Happen in 12 Months

A year is a long time. In fact, 43% of millennials intend to leave their current positions within two years. Without an accurate understanding of your employees’ experience throughout the year, you’re likely to have a staff itching to jump ship even sooner. 

Let’s say you distribute your surveys in December. January rolls around and you introduce a new benefits policy with a different health plan and stricter rules regarding paid time off. In this case, it will be a full year before you receive any feedback on this measure! 

Ignorance is expensive. By the time you do get feedback, you’ll have lost several people due to the new policies and those who stay may become disengaged. Hiring expenses, onboarding costs, and low productivity due to reduced morale could all have been avoided had you asked for anonymous feedback in January, ideally prior to any benefits policy changes. 

Annual Employee Surveys are a Snooze Fest

As humans, we can only focus on a task for so long before succumbing to distraction. Annual employee surveys certainly don’t do us any favors in this respect, often consisting of pages upon pages of questions. 

As you can imagine, so many questions warrant a serious time commitment to complete. If you provide your people with the survey on a busy workday, you can all but guarantee they’ll rush through it as quickly as possible, or perhaps not even bother with it.

Annual surveys are painful. Who has time to answer a long, drawn-out survey when demanding clients are on the line or people are in the middle of a big project?

You’ll most likely get accurate responses to the first few questions, but once you get beyond a few pages, you can expect rushed responses that don’t reflect reality.

Survey Results May Not Be Considered

All too often, annual employee survey results don’t matter because they won’t affect lasting change. There’s a strong likelihood that such surveys will not even be taken into account, if they’re even read at all. 

When surveys are read, however, the results are often only marginally better. Employers may provide quick fixes like free Friday bagels or a break room ping pong table to alleviate poor engagement results from annual employee surveys. Underlying issues remain unaddressed and the next year’s survey is likely to yield similar results. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to admit they never hear the results or see any action taken by the organization. 80% of people believe that HR managers fail to use survey results to better the workplace experience.

In other words, who wants to spend 20 minutes or more to fill out a survey that they have no confidence will make a difference? 

Publishing Results Takes Forever

It may be months before the results of your annual employee survey are published, if at all. These surveys are out of date by the time the data is collected and delivered. Management and HR may not be aware of the issues and concerns raised until it’s far too late. 

In the meantime, your organization may have lost good people while others are busy taking personal days to interview elsewhere.

So, how can you get anonymous feedback from your people on a regular basis and avoid the pitfalls? Gathering valuable information on employee engagement is nowhere near as complex or expensive as it seems at first glance. 

What are Better Ways to Obtain Employee Feedback?

Even though annual employee engagement surveys are the pits, there’s no need to despair. Here’s what you should do instead.

Make Technology Your Friend

Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to obtain anonymous feedback with a fraction of the effort. 

The Olumo platform, for instance, operates at your business’s rapid pace with remarkable ease. With our simple text message surveys, you can gather real-time feedback data and quickly view actionable results. We pinpoint exactly where your weak points lie so you can make better choices to improve engagement. The best part is, we do this all while carefully protecting the identities of your people via 100% anonymous feedback. 

In the contemporary workplace, you simply can’t keep up with the competition if you don’t 

actively engage with your people. With technology like this, you have no excuse. Find out 

how it works!

Ask Frequently, Consistently, and Briefly

Provide very short feedback surveys to your people on a regular basis to get a quick snapshot of the office mood. Feel free to provide such surveys a few times a week to stay abreast of problems before or as they arise.

This is a great route to take, but make sure not to overdo it. Keep your surveys very brief and tailored to address only the current issues at hand. 

Share the Results, Even if it’s Painful

Would you want to see the results of a survey you participated in? Of course, and so would your people. Even if some results are negative, share them with your people to demonstrate transparency and increase your own accountability. 

By providing survey results, you prove to your team that you hear their concerns and aren’t brushing them aside. People already know where the problems lie, but they want to hear that you do too.

Take Action as Soon as Possible

When the feedback is clear, don’t just listen – act thoughtfully. Managers may panic when surveys produce negative results and thus look for ways to quickly improve the office experience, sometimes offering throwaway perks like casual Fridays.

Providing perks is perfectly fine but they won’t address underlying issues. Chances are, most people will care about getting the basics right:

  • Work-life balance
  • On or above market wages and salaries
  • Healthy office environment
  • Minimal office politics
  • Effective management
  • Competitive benefits
  • Fair promotion/bonus system

Remember that the fundamentals matter most. If the results of your surveys indicate an issue in one or more of these areas, take care to address it as soon as possible.