Seven engagement survey myths and how to bust them



Monitoring employee sentiment will be vital in helping organisations chart their recovery from the coronavirus crisis, but this needs to be done effectively if it is to provide accurate insight. Ritu Mohanka outlines seven myths that often hold HR teams’ engagement strategies back.

Even in normal circumstances managers need to regularly communicate with their teams, but in the depths of a global pandemic that need becomes even more urgent.

Employees don’t have a problem with giving feedback more regularly. Rather, what they have an issue with is being asked too many questions, and their employer not taking action.”

Glint has just released results about the impact Covid-19 has had on employee wellbeing, based on responses from over 1.4m employee surveys. One of the key insights has been how grateful employees are for being asked how they’re doing and what support they need.

While we’re on the road recovery the importance of employee engagement can’t be overstated. Engagement strategies have been proven to contribute to talent retention, innovation, customer loyalty, and overall workplace culture.

However, the truth is that insight into employee engagement remains elusive in some organisations. A big contributor is a number of pervasive myths that stop us from getting this right. Let’s consider these here:

“Measuring customer sentiment is the same as measuring employee sentiment”

Employers often look at their customer research and data and think they should just replicate this collection process for the employee population. NPS (Net Promoter Score) is a common measure of customer satisfaction, after all, so why not use an internal employee ‘eNPS’, too?

But measuring employee sentiment this way is risky. The relationship with the customer is very transactional, and has few, if any, critical touchpoints. The relationship with the employee is more intimate with multiple touchpoints, over years, even decades. Brands need to adjust their thinking.

“More frequent pulsing leads to survey fatigue and poor response rates – and global surveys are dead”

Large organisations think that moving to a more frequent pulsing model rules out a global approach, but agile modern surveying platforms allow you to pulse hundreds of thousands of employees or more in a matter of days, so this is a baseless fear.

But does frequent surveying lead to massive survey fatigue and low response rates? Absolutely not. Employees don’t have a problem with giving feedback more regularly. Rather, what they have an issue with is being asked too many questions, and their employer not taking action. Giving employees the opportunity to voice concerns and then see action taken on those concerns is key to success.

“Surveys are an HR-owned and driven priority”

Rather than HR being the sole driver of change within the organisation, it’s the incremental changes at the grassroots level that have the greatest power to make organisational change happen. Modern engagement technology empowers managers right down to frontline staff, giving them data about their local strengths and opportunities as a team and offering suggested actions to drive improvement.

“Action plans and action taking takes months after survey results are shared”

A customer told me they could only survey every two years, else they wouldn’t have enough time and opportunity to drive action planning and change. But with the right technology, line-of-business managers can now get highly personalised and very prescriptive data and suggested actions out of a survey. With this, they can get out of an endless loop of action planning and ensure there is visible action taking across the organisation.

“Surveys need to ask many questions in order to get many insights”

We worked with Stanford University and independent HR experts to investigate data around measuring engagement and employee experience. The conclusion: 90% of the variance can be covered by a single survey question or statement. Effectively, this means surveys don’t need 50-70 questions.

Instead, a few structured questions are required, along with open-ended fields appended to every question. In fact, the open-ended field is the source of the real employee insight – and by using artificial intelligence to analyse comments, you can get genuine insight.

“Employees don’t write comments in surveys, hence the need to go wide and deep with the questions”

Team members get very frustrated when they see that they don’t have the ability to leave comments after a question or when they have an open-ended question at the end of the survey only. The risk is that at the end of the survey when you ask an open-ended question, they have forgotten what point they wish to make, or no longer feel motivated to answer because they are frustrated by the length of the task.

That’s why this fallacy that employees don’t write comments has gained traction. Actually, using a well-designed pulse, 60% of employees tend to leave comments, and usually two or three comments each.

“We need industry-specific benchmarking to understand our unique insights”

Even if you’re very specific and differentiated within your industry, CEOs like industry benchmarks. Experts agree, however, that there is very little variance in financial services versus manufacturing, for instance. It turns out that the best benchmarking you can do is looking at your own trends.

What other employee engagement myths have you come across? By busting them we can deliver a happier and more engaged workplace, and a more profitable environment for everyone –it’s going to help us all in the process of recovery.

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