Do Employee Engagement Surveys Truly Work?
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Much has been talked about the employee engagement survey, by leaders, by experts, and by employees themselves. Organizations spend billions of dollars to first assess and then implement actions to act upon the findings, to ensure that their employees are truly engaged. However, if employee engagement surveys were the panacea to engagement problems, organizations would not be facing the challenges of low productivity and employee exits. This is not the case, which makes us wonder whether employee engagement surveys are true to what they aim at.

Gallup’s Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis publication throws light on the challenges around employee engagement. According to the findings, less than one-third of Americans are engaged in their jobs, as per the data taken from the past fortnight. Moreover, the study indicates that measuring engagement is not a sure-fire way to improve it. The study points out five very interesting reasons as to why employee engagement surveys fail:

Survey results are vague: Most of the HR or other employees who have either administered or been at the receiving end of an employee engagement survey would attest to the fact that the results are often left shrouded in mystery. Organizations go to large efforts to administer and analyze the survey, but when it comes to communicating the results with the population, the crucial step takes a backseat. As a result, employees lose trust in the process, thinking it to be just another check-mark in the HR manager’s to-do list.

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No post-survey: Some organizations make a good show of the results, only to leave it in mid-air without any concrete action taken. Employees gradually lose interest in speaking up and do not bother to share their genuine insights. Lack of action leads to the belief that it is not going to make a difference, so they avoid voicing their opinions.

No business ownership: Employee engagement is still seen as an “HR priority” and is seldom owned by business leaders the way it should. It is, therefore, important to define responsibilities and accountability early on in the deal to make employee engagement real. Engagement should be tied into the business KPIs and KRAs to make it work for real.

Engagement is mistaken for fun: Even if organizations do take action on the employee engagement results, the common solutions are seen as fun days, appreciation days, goodies, fun events and so on. These are superficial one-time interventions and do little to increase employee morale for the long term. Engagement must be looked at deeply, by understanding the underlying core issues of employees and nipping them in the bud. Superficial gimmicks leave the impression that the management does not care, but just show they care.

Treating data as be all and end all: Employee engagement survey results are looked upon as hordes of data to be rearranged and reorganized to create jazzy looking charts and RAG statuses. HR and business leaders must understand that true engagement opinions are shared by employees, not through formal means, but often through informal ones like one-on-one connects and conversations, water cooler discussions and so on. HR must “listen” and “look out” for the employee, and not just treat him or her as a statistic input for the employee engagement survey. Create conversations rather than mere “responses” to assess engagement levels. Look for other sources such as onboarding comments, candidate experiences, training feedback and so on to get the true picture of employee engagement at your workplace.

All in all, employee engagement cannot be relegated to a single annual intervention with multiple choice questions to be answered. HR must strive to listen to, engage with, and understand the employee journey to create the right employee experience. Only then can employee engagement do justice to an organization and its people.
Source: HR Technologist


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