Should we be looking to replace the yearly employee survey?
The uncensored story of an experienced HR manager in tech
Annual and biannual employee surveys have always been met with a groan in my company. Working in an Ad-tech startup environment meant that we barely had time to sit down and have a proper lunch, let alone go through pages and pages of questions issued by HR Bureaucrats, about how much we liked our boss/company/culture/CEO/job on a scale of one to ten. So being a HR Bureaucrat myself, one of my jobs was to rally the folks into spending a substantial time out of their busy day to provide us with valuable feedback that we can use as data to present to upper management.
Don’t get me wrong — that data is really valuable to us, as it’s a solid way to gauge our success in employee initiatives, how happy our people are, and what problems are arising. But there are a few problems I see with the way that employee surveys are conducted in their current form.
The results are only a reflection of the company at the time of the survey
In most companies, employee engagement surveys are conducted once or twice a year (and if you are “lucky”, quarterly). But these only allow employees to address issues that are relevant at the time of the survey. What about the problems that pop up other times? And as most companies won’t do more than once per year, it means you are losing an incredible amount of opportunity to build a better work environment for your people.
The survey is a place to grumble, not improve
Employees use the survey as an opportunity to complain about issues in the company. Granted — we ask for this. Some come up with genuine suggestions for improvement (we love these people!), but others (more often that not), take the survey to write paragraphs about a problem, then expect someone else to come up with a magical solution — which ultimately might not be to their satisfaction.
After the survey, where nothing happens
What happens to the results that you’ve collected? Here are two common scenarios.
It’s never shared with the employees at all — only to management as a colourful graph or ten, to say “this department is this % satisfied” or “we’ve managed to keep this % of people in our organisation this year”. It isn’t used as a prompt to identify the challenges in the organisation, and most importantly, to use as a starting point to fix them.
Initially the results are shared with the wider company, the challenges will be acknowledged, but then there’s no follow up. The issues would be forgotten until the next Employee Survey time, at which some people would ask, “what happened with the stuff that came up in the last survey?” By then, it‘s too late — other problems have taken over priority, or they come back again in the next employee survey — larger and more troublesome.
(There is an alternative Scenario: C, where results of the survey are shared, steps to rectify are planned out, delegated, and implemented. Then the results of these initiatives are shared with the entire company and employee morale/engagement/retention rates visibly improve. If this is your company, amazing work!)
Employee Surveys are:
- More work for employees.
- Often used as an opportunity to complain, not resolve.
- Subjective to the timing of the survey.
- Sometimes used as a statistical tool, not a problem solving tool.
- Often ignore the follow up after the survey results are released, (what’s being done about the problems identified).
How can Blindfeed help?
- Less work for everyone — if an employee observes a point for improvement in the company, they can log this one issue through the simple posting process, instead of filling out pages of short, yes/no questions.
- Encourages employees to face challenges with a solution-focused approach — instead of putting the onus on others to fix the issues, they’re encouraged to think about the problem, and then suggest ways they think could help resolve or improve it. When an issue is resolved, they have the satisfaction of knowing that they directly contributed to making their company better. Employee engagement increases, as well as employee satisfaction.
- Provides insight into problems in your company, in real time — employees can submit suggestions or problems when they feel that it’s a priority. They don’t have to wait 3–6 months, to wait for the next round of formal surveys to come around. Knowing about these problems at the right time could prevent what could become a bigger issue (eg. lawsuit, mass exit, the unravelling of a $50+ billion dollar company.)
- Tracks progress of each issue, and automatically update interested parties in the overall steps being taken — that means less HR time is spent on administration and communicating with the wider company about the results and progress. Plus, it ensures that each identified issue is being aimed to be resolved, rather than left to become bigger problems.
- Can be a statistical tool AND a problem solving tool — The dashboard for each company (visible to everyone) shows how many problems are posted, and how many of those are resolved. This is a simple yet solid indication of how effective the HR team is in improving employee experience.
Everything aside — it’s been widely recognised that companies need to be able to adapt rapidly to stay competitive. Testament to this is the increasing number of businesses where agile methodologies are adopted in departments outside of software development. Why should we wait to receive employee feedback in a formal setting once, maybe twice a year? Wouldn’t it be more effective if we were to know what matters to our people in real time, and make improvements when it’s relevant?