Employee surveys are junk! (and other mgt. fears)

Now, us folks here in this forum get the value of employee surveys. When done well and with expertise they are an excellent starting point in a longer process of understanding and engaging employees in an awareness of how actions link to purpose and what can be done to transform organizations on a continuous basis.

And then there are others. You know who they are. The following are common statements and reactions from those who use the word “employee survey” as a handy substitute for their worst expletive. They may seem bitter and angry, but they’re just fearful. Here’s how to spot the Fearful Few, the language they use:

1. “Only negative people answer surveys.” You usually hear this when an employee surveys shows only 12% of employees have high morale and 3% trust the boss. Of course if that were true there would never be any positive ratings on any survey–and usually there are. It’s very easy for those feeling responsible for survey results to adopt the “3-D Defense:” Deny, Deflect, and Delay. The challenge is to help those feeling guilty, angry, or defensive to start looking through the lens of process not personality. What process, system, or structure needs addressing? Bearing in mind that in some cases personalities and behaviors are indeed the cause of grinding in the gears.

fr1110011d-fig002. “Surveys just tell me what I already know.” Maybe so. But what the survey data will then do is scientifically confirm and validate what you know. You can then move from good gut instinct to proven results–facts as well as feelings. Which helps with credibility when arguing for change, projects, or plans.

3. “Employees are sick of surveys.” Actually, no. What employees are sick of are surveys that ask them questions and appear to ask for input and then disappear into the far reach of some distant galaxy, never to be mentioned again. If you’re serious about starting a processes of engaging employees through a survey, then quickly share the results, create meaningful conversations with employees about why the ratings are what they are, and take actions.

Most progressive organizations regularly survey employees to gauge how they feel about the workplace, what is important to them, what helps create high morale and engagement, and where weaknesses appear in structures, systems, and processes. It is done because how employees feel affects how they do, which impacts how they and the organization are received and trusted by customers and clients. Fear is often equated with a sense of powerlessness and the unknown. Perhaps we can create survey-fearlessness by helping the wary and suspicious understand that asking employees what they think is actually very empowering for all involved.



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