Why Some Employees Dislike or Distrust Engagement Surveys

Employee engagement surveys are conducted in virtually every company across the world. But research shows that only 22% of companies show favorable results from their engagement surveys. Evidently, there is an apathy towards employee engagement surveys. But, why are so few surveys generating positive results? 

Popular engagement survey discourse may have you thinking that employee engagement surveys are conducted to measure employee engagement. But that’s not it. The real purpose of conducting engagement surveys is to actually improve employee engagement. Merely checking-in with the engagement of employees doesn’t solve the problem. 

Employee engagement surveys are part of the foundation of building an effective engagement strategy. Not only does it give a pulse of employee sentiment, but it provides information to leadership on the steps that can be taken to formulate actionable plans and bring about some real change.  

The people need to trust in the purpose of employee engagement surveys, and organizations need to take the appropriate steps to develop that trust. So, let’s take a closer look at the root causes that create a dislike or distrust of engagement surveys among employees, and some best practices that HR and leaders can use to remedy the issues. 

Why do employees dislike engagement surveys

The main reasons for the growing dislike for engagement surveys are broadly two – survey fatigue and an inconvenient method of delivery. 

  • Survey fatigue

When designing an employee engagement survey, the best advice you can receive is, “Less is more.” In other words, frame questions around topics you want feedback from, but with the fewest questions possible. 

If employees are forced to answer a hundred questions every quarter, they will soon tire of the process and lose interest in it. Therefore, bear in mind the attention spans and patience levels of employees as you design your employee engagement survey questions. 

One effective approach to start with a large survey, and when you’ve located particular issues, follow up with shorter pulse surveys. This will help you drill down to the issue, extract maximum insights, and hold the interest of employees in the engagement survey process. 

  • Inconvenient method of delivery

Surveys that are delivered in an inconvenient manner won’t be easily embraced by employees. They have to be designed in a way that integrates seamlessly with the flow of their work and doesn’t disrupt it. 

Ensure that polls and pulse surveys are seamless within particular employee segment workflows. For instance, field employees and Account Executives would be more receptive to mobile-friendly surveys than a desktop format, while those with desk jobs will likely prefer the latter. In the same vein, ensure that survey reminders get delivered in a similar format, such as SMS alerts for mobile devices and email & Slack reminders for desktop devices. 

Why employees distrust engagement surveys

A distrust in engagement strategies signifies a lack of trust in the process. When employees lack trust, they are less likely to provide authentic and genuine responses to engagement surveys.  And building effective engagement strategies relies on the accuracy and honesty of employee feedback. 

Distrust can stem from two main sources – anonymity and a lack of action. 

  • Distrust in anonymous surveys

Ideally, anonymous surveys are designed to give employees a sense of security and safety so that they don’t feel that they are jeopardising their job by providing honest feedback. However, the most significant issue that is raised with regard to anonymous surveys is regarding the virtue of its anonymity. 

HR and employers can work to build trust in anonymous surveys by following these three measures to help employees feel more comfortable in the engagement process and provide honest feedback.

  • Define the scope of anonymity

 

Employees will have a hard time trusting an anonymous survey if they don’t understand the specifics of it. HR and employers should take the time to provide a detailed definition of the term and its scope in relation to their responses. In that way, employees will have a clear understanding of how anonymity protects them and in what manner management & HR will use the data provided to them. 

 

  • Communicate with employees 

Survey responses are meant for the creation of effective strategies, which are designed by the management. Therefore, it is important that members of the C-suite communicate with employees regarding the importance of engagement surveys and how anonymity protects them. But, they shouldn’t just stop there. Managers should go beyond emails and announcements and actually socialize with employees regarding engagement surveys. Have discussions with employees, identify the issues from the source, and provide the clarity that employees need. 

  • Establish anonymity thresholds

Employers can establish anonymity thresholds within feedback software to protect the identities of employees if the sample size is too small. By filtering the questions and responses that fall below a sample size threshold, it can limit how upfront employees might be with their answers. Thus, it protects the anonymity of smaller employee segments, doesn’t not create more work for HR, and still preserves the sense of security that employees require. 

  • Distrust due to lack of action

 

This one’s possibly the most apparent source of distrust in engagement surveys among employees – the simple lack of action on the part of leadership. Eventually, after scores of responses are collected and employees still don’t see it having an impact on the orgnization’s policies and procedures, they lose trust in the process and perhaps in leadership as well.

Management must decide what actions are possible to enact and what are not, even before creating the survey questions. So, when employees raise their concerns, leadership will be prepared to communicate their understanding and be prepared in the steps they can take.

To sum it all up, employee engagement surveys aren’t simply exercises conducted out of curiosity. Conducting an engagement survey runs with the implied promise that leaders are willing to take action on issues that emerge. If you follow the remedies issued above, then not only will you have more engaged people, but the company will be a significantly more attractive place to work at.

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