Engagement Survey or Culture Bomb? 3 Employee Survey Best Practices

May 1, 2019

While some argue that employee engagement surveys are dead, they can be quite effective in moving the needle on company culture if they’re used correctly. Think of an engagement survey as a thermometer and your company as your baby.

If you check your baby’s temperature and the thermometer reads 104 degrees, you wouldn’t say, “that’s unfortunate,” and go on with your day (let’s hope!). You would take the necessary steps to nurse your baby back to health and keep your baby nourished and content through the process.

This is where companies fail.

More and more organizations are viewing annual engagement surveys as another box to check, and once the study concludes, results are put on a shelf to collect dust until the following year. [Note: This post was  updated August 2022]

An engagement survey without action is like a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it.

Please excuse the analogies – I’m in a whimsical headspace today. But I think I’ve made my case.

Sadly, employees are growing more skeptical of engagement surveys because they aren’t seeing resulting action. According to one study, 80 percent of employees believe HR managers would not act on survey results.

If you’re going to move forward with an employee engagement survey, do it right. Take the following 3 steps to build engagement, not bomb it.  

1. Ask employees questions that matter.

A recent Fast Company article I read made an excellent point: “When deciding on survey items, ask yourself: What would we do immediately if this item scored low? If it’s not actionable, it’s not measuring something that matters.”

Likewise, our Research team are firm believers that you shouldn’t ask your people for feedback unless you’re prepared to ACT on it. Needless to say, think before you ask so you can design your engagement survey (or any survey!) for actionable data.

Read our blog: Designing Employee Surveys for Actionable Data

2. Share your engagement survey results.

Take the time to acknowledge and thank respondents for their time, and let them know when they can expect to see survey results. (Don't let your company fall into any of these scary employee survey statistics!)

While it’s a potentially scary thought, sharing survey findings immediately builds credibility with employees and opens the door for two-way communication.

Most importantly, it holds leadership accountable for taking action – leaving employees feeling seen, heard and gratified. And if you need help communicating tricky results, we have additional resources to help.

3. Take action with your employee survey data.

When you ignore engagement survey data, your culture inevitably suffers. Employees become skeptical, trust deteriorates, and resentment builds.

As soon as survey findings are available, review them and work with stakeholders to build an action plan. If the plan feels daunting, break it up into phases and go after some quick wins to build momentum.

As projects progress and milestones are met, talk about them. Promote your efforts wherever you can - all-hands meetings, your intranet, newsletters, Slack – let your employees know that you heard what they said and are doing something about it.

Make your survey (and everyone's time) count

Engagement surveys can an incredible listening tool for hearing from your people – and powering them up and moving the needle in meaningful ways.

Still, a survey is only as good as the questions you ask (think before you ask!), how you communicate your results (no matter the results), and when you follow up with action and progress reports every step of the way. And if you need some help, never fear, our team of brilliant experts is here.

Download our resource: How To Get Employee Surveys Right To Drive Meaningful Change

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Patty Rivas

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