Employee Engagement Timing

Getting employee survey timing right

When it comes to employee engagement, timing and balance are critical. Similar to many things in life, too little or too much of any given thing can cause outcomes we didn’t intend. For example, if you have too little time for yourself, you may start to feel unappreciated, tired, overwhelmed and frustrated. Likewise, too much time to yourself can start to build feelings of loneliness, self-doubt and sadness. Granted, the balance is different for each of us—but the key is finding that perfect balance—the combination that puts us at our most productive selves, increases our feelings of value and makes us feel rewarded for our efforts.

Too much is harmful

Well, it’s no different with employee engagement surveys, too much of it can cause us to sabotage the results because we no longer take it seriously, it becomes “a task” rather than an honest feedback session. We may begin to always mark the highest values just to just get it done, or we may pick random answers, so we can soar through it and move on to the next thing. Likewise, we could simply start to ignore it because too much of a good thing creates a decrease in its value.

Workforce Science Associates recently contracted Fairfield Research to do a study of the American Workforce. And we learned that employees who report taking four or more employee surveys a year passively sabotage the results. They pay less attention to the survey items, are less truthful and are less likely to complete or even take the survey at all. This means that after a certain point, the more you survey the less you can rely on the accuracy of the data.

In fact, organizations that survey too frequently are making decisions from surveys that have no information from nearly one-fourth of their employees. Gulp.

Too little is dangerous

So, do you scale back? Yes, but not too much. Some companies have chosen to drastically scale back and create a semi-annual survey because of the time and effort it takes to create a useful, valuable survey process. But, this is not a good idea. You see, surveys don’t move the needle unless managers act—if you aren’t checking back in with your managers and your people for two years, it sends the message “we don’t care about taking the time to give you feedback.” After two years, so many factors could have changed that you won’t know whether it worked or not and you’ll essentially be starting over.

If there are significant changes, you won’t be able to pinpoint what caused them, i.e., turnover, change in business direction, change in leadership, introduction of new programs, cancellation of existing programs, etc. Or, maybe the market evolved in ways that touched your business in a positive way or a negative light. If things go sour in those two years, you’ll have a hard time holding managers and leaders accountable because the variables are just too vast.

Get it just right

So, what is the perfect balance? An annual survey with action items, follow-up, coaching and leadership involvement is key. Pulse surveys every six months can be helpful but aren’t always necessary. The truth is, a strong employee survey program should be a built-in function to any company—one that is repeated and acted upon annually.

With the onslaught of technology, and the ease of creating a new report, we are tempted to analyze, create and repeat. And, credit must be given to technology because it’s made the survey process simpler and removed many of the barriers from the past. But, if we’re not careful, the speed and quantity of the data can start to overtake the quality of the information. Take note that just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

To learn more about Best Practices for Employee Engagement Surveys, view Engineering a Powerful Employee Engagement Survey.