Employee vs. Customer Feedback

Forty years of employee research – lessons learned

Companies have been conducting employee surveys for many decades, mostly with mixed results. In far too many instances, the periodic employee survey, sometimes expendable, has been an obligatory act of leadership to see what leaders could learn, if anything, by listening to their employees.

Until recently, there were few, if any, examples of executive teams that credited the survey process with either really significant organizational transformation in the short term or steady, consistent improvement in workforce performance over time.

Unlocking the science behind improved performance

After more than 45 years of conducting and supervising thousands of employee studies, interviewing hundreds of leaders – some great, some not so great – taking advantage of extensive opportunities to understand the techniques and results of many other survey companies, and then applying the lessons directly to building great companies of our own, we have learned some critically important lessons.

We have learned both the factors that have limited the impact of employee surveys and the techniques that unlock the power of the right science and process to make dramatic short- and long-term impact on the success of companies through the increased performance of their workforces.

Employee surveying requires a different application

The science and art of employee surveys differ in mission-critical ways from proven techniques that have worked so well in customer and consumer research and other forms of polling. We can demonstrate that this has been the major limiting factor in the success and impact of employee surveys.

When companies apply the same rules, techniques, and science to employees that they applied to learn about their customer base, the results are not only limited but also likely to be misleading and even counterproductive. Forty years of research and investigation have led to the following groundbreaking discovery.

“The requirements, commitments, and influencing factors for people who are buying something differ dramatically from people who are being paid for delivering a service.”

Sellers behave, expect, compromise, and commit differently than buyers do. Therefore, as we will show, the science and techniques that work well for one will backfire when applied to the other. Buyers continue to shop until they find perfection. They want it all. Employees understand instinctively that perfection is not an option. They know, to gain all the advantages and fulfillment of a successful career, they have to make some sacrifices. They have to give some things up. This simple reality changes everything.

We are passionate about this subject and would love the opportunity to share our insights and lessons with you to help you make a viable impact on your own organization.

To read more about the fundamental differences between employee and customer engagement, read Employees Are Not Customers.