Survey Fatigue

I’m not a big fan of annual employee engagement surveys. I dislike the habit and ritual that lies behind them. They are positively dangerous when driven by ‘learners’ and they are massively overpriced and disruptive when driven by ‘experts’.

I worry that they offer the illusion of proactivity and action to the executive team and the spectre of failed promises to everyone else. And by the time the analysis is done and workshops rolled out, it’s all a bit tired and out of date. On top of that they are the ultimate time-suck on busy employees who have got a lot more to worry about than completing a 70 question survey.

pig on scalesAt the risk of exposing myself as a bit of a limp wrister, I think that intuition is a much undervalued tool. I think there is much truth in the old rural cliché, (which admittedly I have slightly bastardised) – ‘you fatten a pig by feeding it, not by weighing it’. Any farmer can tell just by looking at his drove whether or not they are eating enough.

There’s no escaping the fact that some people quite like data. Not everybody feels quite so comfortable with trusting intuition. So naturally I accept there must be some middle ground here.

So how about an approach that provides the same data you can get from an annual survey in ‘real time’ at zero cost?

Many companies use Net Promoter Score (NPS) to provide quick feedback from their customers. Its key selling point is it is quick, easy and most importantly, it respects your customers’ time by only asking them a single, straightforward question – “How likely is it that you would recommend [your company] to a friend or colleague?”

Many companies (including Apple) have adapted this approach and deployed it internally (eNPS). I’ve done it myself and it works. Once a month send one twelfth of the company a two-question survey, making sure that no member of staff is surveyed more than once a year.

  1. “How likely is it that you would recommend [your company] as a place to work to a friend?” (provide a scale of 1 to 10)
  2. “Tell us more if you’d like to” (provide a free text box)

Use the same scoring mechanism used by NPS, which over time allows you to plot your performance. The verbatim feedback provides a rich seam of regular feedback that is fresh and ‘in the moment’.

The most important thing is that you examine and share the monthly feedback with those tasked with improving organisational effectiveness and development and you put it to good use. Regular strategic and tactical interventions are made possible by adopting this kind of agile alternative to the annual behemoth.

Winner winner chicken dinner…

2 thoughts on “Survey Fatigue

  1. Annler says:

    An organisation has a problem if the management team don’t know their staff’s view without a survey.

    BTW: I now ignore surveys, I can’t remember a single one that has lead to any substantial changes or any changes that have lasted more than 3 months, total pointless.

  2. On one level I agree with your first point Annier and of course a survey is not the only way to dig deeper for more insight if it is needed. I do feel there is a place for surveys, just not the big annual ones. I’m probably the opposite. I never ignore a survey. I don’t often see tangible evidence of change or improvement after completing them, but ever the optimist I figure that if someone is asking, then someone may do something with the responses. I’m always brutally honest in them and I never seek to hide behind anonymity. I feel that if I cooperate by completing a survey I have earned the right to have an opinion. If I just moan about things whilst ignoring opportunities to provide feedback I don’t really have a right to complain. Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving your feedback!

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