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 And by the time the analysis is done and workshops rolled out, it’s all a bit tired and out of date.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.
At 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.
- “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)
- “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…