How often should we survey employees?

How often should we survey employees? 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

As technology has advanced, it’s become almost too easy and cheap to survey your employees. Gone are the days when surveys were expensive and cumbersome. There are still expensive ways to do it, but you have options.

The fact that we can survey employees easily and frequently begs the question, should we?

As I have been talking with people lately about employee engagement, many are struggling with how frequently they should be surveying their employees. Unfortunately, there isn’t a “best practice” answer to this question. Anybody who tells you differently is probably trying to sell you something.

That said, there is a pretty simple way decide when and how often to do a survey.

If you can answer “yes” to the following two questions, then your survey will likely have an impact.

  1. Does your survey have a clear purpose?
  2. Is there a plan in place to follow up and close the loop with employees about the feedback they provide?

If your answer to either of those questions is “no,” don’t do your survey. It’s really that simple.

Your survey needs to have a clear purpose.  Why are you going to the effort, investing time and money, and asking employees to share their feedback with you?

It could be:

  • Gathering insights to improve the work experience
  • Measuring progress of company initiatives
  • Collecting input to inform a significant decision

Any of these are a good purpose for a survey. You might be tempted to create a purpose like “measure the pulse of our employees” but I would encourage you to resist.

A pulse suggests that the survey is simply a measurement like distance or weight. But a survey isn’t just a measurement.  It is the beginning of a communication loop. Which brings us to why the follow-up commitment to action is so important.

Here’s what happens during a survey.

We (the organization) ask you (the employee) some questions. The fact that I am asking these questions of you implies that they are important. And, the fact that you are being asked implies that your feedback is valued. This creates an expectation on the part of the employee that something is going to happen as a result of the survey (otherwise, why would you ask).

Doing a survey without closing the loop with employees is like stepping on a scale to weigh yourself but having no way see how much you weigh. The scale is taking a measurement, it’s just not closing the feedback loop with you by sharing the result. It feels pretty pointless.

That’s exactly how employees feel about surveys that lack clear follow up communication and action plans. Pointless.

So, here’s the bottom line.

If you have a clear purpose for surveying  AND you have a commitment and plan in place for follow up action, you can survey as often as is needed.

That could be once a year, once a month or once a week. People like being asked for their feedback when they know it matters and they see action as a result.

But being asked to respond to pointless surveys is annoying.

Bottomline? To do good surveys boils down to three words.

Don’t be annoying.

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