Why Measuring Employee Satisfaction Starts with Ditching Surveys

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To really know how employees feel, you've got to have your finger on the pulse. By Cheryl Kerrigan (VP of Employee Success, Achievers)

Employee engagement is an ever-hot topic. Particularly since Gallup’s recent poll revealing that 70 percent of employees are disengaged in the workplace, checking up on employee satisfaction has been at the forefront of many employers’ agendas.

Consequently, the “engagement survey” has skyrocketed in popularity as employers race to keep up with where employees stand. With its origins dating back to the late 1800s (when a pioneering industrial engineer decided to study how steel workers’ attitudes affected their productivity), this type of survey has certainly been enlightening for employers, but not as practically useful as they’d hoped.

When it comes down to it, engagement surveys are just bad science. Why? Because results can be skewed, analysis is slow and warning signs are in the rear view mirror.

Problem 1: Results Will Be Skewed

When it comes to surveys, timing is everything. Asking employees once in a blue moon about how they feel regarding their whole work experience will inevitably come with conditional biases influencing their state of mind in that moment.

A good mood, poor night’s sleep or frustrating interaction with a co-worker all become factors that can skew answers toward the positive or negative end of the spectrum. Additionally, by the time you’ve got all of the survey data on your desk, it may not include any new-hire feedback while, on the other hand, it still contains responses from employees who’ve since left the company.

Capturing feedback at one moment in time is like taking a snapshot rather than a video – it just won’t provide an accurate, comprehensive illustration of what’s actually going on.

Problem 2: Data Analysis Isn’t Timely

Traditional engagement surveys require substantial time for analysis – as much as three months! By the time results get back into the hands of managers, the data is already stale.

The whole point of such a survey is to help an organization enact positive change based on pertinent feedback, but rearview-facing data can be irrelevant – and weak, at best.

Problem 3: There’s No Smoke Before the Fire

Engagement surveys are typically annual institutions that only allow you to see what’s behind you. They don’t keep up with current employee trends or identify red flags so that you can do something about them in real time. Employee tendencies are difficult to track on an annual basis, not allowing managers to stay in proper tune with their teams.

So what do you do if you still want to keep a finger on the pulse of your organization — and, who doesn’t? This is where engagement pulses come in very handy.

What's the Solution?

At Achievers, we provide Engagement Pulse on our platform – a feature that provides an opportunity for employees to express their day-to-day engagement levels by responding to a single question on a daily basis. The question is typically scaled (such as 1-5) and can be accompanied by a series of related inquiries. It can even offer an option for employees to give written feedback so that each individual has the chance to voice present outlooks and share ideas.

The very nature of these daily pulses enables a more comprehensive view of employee engagement. The measurements are continuous rather than isolated and infrequent; they provide a more thorough panorama of the whole picture instead of just a moment in time.

Likewise, they don’t rely on generalizations to sum up an entire year of experience; instead, they regularly touch base with each employee for a more accurate reading of real trends and genuine attitudes.

One hundred — even 20 — years ago, the engagement survey may have been the best option for sensing how employees felt about their work. However, just as attitudes change, so does technology – and pulse surveys represent a much more up-to-date modality to check the true vital signs of your organization.

How do you monitor your employees' engagement?

Photo credit: Arthur McDaughtry via Shutterstock.


About the guest blogger: Cheryl Kerrigan holds the position of Vice President, Employee Success at Achievers where she is responsible for their overall people strategy, which focuses on attracting, retaining, and inspiring top talent. Cheryl brings more than 15 years experience in Human Resources; prior to Achievers, she held an HR Leader position at Eloqua.