Surveys Only Matter to Employees When Feedback is Valued by Leadership

The New York Times recently published an article, Why is Assessing Job Satisfaction So Hard?

In the article, the author argued that recent studies showing high levels of employee stress suggests that employee surveys aren’t doing their job. Specifically, the author is asking why, in a climate of more frequent and high-tech surveys, are they not helping to improve employee satisfaction and happiness?

This question is not just overly simplistic, but it implies that employees are one dimensional.

Employees experience stress for a number of reasons – some of them may be work related, like concerns over workload, frustration with getting the work done, career advancement, impending lay-offs or even long commutes that don’t leave enough time for family, but others may have to do with external factors that’s both unknown to employers or out of their capabilities to change.

We agree that employee stress levels are at a record high; our findings make that painfully clear. Additionally, employee stress is proving resilient to employer efforts to reduce it. But what does help is giving the employees additional ability to manage the stress they are experiencing, rather than trying to eliminate it. The New York Times uses the current stress level to question the role of an employee survey today.

We have the same answer that we’ve been giving since we founded OrgVitality in 2009: A strategic survey – one that is developed for an organization’s specific circumstances and challenges, applied authentically to the organization – will deliver important insights into what is happening at all levels and with all groups in the organization.

Critically, and the step most organizations miss, is that for a survey to have actual impact the organization must take meaningful action that is communicated throughout the organization. Surveys will matter to employees only if they see their feedback is valued by leadership. To prove this point, you can look at organizations where engagement is high, but so is turnover. This is a common example, and leaders may ask why people are leaving jobs where they feel engaged. The answer is that engagement – the dimension often considered so important it may be the only thing getting measured on a survey – is only one small piece of a complex puzzle. We liken it to the gas in a car; the gas makes the car go but is it going in the right direction?

If you want to ensure your survey has impact, start by making sure you’re asking the right questions.

Then look at what happens in your organization in the weeks, months, and year after the survey close. Are your tracking manager’s action plans and ensuring accountability? Have you considered pulse surveys to measure progress on a smaller group of items that are particularly relevant to your strategic priorities? Are you communicating survey results and action plans throughout the entire organization, including to any frontline workers?

At OrgVitality, we are committed to making sure survey efforts have meaning and impact.

That’s why we’ve focused on the development of our Action Suite, with our 12 week Manager Academy email digest that delivers targeted “just-in-time” micro-training to managers; Ping!, our automatic Nudge engine that sends timely reminders and action items to managers to help keep them accountable, and our Action Tracker that lets HR and other business partners view everything that is happening within the organization.

Of course, there will always be organizations who simply bring a “check the box” approach to surveying employees, but the majority of organizations truly want to solicit feedback with the goal of improving both the organization and the work lives of those within it. Our data also shows that where clients focus their improvement efforts, they see positive change. Employee surveys won’t be a cure-all for everything stressing out today’s employee, but they can go a long way in driving meaningful improvements.

Do you want to learn more about strategically surveying employees?

Join us for our upcoming interactive webinar – A Strategic Approach to the Employee Experience.

As organizations compete in today’s tumultuous environment, optimizing the employee experience can create a distinct advantage, boosting organizational performance. So how do you shape the employee experience in a way that benefits your unique organization? In this webinar, OrgVitality CEO Jeffrey Saltzman, along with Partner and Vice President Dr. Scott Brooks, will dive deeply into this topic, helping you craft a meaningful strategy for measuring and enhancing the employee experience at your organization.


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