Surveys: You Get What You Give

We recently put Surveys to the test on our website.  We polled our clients to find out if they felt that Employee Surveys were worth their time.  With more than 50% of the vote, clients responded “I guess. I've seen some improvements as a result.” I’m not sure where you thought this would come in but, from my experience, it’s about right.  It’s not so much that employees loath organizational surveys but rather many feel that if nothing is done with the information than why does management bother. 

While the questions you ask are important, taking action and following up on survey results is even more so. If organizations do not have a specific plan in place prior to initiating a survey, and employees know this from experience, than respondents will be less likely to provide honest feedback and input. In other words, you will get what you give. We’ve been developing and administering surveys with our clients for many years now and while technology makes it extremely easy for organizations to gather input from their employees, if your surveys aren’t  behaviorally anchored then you will be less likely to achieve what you set out to and won’t have specific, actionable feedback to make the improvements you seek. Next time you are considering surveying your employees, I suggest you make clear, beforehand, what you will do with the information you gather as a result.  If done right, your survey results can:

  • Identify areas for change in how work is done or how your culture can be improved and sustained
  • Uncover management and personal leadership practices that inhibit performance and provide steps toward improvement
  • Outline systemic issues that impeded or support business objectives
  • Expose practices and processes that unintentionally promote unsafe behavior
  • Create clear paths to achieve individual and team success

In the final analysis, surveys should be seen as the beginning not the end.  They are a way to find out what changes should be made and their priority.  If no changes are made the whole exercise was a waste of time and money.   If employees know that their input made a difference, you will get more valuable input in future surveys that will lead to bottom-line improvements.

Posted by Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D.

Aubrey is a thought leader and expert on management, leadership, safety and workplace issues. For the past 40 years, he has been dedicated to helping people and organizations apply the laws of human behavior to optimize performance.