Employee surveys: simply a waste of time?


There are so many different surveys that offer benchmarking tools to help you assess your employee engagement.

Annual surveys are done across most large companies and government agencies. And while this is a good thing to do, research and anecdotal feedback now tell us that they aren’t keeping up with the reality of our working lives today.

We are told they don’t provide enough information, or they contain too much irrelevant data. The information isn't real-time and up to date, or they look at the wrong things. Most people can’t interpret the results and require help to ‘fix’ the problems it finds.

Research from Lund University in Sweden by Peter Svensson of the Department of Business Administration highlights several failings.

The research shows that surveys reinforce power relationships between manager and employee. Complex systems are reduced too far and simplified until they are meaningless, for example. Meanwhile, the employee voice is lost in categories and a sea of data. People do not feel listened to, and in fact, they can feel silenced.

What we need are alternative methods. These need to be local, not standardised. We need to work with, talk and listen to employees, and create more democratic, and flexible, decision making structures. It also requires people to focus on relationships rather than individuals like the manager. All these elements combine to support engagement in organisations which today are evolving so rapidly.

We’ve been using the Four Rooms of Change® to do just this. It provides a solution to use instead of or as a supplement to surveys, for example where we find hot spots or we need to identify the key issues. It helps employees and managers develop solutions and builds strong relationships within teams.

The Four Rooms of Change® unpacks what happens with people and organisations in transition, and how they can influence the change process by taking responsibility for their emotions and actions.

The Organisational Barometer, one of the theory’s tools can be used with whole organisations or distinct teams within organisations. It allows teams to discuss and agree on the actions they see as necessary to engage people, fix problems, or simply benefit from what they are doing well.

Along the way, it allows people from all levels to openly discuss what they see as needing to be done. And it helps people better understand how the different views of their circumstances impact on what is happening. Because ultimately, we all have a role to play in making change. And we don’t want to waste precious time in doing so.