Have Employee Surveys Become Too Commonplace?
In most of today’s larger organizations, employee surveys have become commonplace. And, on the surface at least, that would seem to be a very positive thing.
Employee surveys, after all, are intended to be a form of two-way communication with members of a company’s workforce. They are intended to provide senior managers with invaluable insight related to how employees think and feel about their jobs and their futures. They are intended to help management assess and measure things that would otherwise be ambiguous, like degrees of “alignment” and “employee engagement”. They are intended to identify issues and ultimately lead to positive organizational change.
They are intended to accomplish a whole lot, as a matter of fact. But, the reality is… if we’re being entirely candid here… they don’t. Employee surveys themselves may be commonplace, but the other thing that’s common is how little value most organizations realize as a result of their use.
Yet companies continue to conduct employee surveys. It’s at least a little bit like the extensive educational programs that companies provide related to retirement benefit plans. They keep doing it, but everyone involved knows that the outcome isn’t going to turn any heads in the C-suite, or find its way into the key accomplishments section of the annual report.
In some companies, the annual employee survey has become little more than a line item in HR’s budget, subject to reallocation should anyone present a palatable reason to do so. If you don’t readily share this view, just consider a company that will readily spend untold millions communicating with external customers, while firmly believing that its employees, as internal customers, are its most important assets. That same company may cut its budget for the annual employee survey in order to merely save what it costs to treat their employees to a Starbucks’ coffee.
Unquestionably, employee surveys should be delivering real value to a company and its management. As a management tool, surveys aren’t “new” by any means, there’s no shortage of established and seemingly credible suppliers, and it would seem that today’s technology would only be serving to make the outcomes that much better. So… why don’t they? Why do so many corporate executives have such limited expectations as to the value that is likely to accrue to their company as a result of conducting an employee survey?
Properly designed and executed surveys are clearly capable of delivering a great deal of value to a company and its leadership. But you can’t blame an executive for having low expectations of an employee survey’s value after having been-there-and-done-that numerous times only to find that at the end of the survey rainbow there’s no pot of gold. High-quality employee surveys have significant monetary costs and require significant amounts of time. If the value received by a company as a result of conducting such surveys is nebulous at best, then perhaps treating employees to a cup of coffee is the better choice.
Doomed from the Start by Conventional Wisdom
It should be noted that an employee survey is a sophisticated statistical instrument that must be designed, implemented, and interpreted by highly educated professionals. It is a field in which PhDs reign supreme, as mere mortals await cross-tabulation of statistically valid trend reports that compare internal benchmarks with normative data in terms of highest and lowest quartiles, and… well… blah, blah, blah.
Just a quick perusal of employee survey provider websites drives the point home. While there may be subtle differences between how various employee survey companies describe their processes for conducting a survey, they are only subtle differences. For the most part, the conventional wisdom purported by the industry leaders is essentially identical. They collect data, analyze data, diagnose issues, prescribe solutions, and generate reports. One well-known employee survey provider describes its process as having the following steps:
- Survey Design & Deployment
- Data Collection
- Data Analysis
- Diagnosis of Issues
- Comprehensive Data Cross Tab Reporting
- Data Archiving for Future Trend Analysis
Isn’t Anyone Listening?
All of the “experts”, all of the process steps, and all of the supposed “best practices”, and still NO ONE IS LISTENING. Surveys are designed and conducted, results data are gathered, analyzed, interpreted and reported upon ad nauseam, and still companies commonly realize little value from their surveys and even less changes as a result.
Certainly surveys are a science, and a fairly complex science at that. But underlying complexity is no justification for designing a process that continues to fall short of expectations. There are many products and tools in our society today and the ones that we derive the most value from are those that hide their underlying complexities so that we can use them effectively.
Consider Apple’s iPod. It’s an MP3 player, which is defined as “a consumer electronics device that stores, organizes and plays digital audio files compressed using a standard developed by the Motion Pictures Experts Group known as MPEG-1, Layer 3”. Well, isn’t that nice? And if that was how MP3 players were marketed, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would own one.
The iPod, however, while being precisely that which has been defined, isn’t that at all. With only one wheel to scroll and only one button to click, Apple has made what was complex into a simple function with a simple purpose.
The point, as it applies to conducting employee surveys, is that conventional wisdom’s “best practices” completely overlook the primary objective of any employee survey, and therefore render such surveys incapable of delivering real value to companies and their executives.
How to do more than just an employee survey
Perceptyx is a provider of employee surveys that was founded with the explicit purpose of breaking with the conventional wisdom on why and how such surveys should be conducted in order to maximize their tangible value to organizations and their management teams. At the core of the Perceptyx difference is the ability of its process and platform to demonstrate that a company’s management is actually LISTENING. And there should be no question that listening is what matters most.
Contrast the Perceptyx employee survey process with the process of other survey providers. Instead of collecting data, performing lengthy analysis, diagnosing issues that may not apply to all respondents, then prescribing “ready made solutions” that end up in reports generated weeks or even months later, the Perceptyx methodology consists of a very different approach:
A Better Approach
ASK: Perceptyx helps companies understand how to ask questions, and how not to. A well-designed survey should ask people what they think, not “collect data”. And don’t ask a question if you don’t want to know the answer!
LISTEN: Don’t analyze, listen. No, really listen. Listening is what creates higher levels of employee engagement. When employees see that senior management is listening to them, they become more willing to listen in return.
RESPOND: Respond quickly, today, or you’re not really responding at all. Don’t analyze, diagnose, prescribe or tell people what statisticians have concluded. The Perceptyx platform allows managers to report immediately on what people said and demonstrate that they are in fact, listening.
INVOLVE: Bring employees into a collaborative process. Teams form naturally when we remove the things that prevent them from forming. Identify obstacles that prevent “us” from achieving the things “we” all want… and eliminate them.
SOLVE: Meaningful solutions don’t have to be exhaustive. Even small changes that result from a company listening to its employees will change perceptions about a company and its leadership.
The underlying complexity of the Perceptyx platform and process, although advanced, sophisticated, complex, secure and robust, is also largely unseen by its users. It’s an employee survey process that is supported by an easy to use system for the purpose of accomplishing what every employee survey’s primary objectives should be, That is, to ask, listen, respond, involve and solve the issues getting in the way to engage, and to increase the bottom line.
The Perceptyx process is not the result of taking an existing process and simply putting it online. The entire process, including the methodological aspects of the employee survey, has been fundamentally designed from the ground up around a new set of rules.
The outcome of the Perceptyx process includes increased engagement, the creation of momentum, and the elimination of obstacles. It is a process that cannot be stopped or derailed by any individual. And the results can be measured in terms of increased productivity, greater employee job satisfaction, reduced turnover, along with countless other customized metrics.
Simply put... Perceptyx is the only employee survey provider that offers a process, a method, and a technology that consistently delivers real and recognized value from employee surveys. It’s also a company that has been quietly revolutionizing the employee survey industry as it has added Fortune 100 companies and others from around the globe. All have discovered the Perceptyx difference.