By Joanne Lockwood


We want to know what our staff think of our organisation, so we carry out our employee engagement surveys on an annual basis and get somewhat useful information back – but are we really getting the insights needed to understand the pulse of our organisation?

Let’s examine some of the pitfalls that limit the effectiveness of the survey and data that is fed back. First, organisations tend to survey too infrequently. There is this myth that people suffer survey fatigue, and it will turn them off and become less useful.

To counter this view, I advocate that the problem is actually “lack of action fatigue” – if you are polling without publishing the results in a timely and meaningful way, without highlighting the actions and insights that will result, is it any wonder why people get tired of responding – what’s the point?

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Organisations must adopt a “you said, we did” mantra from both internal voices and customers. Find ways to feel the pulse daily.

Secondly, organisations shy away from collecting demographic data. What is the use of insights if we don’t know “who said so”? We may find that 95 per cent of our colleagues are satisfied, but how can we drill down on the 5% to truly understand where the areas of concern lie?

I want to know if the people who are less engaged are from marginalised communities, what their length of service is, and the department or teams they work in. Only then can I work with managers and leaders to address those concerns, adding to KPIs and performance targets to ensure it is measured and actioned.

I know that many organisations struggle to get high response levels, and many also find a lot of “prefer not to say” responses. If this is the case it is a sign to think about how the engagement survey is being positioned and communicated – do colleagues understand why it relates to them?

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Often it is a case of building trust. This can be through employee resource groups or staff forums – but again I go back to point one – has “lack of action fatigue” set in?

And finally, are we asking the right questions? Too often I see organisations focusing on themselves, without asking the employee how they feel about key issues.

The most insightful question I have seen on an engagement survey is “I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work”, with an option to grade that from one to five. This one question tests motivation and engagement more than any number of subjective thoughts on the organisation. We should be asking our people “how they feel”, not “what they think”, types of questions.

When looking at inclusion and belonging the measurement is “feelings” – I feel engaged, challenged, and valued. How are you feeling?

Joanne Lockwood (she/her), an inclusion and belonging specialist with SEE Change Happen, is a guest writer on behalf of s1jobs.