• Go-Up Team

Two Reasons Why Engagement Survey Doesn't Work

Engagement is all about the emotional connection between the employees and company. It is as if they are part of the long-term progress and growth of your business as a whole.

However, you cannot improve the emotional connection with a survey only. Let me give you two main reasons why is that.

1. People see employee engagement survey as a chore

Have you ever wondered why your employees and/or management tend to have such a negative, poor reaction to the employee engagement survey?

Nobody loves surveys – it’s just a fact. And companies keep giving their annual employee's engagement questionnaires to fill in every year.

Picture this, “Guys, we need to know your engagement level this year. Don’t worry; it’s only a 60-80 question survey based on experiences in the work that you’ve most likely already forgotten. It just takes 30 minutes of your time. And we may or may not let you know the results."

Sounds familiar?

With a lengthy questionnaire, people's concentration tends to wane after question 20th, and then they are on the mode to answer the questions as quickly as possible – usually filling out the questionnaire with 3s or 4s (the scale out of 5) for quick turnaround.

"And for the finale, after the lengthy questionnaires, please give us more information about what that is you would like to change in the company. That's all. Simple right?"

No wonder after the first or second year of the survey, it’s quite likely that the enthusiasm for answering thoroughly and honestly will begin to wane. Employees start to wonder how much senior management is learning and what have they done so far if any.

How many surveys have you handed out in the past year?

Have you ever experienced this when you are at the receiving end?

If not, then you will not understand how intellectually demeaning and disheartening filling out this survey.

As a result, you only get a large collection of generic responses and clichés, which has less to no value.

I came across one company, in a hotel industry that uses 120 questions engagement survey. The hotel manager told me, happily, that they have very high engagement score. But they feel the employee's behaviours do not reflect the survey results.

So clearly, you need to strive for quality of the data. Less is more.

2. Failure to follow up

The other most common reason for lack of success when using employee engagement surveys is that management fails to follow up.

So, you got a bunch of answers from people – well done. Now what?

When the employees do not get anything back, at least a conclusion or action plan, they will feel betrayed. They will eventually feel that it is a waste of time.

Unfortunately, though, this is what the vast majority of businesses are doing. They do not try to clarify the situation or learn about why the employees feel that way.

The cause of this is the lack of ownership.

So now, who own the employee engagement issues?

Isn't it HR? They take care of people, and employee engagement survey must be their responsibilities, right?

Well, it's not. HR helps regarding administering the survey, but everyone in the company needs to own the engagement issues.

What would happen if the CXO, Directors, and Managers think its the HR responsibilities, whereby those that closest to the people are themselves?

They wait for the big strategic agenda from the HRs and top management team which takes months to craft, and then it's a massive work to align with all the stakeholders and making sure they implement the strategic agenda correctly. As a result, the engagement initiative is mediocre at best.

Engagement is everybody's responsibilities. Are you the business owner? Or the manager? You need to own it!

It is your responsibilities to ensure that your teams are engaged.

So what can you do to support engagement initiatives?

1. Shorter and more frequent survey

Do yourself and your staff a favor. Use shorter and/or more frequent survey such as pulse survey. Remember, quality over quantity.

2. Use other instruments to measure engagement.

The survey is not the only tool to measure engagement. There are others such as one on one meeting, stay/exit interview, focus group. You can read more here. We have discussed how you can measure employee engagement using a combination of instruments.

3. Enable managers to engage their team

Engagement is a long-term game. You need to integrate it into your business process. One way is to empower and enable your manager to engage by giving the data they need to develop themselves and their team to build high performing team.

Tools such as Go-Up.Work enables you to do that by providing managers the dashboard of their own team with actionable insights. It gives the managers the right data to work with and sparks discussion between the team and management on specific issues.


Employee engagement survey often fails because companies and HRs rely a lot on engagement survey and they miss to follow up, or it takes a long time to implement the strategic agenda.

You need to start changing the mindset from "HRs own the engagement issue," to "I own it, the same goes for everybody in the company."

Use shorter and more frequent survey. This allows your company to be more agile and able to adapt to the situation at a fast pace. There are also other instruments you can use to understand your people better.

Lastly, enable and empower your managers to engage and take action directly to their team. It will significantly improve the speed of interaction and intervention.

Do this, and you can see massive changes sooner than what you expect.

Article by Witansa Angwidjaja

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