Why annual employee surveys belong to the past decade: A checklist

Pritama Sarkar
January 22, 2020
Why annual employee surveys belong to the past decade: A checklist

The 2010s called. They want their annual employee surveys back.

Several progressive organisations have already ditched it, a few are on the fence, but quite a large number of traditional organisations still believe this is too important to give up.

We get it. Employee engagement surveys are instrumental in understanding employees’ thoughts, concerns, and frustrations around their working conditions, leadership, compensations, company policies, anything and everything that can affect their productivity and mental health.

However, these 20-page annual surveys are not the most effective tool when it comes to identifying underlying issues, providing significant insights, and taking action on the crucial factors that lead to turnover and lousy Glassdoor reviews.

Here’s why:

  • Annual employee engagement or feedback surveys are pretty outdated. These questions, when asked once in a year, fail to capture the real intention or motivation behind an employee’s actions. The results may tell you what your employees think, but not the reason behind their thought-process.
  • A survey by Allied Workforce Mobility revealed that companies lose 25% of all new employees within the first year. With annual feedback system, it becomes challenging to discover the cause behind dissatisfaction and to take immediate actions in real-time.
  • Growing organisations are in a constant state of transition; their goals and priorities change with the changing business needs. These traditional surveys aren’t ‘smart’ enough to evolve with time; thus, most of the data collected in the process end up being irrelevant.
  • It becomes nearly impossible to find a pattern or identify underlying issues since the result of the survey depends on just one data point. A few pressing issues that might have materialised months before the survey are usually ignored or forgotten.
  • It’s not cost-effective. The results don’t offer any concrete action plans or insights into the problems that plague the workplace.
  • It goes against the fundamental rule of agility. It doesn’t allow you the time to be pro-active or to plan future initiatives that may reduce employee turnover. You get the results when it’s already too late.
  • Speaking of which, it takes quite some time to get the final results of the surveys. By the time it arrives at your desk, chances are the at-risk employees who have been holding onto grudges have already started looking for other vacancies.
  • Sifting through the collected data is an exhausting task that requires time, patience, and energy. Even if you manage to comb through the data, it doesn’t offer you relevant talking points that can impact business performance.
  • Employees do not feel heard. Companies can’t act on the vague results, thus confirming the suspicion that the management team do not give importance to what they have to say. Naturally, they do not feel motivated enough to respond to the surveys honestly.
In the 2009 Cornell National Social Survey, 26% of respondents admitted to withholding information about problems or ideas for workplace improvement because they felt that it was futile.
  • The survey collects employees’ feedback, but it doesn’t let you delve deeper into the unresolved issues. You can’t ask follow-up questions or get a better understanding of the factors that impact their sense of well-being, for example, job satisfaction, autonomy, team spirit, personal growth, etc.
  • Similarly, due to the lack of consistency, it becomes difficult for organisations to distinguish between issues that are long forgotten and potentially harmful problems that need to be addressed now.
  • One of the crucial factors that affect the response rate and quality is the length of the survey.
Research records a 15% drop in response rate when a survey has more than 12 questions and up to 40% drop when it takes longer than 10 minutes to complete.

Since the surveys cover several different topics, it naturally becomes lengthy, which results in fatigue and imprecise responses.

Take a deeper dive into how modern engagement surveys work and how Winningtemp is reinventing the game by asking the right questions and providing the leaders with insights that they can actually use!

Pritama is the Content Marketing Manager at Winningtemp. An advocate for employee mental health, she is passionate about making workplaces fun, productive, and full of positive energy. That's surprising, considering her obsession with Stephen King and the psychological horror genre!

About the author
Pritama Sarkar

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