An engagement survey, why many should not bother

How many companies, currently running an employee engagement survey, can tell you what it’s done for them and how it’s benefitted their business?

In our experience, sadly not many. But often not for the want of trying, or even a lack of positive intent, but simply because they don’t know what to do. And that goes for both the organisations involved and perhaps more importantly for the managers who are being asked to make improvements.

The reason they don’t know what to do is usually caused by one of two things and often both:

  1. They now have so much data they don’t know where to start, how to interpret it, or the ‘story’ it’s telling them….


  1. They haven’t invested in the right place. They’ve spent a load of money on gathering data but only then realise that the people who need to do something with it either don’t know how, aren’t confident or don’t even want to….

These days the world of engagement data is changing with an ever-increasing number of survey companies telling you that you not only need engagement data, but you need lots of it in fact you need it constantly. Lots of suppliers will now tell you that you need several ‘pulse’ surveys, or some form of ‘always on’ survey or some form of app or widget so people can tell you what they feel all the time……

At Loving Monday, we can help you with all these options, but 20 years’ experience in all this tells us that it doesn’t matter how you get your engagement data as long as it works for you. If you want an annual survey, great, many organisations have totally transformed their business by doing just that, most if not all the research, business cases, facts and figures you might’ve read have been proven using annual data collection and that’s not by accident, trust me. If you want pulse surveys, great, they can work well so long as you’re crystal clear on what you’re trying to do with them. If you want some form of ‘always on’ thing, fab, so long as you understand why you need it and what you’re looking to achieve. Just because it might be interesting and looks good isn’t enough.

There’s only two things that matter in how you’re collecting your data:

  1. Get it from someone who knows what they’re doing, and believe me, that’s not as easy as it sounds as there’s a lot more sales people, internal comms and software designers out there than engagement experts
  2. Don’t, whatever you do, try and collect data internally as that’s just a disaster waiting to happen for way too many reasons to go into here

Providing you’ve got those two right, what matters is that you ‘do something’ with what you get, and that ‘something’ is to use whatever data you’ve gathered in whatever frequency, using whatever tool you want, to ‘create a conversation’.

In our experience engagement data serves one purpose and one purpose only:

  • It helps you to prioritise the conversations you need to have, the subject matter you should be talking about and where in your business those conversations need to be happening

It’s from these conversations, and only these conversations that things start to happen, changes begin to emerge, trust gets built and engagement begins to grow. You can have all the data in the world in all sorts of fancy graphs and customisable online dashboards and it will change nothing, do nothing, unless you’re able to use the information you have.

So, to be one of the few who gets it right, who uses engagement data as they should and reaps the enormous business benefits it can bring, here’s a few tips:

  • Look at whatever budget you have for your engagement programme and spend as little as you can to get good, professional, clean data that’s easy to use, simple to communicate and action, and aligned to what you’re trying to achieve. If you can’t use it, or it’s not aligned to your business objectives don’t ask it.
  • Spend a significant portion of your budget educating your managers, and I mean all of them, not just the ones who usually get to go on the management development courses. Help them to understand why engagement is important, how their role is vital to driving improvement and what’s in it for them, and I mean personally for them, not just the organisation
  • Action things at a local level as well as at a strategic one. Yes, as a business you need to do, and be seen to do things with your data depending on the priorities it highlights. However you’ll achieve far more actioning things at a local level, doing things that people see, hear and feel daily in their teams that they helped to put in place and have a vested interest in making work. The little things matter and they all mount up.

Oh, and one final thing, stop obsessing about response rates. They don’t matter, the world won’t stop turning and in a few weeks’ time no one will even remember what it is anyway, as long as you’re getting a majority opinion, roll with it. There’s only one productive way of raising response and that’s to make it ‘matter’, if it does people will contribute.

If you get stuck drop us a line, there’s never a charge for a conversation and, to be honest, we quite like talking about this stuff so it will brighten our day.