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The Unintended Consequences of Employee Surveys

— by Bill Cushard

Learning development

Employee surveys can be an excellent tool for discovering what employees want from the organization in order for them to feel engaged and productive. However, organizations can actually do more harm than good if the organization is not prepared to act on the results of the survey, and share every detail about the feedback received, actions taken, and the reasons why actions were take and why actions were not taken.

Companies often struggle with the issue of how to keep employees engaged in their work. Everyone knows, and it stands to reason, that when a company has engaged employees it is more effective. It has lower employee attrition, higher customer satisfaction, better innovation, and it makes more money.

Managers schedule meetings and brainstorming sessions to come up with ways to better engage employees in their work, like improving employee recognition programs, giving more authority to the front-line, or including employees in more decisions about how the organization should service customers.

So rarely do companies just ask employees what they want. And why should they? If a company does an employee survey, they have to ready to respond to the results of the survey or risk making employee morale worse.

By surveying employees, a company shows it cares, but when employees never hear about the results of the survey and never hear what actions were taken, a company shows it doesn’t care to a degree far worse than the caring it showed by launching the survey in the first place. Employees will become more cynical and less engaged and managers will be left scratching their heads once again.

Beware the unintended consequences of employee surveys. If you do regular employee surveys, you must be prepared to communicate results regularly, take action on the top concerns, and most importantly, communicate the actions taken and issues addressed. If you don’t, you run the risk of creating a culture of actively disengaged employees.

More about employee training and retention on the Mindflash blog.

Bill Cushard, Chief Learning Officer at The Knowland Group, is a learning leader with more than 12 years experience in training and performance improvement at companies such as E*TRADE Financial, Accenture, and Time Warner Cable.

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