HR Management & Compliance, Talent

Pros and Cons of Employee Engagement Surveys

Does your organization utilize employee engagement surveys? If it does, you are undoubtedly familiar with many reasons why they’re often cited as being critical to gauging the “temperature” or “mood” of the workplace. Indeed, there are many potential benefits to be gained but also some potential drawbacks. We’ll explore some of each now.

Employee Engagement Surveys: Pros

Here are some of the benefits of conducting employee engagement surveys. These surveys:

  • Give the employer a way to measure how committed, satisfied, and content the employees are.
  • Can be a way to gauge whether there will soon be a turnover problem. In fact, the survey can even ask directly how long the employee intends to stay with the organization. Because these surveys are typically anonymous, the answers are likely to be insightful.
  • Can be a way to get anonymous feedback on how to improve the organization.
  • Can be completely customized to the organization’s needs. Ideally, there should be questions that are asked consistently from year to year (for comparison purposes), but questions can be added on an as-needed basis to allow for feedback on hot topics.
  • Can provide insight into where employee morale stands beyond what you see on the surface.
  • Can let employees feel heard, which can improve satisfaction. This is especially true if the organization follows up on the feedback provided and makes changes accordingly.
  • Are a way to track trends from year to year in terms of employee sentiment.
  • Can allow the HR team to make informed decisions about what changes could be made in the company culture to improve morale. When the company follows up on these changes, it can improve productivity and reduce turnover as a result.
  • Can even influence employees based on the questions asked. Simply asking about a particular topic can increase the chances the employee will do something related to that topic.

Employee Engagement Surveys: Cons

While there are clearly benefits to conducting engagement surveys, there are also some possible drawbacks. Here are a few. Employee engagement surveys:

  • Take time to implement and must be done consistently to derive the most benefit. There are costs involved no matter how straightforward the process is. The survey itself also takes time—employers must strike a balance between asking enough questions (to get the most feedback) and asking too many questions (so that employees give up or stop giving thoughtful answers).
  • Require follow-up. This is something that definitely will add to the workload. The work it creates is worthwhile, but it will definitely add to an already full plate. Simply conducting the survey is not enough. If engagement surveys are provided but no action is taken, it can make employees feel they’re being ignored. This may even be worse than not asking at all—it can make employees resentful or feel like the organization doesn’t care.
    • On a related note, if employees don’t feel their feedback will be taken seriously, they may be less inclined to offer open, honest, complete feedback on future surveys.
  • Even when the surveys are done anonymously, employees are often still wary to complete them for fear of reprisal over negative comments. They may fear there is some hidden way that their identity will be known. This is especially a concern in small groups, where it may be easier to deduce who gave which answers. They may be less likely to be completely open if there is any reason to fear repercussions.
  • Employee engagement surveys can often paint a very negative picture—even if the overall sentiment is not that bad. Be careful not to focus only on negative aspects; ask a wide variety of questions, and ask for feedback on things that are going well, too. In other words, don’t create negativity by dwelling on issues.

What has been your experience with conducting employee engagement surveys?