Workplace Insights

Ditch the surveys; How to really measure productivity at work.


Employee Satisfaction Surveys Are Only One Piece of the Puzzle

Historically, companies and leaders worldwide have relied on form based surveys to measure employee engagement. It is often thought that by providing a space for employees to voice their opinions and feelings, companies will be able to better connect with their people and effectively assess satisfaction. However, at times the focus can be more on measurement rather than improvement and surveys often are not enough on their own.

It has become clear that relying on surveys alone is not enough to combat low employee engagement, which has remained at around 30% for almost 15 years, with no signs of improving. Organizations spend about $720 million annually, with a projected rise to over $1.5 billion annually on improving employee engagement, so it is clear that it is a priority.  Surveys provide good insight into the workplace, however when used alone they cannot capture the entire employee experience and may not be able to provide the complete coverage most organizations require to make fully informed workplace decisions.

2016 research from Deloitte University Press, employee engagement is “a business imperative for leaders at levels—above all, the CEO—and no longer something to be measured just once a year by taking a look in the rear-view mirror.” Sentiment analysis tools fill this precise need for enterprises to SMBs, allowing businesses to take a proactive and sometimes even real-time approach to addressing employee concerns before they escalate to larger issues including increasingly-costly turnover.”

Future of Work- How sensors and data are changing the workplace (2/1/18)

Employee Satisfaction Surveys Have Blind Spots

Frequency and reliability are two common blind spots associated with surveys. Surveys given once a year are often too infrequent and can lead employees to feel the need to voice all of their complaints and opinions at one time, even if they are generally content with their jobs. This can also work the opposite way with normally unhappy employees leaving positive reviews after an unusually good week. This phenomenon, or recency bias, occurs because employees are human and have fluctuating opinions and feelings that are easily swayed by present circumstances. It can be challenging  for people to distance themselves from their current opinions and feelings and report impartial observations. Because of this, survey responses often fail to line up with current office environments and as a result can be too little, too late. For surveys to be more accurate they need to be taken on a continual basis, so that they capture a more comprehensive view, rather than just a moment in time. Although giving surveys too often can lead to survey fatigue and employees can get overwhelmed and apathetic when having to answer so many questions on such a frequent basis.

Surveys may also have unintended consequences, such as damage to employee culture and morale if presented or managed incorrectly. Companies and leaders can struggle to implement real changes from survey responses, which can lead to them losing credibility with their employees. Asking an employee to fill out a survey implies that their opinions are valued and meaningful and that whatever response they provide will be addressed. If that feedback goes unanswered, employees often feel that their time is not respected and can feel dismissed and overlooked by their company. One study actually found that 80% of employees did not believe that their managers would act on survey results, a statistic which clearly shows the lack of confidence employees have in their leaders to enact permanent, tangible improvements.

Reliability and accuracy are also common challenges associated with annual employee surveys. At times, surveys can be too vague or might not be asking the right questions, leading to responses that are difficult to utilize and that can be challenging to understand how to fix. Employees also might not feel comfortable being completely honest, especially if they are worried about anonymity. If they are too specific with their responses, they may be concerned that they can be targeted or identified even if the survey is “anonymous.” This can affect the accuracy of the survey results and can make employees afraid to voice their true feelings.

We need tools to measure what people are saying on a daily basis, not an annual basis.

Annual employee surveys are typically the go-to method for understanding employee work and workplace sentiment, however it has become clear that they are not enough when used alone. Without the pairing of other data collection methods, survey results can be inaccurate, lead to damaged employee morale, and may result in time and money spent on hard to comprehend data. 

Employee Survey Types:

Companies should look to additional solutions to integrate with their annual employee surveys including spot survey and feedback surveys:

  1. Spot surveys: These are insitu surveys often asking for feedback on a specific workplace moment– A new space type, piece of equipment, service. The Workplace Solutions or facilities team often own and deploy these surveys- using ipads or scannable QR codes on posters in order to make feedback more user friendly. These surveys can come and go frequently in the space and can have positive impact in the follow ways:
    1. Spot surveys provide feedback in the moment on focused topics- aka rather than asking about all meeting room performance, we want to know about this specific meeting room we are piloting. This can help calibrate the workplace experience at a local level which can impact employee effectiveness and satisfaction.
    2. Spot surveys can make it feel like the space is listening to you- especially if the spot surveys rotate on a schedule and you can see changes and impact based on feedback. This can add to employee satisfaction and that ‘my voice is heard’ and that the workplace adjusts to my needs when I speak up.
  2. Feedback surveys: These are surveys most commonly associated with bookable space types through booking apps, like reserving a meeting room. After you have used the space the app will ask you to rank the experience and ask for an open comment, often if it is below a certain star ranking. These surveys have a positive impact on the workplace experience in the following ways:
    1. Feedback surveys allow the user to speak their mind in the moment and express specific pain points. Natural language processing can pull out patterns of sentiment and raise actionable items at a systemic level.
    2. Feedback surveys most commonly accessed through the users smartphone- which has a high likelihood of always being in the hands of the user. Access to the user can increase in participation, leading to more accurate sentiment over time.

Surveys can’t do it all and that’s OK.

If your only way of measuring the workplace experience is through surveys, it’s hard for you to say with confidence that you really know what is going on in your workplace.  A nice addition to employee surveys is workplace sensors. The  balance of surveys and sensors is not just about more data, it is symbiotic – both methods benefit and grow stronger through the relationship. 

The Symbiotic Relationship of Seeing and Saying:

With this pairing you can start to evaluate what people love versus what people tolerate, what people say they need vs what they actually do.  In this relationship, the true usefulness of the workplace begins to emerge.