Monday, August 13, 2007

Survey Paranoia

Employee Surveys. You either love them or hate them. For those that love them, you probably feel that as a whole they usually do make a difference and call (management’s) attention to areas that need improvement in a company. For those that hate them, you might be rolling your eyes and dismissing them as a “corporate fluff” and assume the position that survey results never get acted upon. I’ve heard arguments for and against surveys, yet I truly do believe that they make a difference – if employees are truly honest in their feedback, which brings me to the topic at hand; paranoia. It’s quite common that regardless of how many times management assures the work force that the results are anonymous and confidential, the majority of folks still believe that their answers are somehow tracked and that they will derive some kind of punishment if they get overly critical.

People. Stop. Being. Paranoid. Confidential surveys ARE confidential. Usually conducted by outside agencies or companies, they are designed for anonymity. Answers are tallied up by an independent third party and the individual answers never shared with ownership or management. In addition, do you know how expensive it would be to track each person’s IP address, match it up with the survey answer and then set out to analyze the degree of criticism in a large work force? Even in a 50-person office, this would probably cost more than the survey itself. Owners or managers who put forth an employee survey are not interested in using it as a punishment or tracking tool. The goal is nearly exclusively always to learn more about the organization and what’s on the mind of employees.

If you just mindlessly find yourself clicking through a survey without much thought to your answers, you would do everyone a favor and not engage at all. Employee surveys are VERY costly to design, implement and analyze. They provide employees with an opportunity to stop complaining under their breath, and to put forth some actual engagement into improving their work environment. If you provide only positive feedback (yet in reality feel miserable about work), you are only sending a thumbs up message to management that what they are doing is working. Consider yourself fortunate if you get an employee survey as your management is clearly investing in you and hope you will do the same in return, by providing constructive, honest and engaged feedback. The goal for management and ownership should be to keep the survey results transparent and communicate an action plan for follow up (UPS does this very well). The feedback loop is thus closed where the employee feels empowered to give feedback because he/she is actually heard.

1 comment:

Brian Finch said...

I so agree with this. My company is small (23 employees) but we still put out customer and employee surveys to ensure we're on the mark. However, our small size makes our employees even more obsessive that we are tracking their responses.

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