6 Mistakes Companies Make With Employee Surveys

August 4, 2022 Lynne Levy

5-minute read

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Employee surveys are an effective tool to understand the mood and concerns of employees, especially during these challenging times. Surveys help organizations uncover the issues that impact productivity and engagement, and when done correctly, provide critical data that can be leveraged to improve company culture. A recent Salesforce study revealed that employees who feel their voices are heard at work are 4.6x more likely to give their best performance.

There are six common mistakes companies make with employee surveys, impacting their results and effectiveness.

Mistake #1: Only survey once a year

With the onslaught of challenges we’re facing this year, organizations must start to survey employees weekly or monthly to effectively understand the mood and morale of their employee base. According to SHRM, two out of three employers believe maintaining morale has been a struggle during the COVID-19 crisis.

Implementing short, regular surveys can be a game-changer for leaders seeking to engage their workforce, gather employee input, and practice effective change management during these trying times. Here are some insights that can be gleaned from more frequent surveys:

  • Determine how employees are reacting to the current challenges related to social and racial unrest and COVID-19
  • Understand the impact remote work is having on employees
  • Determine how to address morale issues driven by feelings of isolation and stress

Some organizations survey their employees daily. Each morning at Amazon, employees are asked a different question related leadership, length of meetings, and other work-related topics.  

To effectively survey more frequently, you need to have a tool that is simple to administer with recommendations based on the survey results. Moodtracker™, the free survey tool from Workhuman®, provides out-of-the-box questions, driven by science, to help organizations keep a pulse on morale, engagement, and productivity.  

Mistake #2: Not taking into account survey fatigue 

Survey fatigue happens when employees feel more frustrated by requests to take a survey than motivated to give feedback. There are two types of fatigue:

·      Survey response fatigue happens when employees fail to complete surveys because of the high number of surveys they’re asked to complete.

·      Survey taking fatigue occurs when employees fail to complete a survey because it takes too much time.

When surveys are not seen as worth the effort, it can spiral into indifference that hurts engagement and morale. Survey fatigue often results from employees feeling disillusioned with previous surveys. The disillusionment most commonly stems from a perceived lack of action by leadership. It can also occur when giving feedback is time-consuming, confusing, and, from an employee’s perspective, meaningless. 

Organizations can simplify, clarify, and condense questions to reduce fatigue. Leaders must ensure that action is a focal point so that employees understand their input is essential to the organization. By asking just one or two questions with intelligent action from leadership after the survey, it can minimize the impact of survey fatigue (see Mistake #1).

Mistake #3: Asking biased questions 

Biases can negatively impact how surveys are written, affecting their reliability and effectiveness. Some examples of the biases that get embedded into surveys include: 

  • Confirmation bias, which happens when the survey writer seeks out data that confirms their point of view
  • Selection bias, which occurs when the survey sample isn’t representative of the group you want to apply the data to
  • Social desirability bias, which is when the respondent selects options or gives responses that present them in a positive light in front of their leaders

Response bias must also be accounted for within survey design. Aspects of the survey, such as the order of questions, language (e.g., metaphorical, ambiguous), and types of questions (e.g., open-ended, agree/disagree, scale), can all trigger inaccurate responses. For example, a question may use terminology that the employee does not understand.  

Administering a survey should involve basic scientific methodology to ensure accurate data is driving decision-making. Make sure data scientists are engaged with both the survey design and the analysis of results.

Moodtracker is created by behavioral psychologists and comes with insight derived from more than 50 million moments of connection. The science enables organizations to:

  • Bypass guesswork around what, whom, or when to ask
  • Avoid survey fatigue with surveys powered by smart sampling
  • Ensure every employee gets the right survey at the right time

Mistake #4: All talk, no walk

Even if an organization is administering weekly or monthly surveys, action must be taken based on the results. According to Gallup, when organizations send out internal surveys and do not take action, they have lower engagement levels afterward. Surveying with no follow-up is worse than doing nothing at all. 

Actions and discussions can be at the organizational level or at the team level. Don’t replace dialogue with data. Survey results should encourage productive and focused discussions based on the challenges employees are facing. These discussions can generate new questions and new ideas. Just brainstorming alone can increase the sense of connection between employees, improving both engagement and morale.

Mistake #5: Using surveys managed by a third party

Most organizations designate a third party to administer and deliver results, but the entire communication and change management process must come from your senior leadership team. With Moodtracker, the science-based survey questions and analyses are included with the product, so organizations can focus on building support, taking action, and communication.

There should also be one member of the C-suite (typically the CHRO) who is tasked with ensuring engagement remains a priority and survey results are included in business planning processes. The leader must be visible and should collaborate with employees across the organization to identify pain points, make recommendations, and implement solutions.

Mistake #6: Assuming correlation is causation

Statistics doesn’t come easily for most of us. When survey results indicate that two items are trending in the same direction, they may be causally linked (linked by something related to both), correlated (related), or simply a coincidence. For example, when both survey results and productivity results trend together, without more analysis, there’s no way to know which caused the other. Including a survey methodologist as part of your strategy is key to getting the most accurate results and insights from the data.

Companies must be able to change frequently to meet the needs of their customers given the reality of today’s business climate. And employees are an essential resource for making that happen. Keeping employees engaged and productive is critical, and giving them a voice through pulse surveys has been shown to have a direct impact on both these metrics.


Back to Basics: What Are Pulse Surveys?

Wellness Surveys: Questions to Get to the Heart of Employee Wellbeing

24 Questions About Work Environment To Include in Your Employee Survey

About the Author

Lynne Levy

Lynne Levy is a Workhuman evangelist who lives and breathes helping organizations build cultures that bring out the best in the employees. Her mantra is “do what you love, love what you do.”