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Best companies – is it really an engagement survey?

January 18, 2016

You’ll be aware of the various competitions devoted to finding the best places to work. Winners are chosen based primarily on their scores in a sample survey of employees’ opinions about what it’s like to work in the participating organisations. There are various industry sectors and size-related categories. The surveys, of necessity, are standardised, and there is therefore little or no room for the inclusion of organisation-based questions. The results rank the participants and are published in guides which potential employees can use when selecting organisations they might apply to for work.

The benefits seem primarily to be PR related. Clearly there are considerable benefits in being able to tell potential employees that yours is a highly congenial place to work. And it’s good for internal morale to be able to show the workforce that theirs is a better company to work for than many others.

On the other hand, the survey results are available only in general terms – how your business ranks in a particular topic area, for example. The potential to use the survey data internally – to review the scores of different parts of the organisation, for example – is extremely limited or non-existent.

And this is the rub. These competitions are an excellent way to achieve external recognition and thus to present a positive image to the outside world, both to other employers and to potential employees. But they do have limitations as tools the HR Team can work with to manage or improve employee engagement.

Which is why some of our clients have – after competing for a year or two – decide instead choose to carry out an annual (or more frequent) engagement survey, because they are of more practical value. Others decide to enter one of these competitions in addition to their regular engagement survey.

Engagement surveys are tools of change; they are infinitely flexible and adaptable to the needs of the individual business. They can be used to investigate what’s happening in the darkest recesses of the organisation and to throw light on why some managers achieve the highest levels of engagement in their teams while others find they can make little progress. They are not interchangeable with workplace competition surveys, which fulfil a very different purpose.

If you have succeeded in building a highly engaged workforce, enter a competition and tell the world. But if your focus is on developing, mapping or managing employee engagement, you’ll still want to carry out regular surveys.

Competitions and engagement surveys are not the same thing.

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