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Why are some employees enthusiastic about engagement surveys?

August 5, 2010

A 40% response rate within 24 hours of launching an engagement survey. That happened in one client company just a couple of days ago. And we confidently expect that in two weeks' time the final response will be over 85%.  Pretty impressive by most standards.  So why is it that some organisations struggle to persuade more than 50% of the workforce to take part?

The answer boils down to employees' experience. If they have learned that survey findings are taken seriously by management, acknowledged publicly and that positive action follows, they'll invariably respond. If, on the other hand, people have found that management asks for views and opinions but doesn't take them on board or respond, it's hardly surprising that they become cynical, disillusioned and unwilling to engage with any consultative process like a survey.

So we find that the first time a survey is carried out there will often be a 50:50 split (or thereabouts). The 'half-full' members of the population will be willing to give it a try, while the 'half-empties' will stand back and predict that it'll all be a waste of time . At this point the future is all to play for. If the leadership team decide to share the results, comment and acknowledge the messages that come through from the data and commit to remedial action, the workers will react in like manner.

If the cynics' predictions come true, however, and little or nothing is ever heard after an engagement survey takes place, it's equally likely that should there be another survey, the response will fall - perhaps dramatically, depending on how many other similar experiences there have been.

So it's in your hands. Listen, acknowledge and respond actively and you'll have a direct and lasting influence on the climate within your business. People will be more committed and will look forward to their engagement survey. Believe it or not, in one case recently there were widespread complaints from employees when a survey was delayed - really! Or park the survey report in the 'too difficult' tray and reap a reward in terms of of apathy and cynicism - and all that implies for productivity and quality.

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