As an employee retention speaker and employee retention consultant, I am often asked, “Do engagement surveys work?” My response is…”Yes…and no.” Typical consultant answer. In this case, it is the correct answer. I do believe in engagement surveys. In fact, I was doing them WAY BEFORE they came into vogue recently. Back in the day, we used to call them “attitude surveys” or “employee surveys.”
When few people were doing them in the early 1980’s we were doing them to get our people’s thoughts as one of the ways to prevent companies I worked at from being unionized. We wanted to know what our people thought so we were not surprised by union organizing drives and we could address concerns/issues before they became problematic. We wanted to make our organization better and, to do so, we had to have a pulse on what our people were thinking, how they felt and if they were fired up about the work they did for us because we knew that was how we would remain union-free.
A proper engagement study that is done should rarely tell you anything that is a surprise. If it does, it means you are not in touch with your people day in and day out, not getting to know your people, not listening to their concerns and not responding when they bring up issues. If you wait 6 months to get “data” on an engagement study you will have one irritated, disengaged employee or an employee who has already said “screw it” and quit by then. The key is to be out there, wandering around, talking to your people and having a true open door policy so you hear concerns immediately AND THEN DO SOMETHING ABOUT THEM!
Beyond being out there and being proactive with your people, you need to respond to the issues that your people bring up in the engagement survey and actually do something about them. If you can’t do something about them, you need to communicate why you can’t and deal with the fallout. Most people can accept that. They just want to make sure they are heard and that you care enough to be responsive to those concerns.
If you are caught by surprise with issues that come up in the engagement survey you need to look at your processes to stay tuned into what your people are thinking. This is simple stuff…it’s just not easy. What is easy is to conduct an engagement study and deceive yourself that you are on top of things. If you do that, you will never truly get a handle on your employee retention.