There are many articles citing the failings of the Annual Employee Engagement Survey.  These articles are often predicting, calling for and supporting the demise of the annual engagement survey.  So, are these authors and commenters correct in this?  Here is my take on it…

Is engagement slipping in your team: free diagnostic

Employee engagement is about forging a greater connection and a bond between the employee and his/her employing organisation.  It is about empowering your employees to understand the business of your organisation. It is about giving them the tools, context and environment to contribute more effectively.


So, does your annual engagement survey contribute to that aim effectively?


Where the Traditional Employee Engagement Survey Falls Down
  1. Too much confusion by definition

free sample employee engagement reportThe annual engagement survey can often suffer from the temptation to ask too many questions and measure too many areas.  Employee engagement is often confused with employee satisfaction.  These are all very different concepts and the presence of one does not necessarily indicate the presence of the other.  Employees are often quite satisfied while also being disengaged.


The annual engagement survey, as a result, is too long with too many items to be responded to.  Organisations often say ‘we don’t want to give them survey fatigue’ in reference to shorter but more frequent pulse surveys.  Then produce a huge questionnaire with many questions.  Some are general housekeeping, some are issues that management want a response on, some are satisfaction and some are engagement.  Fatigue sets in at the thought of working through it.  Sound familiar?


  1. Time lags

The annual employee engagement survey is a major event within HR Departments and boardrooms.  This is the yearly feedback and a rare chance to get a finger on the pulse of the organization.  Can you really call an annual survey as having a ‘finger on the pulse’?


There will be a long run up to the annual engagement survey followed by lengthy deliberation over the results.  It is a major event, after all.  There is also a time gap before the employees see action being taken.  Too often, this is too long and the actions taken have lost their potential impact.


  1. It is always a top down process

By definition, a survey is something decided upon and administered from senior levels within an organization.  Yes, there may be a consultative process leading up to the survey and focus groups both before and after.  This is all good, but it is still top down.  It is still only a once a year opportunity to get your voice heard as an employee.  It will still provide feedback on how people feel at a specific point in time but doesn’t give any more than that.


Trying to get more than that snapshot with the traditional survey is a time and resource intensive process, adding to the time lag mentioned above.  It also fails to offer much to the individual employee.  Disengaged employees will not trust the annual survey.  So, responses may be biased

  1. Localised feedback is problematic

Large and diverse organizations experience difficulties with breaking information and feedback down to reflect what is happening in local sites.  Just because the annual engagement survey cites a problem with communication doesn’t mean that this is a problem in every single office, warehouse and other sites your company may have either nationally or globally.


  1. Do they really contribute to creating engaging leadership & leaders?

The ‘localisation’ issue also applies when designing the required development interventions for leaders and managers.  It is widely recognised that direct line management is the most significant influence on employee engagement.  Does your survey feedback drive focused leadership development interventions?


  1. Too big, too cumbersome and too generalised

To summarise the points made above, the annual engagement survey faces too many traps that can make it too big, too cumbersome and the questions and feedback may be too generalised as a result.

What is your organisation doing to move away from the annual engagement survey and all it’s pitfalls?


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