August 26, 2015 Anil Saxena

If You Ask Me How I’m Feeling One More Time

One of the worst things that an employer can do is to over survey employees.  Do you want to know how an employee feels after finishing the 100 questions “engagement survey” or the 6th company wide survey this year?
Like the organization they work for has no idea what they really want or need.  It indicates the organization has no clue how to really engage them.
As the parent of a teenager, I have learned the hard way that asking, “what’s wrong” 100 times only works to get my daughter angry at me.  It doesn’t show that I care; it shows that I am clueless.
Employees have heard too many times that they are the most important assets and seen too many times that how they are treated, listened to or respected doesn’t coincide with that.

Just asking someone how he or she is feeling doesn’t make him or her feel better.  – Dr. Phil
That reminds me of a story I was told a long time ago.  There was a new farmer from the city that bought livestock farm.  He was struggling to fatten up its prize livestock.  The farmer weighed them every morning. Each time the weight stayed the same.  The farmer checked the scale, brought out a scale expert and even bought an atomic scale. No matter how many times the farmer weighed his livestock, they never gained weight.  The farmer finally broke down and brought his livestock to the veterinarian.  The farmer told him all the woes of the many scales.  The vet shook her head and said, “there is nothing wrong with your scale son, you need to feed them to get them to grow.”
That is a silly story, but one that happens every single day in organizations across the globe.  We ask and ask and ask, but without the follow up we are just expecting the asking to get the job done.  Now that is silly.

1. The survey you use has over 30 questions– There is ample data that points to a phenomenon called Survey Overload. A survey that is too long is not focused and trying to get as much information from the respondent as possible.  There are three problems with this method:

◦ People get angry taking long surveys
◦ The data is seldom actionable
◦ It takes far too long to analyze
◦ The data will not point to any definitive issues that will result in higher performance.

Gallup’s Q12 showed that it is the right questions that enable action and subsequent increases in performance
2. There are too many surveys per year (or month or week) – This causes SurveyFatigue .  Survey fatigue gets people angry at taking the survey.  Unless there is follow up or communication for each survey, it will prove to the respondent that their opinion doesn’t matter

3. There is a big build up to the survey, but no communication after it for months.

How would you like it if someone asked you what you would make your living situation more enjoyable and then didn’t get back to you about your response for 4 (or more) months?  Sound crazy?  That is happening RIGHT NOW.  If you are not following up immediately with communication and within 14 to 30 days after the survey with results, employees will start to doubt you value their input.

1. Use a survey that has a handful of targeted questions that are actionable.  The survey should be geared towards what will move the needle for the very best performers.  It should be validated and designed to link to organizational performance.(

Survey less dialogue more – It is more effective to survey fewer times, but drive your leaders to talk more about how to create an engaged environment with their teams.  The survey should be a vehicle to discuss how to improve, grow and become more effective.  It shouldn’t replace dialogue.  The survey results tell you where you should focus your energy, but not what you should do once you know.
2. Communicate, follow-up, take action and communicate some more –

• Communication should be constant.  There should be ample communication regarding the rationale for the survey, during the survey, once the results are rolled out, and then at regular intervals until the next survey
• Give managers and employee learning about engagement and then actions to follow up.  Make sure they have the tools to be successful.  Yes, employees need that information too. They should own action taken as a result of the survey.
• The MOST critical thing to do with the results is to take some action based on them.  People will watch to see if what they said is being used to improve the organization.  Let employees know when Communicate when action is taken based on employee feedback,  They are excited to know their input has resulted in positive action and improvements
• Oh, did I mention communicating?
Don’t let your organization be the clueless farmer. Surveys are outstanding tools but WILL NOT make the organization more effective alone.  Employees will be engaged in the process only if the results are used to drive action and dialogue.  
How does your organization use surveys?  What do they do well?  What could be improved?


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