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Reasons Not To Blow Off Your Next Employee Survey

Posted by Insightlink on 07/20/17

When you take an employee survey the expectation is that something is going to change and it will be for the better. But what if the changes don’t stick or just fail to make any real difference for employees? If senior management did not respond the first time, the survey won’t have much credibility if it runs a second time. But a second chance still matters because it is one more valuable chance to get employee voices heard so it is critical employees don’t blow it off.

Reasons employees will blow off a survey are varied. In our experience the most common reason is employees are worried they will rock the boat or there will be consequences if a manager finds out what their employee said about them. Fear exists in some workplaces so it is important that employee surveys - at least the data collection part - be managed by an independent third party. We know that there are plenty of "free" or low-cost survey tools available that you can use to collect employee data internally. However, protecting employee anonymity - both in reality and in the eyes of your employees - is absolutely essential if you want to achieve the highest possible participation and if you're determined to get honest and reliable answers. Read how we guarantee anonymity here and why we believe it is a vital part of employee research.

The other reason employees will blow off a survey is nothing happened after the first survey. Our research shows that employees appreciate being asked their opinion but they give it with the expectation that things are going to improve. When nothing happens, trust is eroded which makes it harder to get participation next time. The message to employees is no one is listening and no one cares so, why should we?

What employees need to know before they blow off a second survey is their voice can still make a difference.

In an article published in the Workologist, Rob Walker shares tips about what to ask in your second survey to get the best insights from your employees:

  1. Encourage employees to avoid the temptation to be brutally honest. Calling a colleague out for annoying or poor performance won’t work and it won’t be helpful or useful to write that you and everyone else is miserable. It may be true but being hopeless or scapegoating colleagues isn’t effective and doesn’t address what is causing these problems.
  2. Ask Employees to be specific and give reasons WHY they are unhappy.
  3. Ask for their honest opinion and encourage them to make useful comments about programs that had good intentions but failed
  4. Ask them to tell you what you did wrong after the first survey. Let them point out what they heard were the priorities from the last survey and describe if there was no follow through.
  5. Make sure you ask them what they would like to see happen.
  6. Ask for their suggestions about ways to get employee feedback that would entice employees to participate

Walker says the upshot then is to get meaningful responses by asking the right questions so employees will avoid being personal and nasty, “Ideally, you want employees to split the difference between giving criticism that goes nowhere and playing it so safe that they’re not saying anything. “

It is okay to tell employees if they don’t say anything at all they can be guaranteed nothing will improve. A second survey is a second chance so employees need to stay positive and express themselves in a way that will come through clearly to senior management.

What should happen after the employee survey is completed?

Senior management can’t afford to risk blowing off the results from a second survey. There is almost no value to an employee survey if the results aren't used to promote improvements within the organization - in fact, you're probably better off not doing a survey at all than to get your employees involved, have them take the time to share their opinions and then do nothing with the findings. In our experience, it is extremely important that any organization-wide employee feedback initiative be followed by action planning that addresses the top 3-4 opportunities for improvement.

Employee feedback can help you see what’s going on in your organization. It’s important to check the temperature directly from your employees.

You never know where the next brilliant idea might come from or if you might discover a hidden piece of insight that could save your company from a costly mistake.

There's an old business adage that says "You cannot change what you don't measure." It's especially true with employee engagement and that's why we firmly believe in the power of employee surveys as a way to give you the insight you need to create positive change. Without that knowledge it's impossible to know where you have to take action.

For more information abut employee surveys, please contact us at, call Lynn Gore at 866-802-8092 ext. 705 or visit our website to request a quote at



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Insightlink Communications are experts in employee survey design, data collection and analysis. Since 2001 we've helped companies of all sizes measure and improve their employee satisfaction and engagement.

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