Why employee surveys don't work?

One of the best tools to measure the level of employee engagement is conducting internal on-line or off-line surveys. An article on Harvard Business Review claims that "Employee surveys are still one of the best ways to measure engagement".

But if experts believe in surveys and if so many companies are still conducting surveys, then why in many cases they don't work and leaders are not happy with the results and analysis?

These reasons are what we found out based on our experience:

A) Dialogue or monologue?

Most of employees fill in the first survey in their organization with great hope and passion but then they expect two outcomes:

1. An honest report

2. Change of behavior, specifically in higher management

If they see these changes, then they fully support the next survey. But if they lose their trust then either they don't take part in the next survey or they don't give us the real information from their point of view.

Surveys are not monologues. They are addressed issues that need to be communicated by management with employees!

B) Why so late?

Usually, companies take action so late that emotions are boiling and finding the truth is very difficult out of any survey!

Surveys are not reactive tools but pro-active tools. Expert employee relations managers always feel something small and before it turns to an avalanche, they double-check their understandings by asking employees officially.

C) On-time survey but late reaction!

Sometimes companies are fast in conducting surveys but either they are too hierarchical or they analyze things so late that the nature of problems gets changed. They kill the on-time reaction by delaying in result delivery.

Sad but true!

D) Is it an interrogation or a survey?

The design of the questions needs a deep understanding of the problem, people, culture and mindset. We can't ask biased questions. We can't tell the story from our point of view. We should see things wider and questions should help people to talk and not to be scared.

If it's really a survey then please don't go on a witch hunt! Don't try to find out who wrote something unpleasant or who gave you negative feedback. Take it easy! Things happen. Solutions are more important. Focus on ways to solve the problem, not people.

E) Low level of participation.

If there is a low level of participation then statistically the extracted data is not reliable.

F) Too many questions.

Long surveys, make people tired. They get confused!

It is absolutely true that working with people is difficult and it requires patience, experience, and passion. We can call it an art, truly. So, good luck dear artists!