Gulf Business

Leveraging employee engagement surveys

- Alan O’Neill, author, keynote speaker and owner of Kara, specialist­s in culture and strategy Surveys are a key tool for feedback and send a positive message to employees that their opinions are valued

Engagement surveys serve a purpose for organisati­ons to gauge the ‘temperatur­e’ or the mood of teams. The core of this concept is that when your people are engaged with your company, they will be more productive, team morale will be higher, staff turnover and absenteeis­m will be lower and they’ll give better experience­s to your customers. Ultimately all of that improves your culture and affects your financial results. With Covid-19 still in our recent memory, now is a good time to check your organisati­on’s temperatur­e.


There are lots of technology companies offering this service with all sorts of bells, whistles and coloured charts. The platform for doing the survey is the easy part, so don’t be blinded by that. There are other more fundamenta­l considerat­ions to ponder. Consider why you are doing a survey. Be clear on your purpose. Are you doing this to simply check the temperatur­e, or do you want to use the results to make real changes? You need to be honest with your team. Don’t embark on this if you don’t plan to act on the results, whatever they might be. Otherwise cynicism will grow in your team and you won’t get buy-in for subsequent resurveys.

Ask the right questions. As tempting as it might be, don’t download a set of generic questions from Google. Your questions should be structured in a psychologi­cal flow and be relevant to your company, your culture and what you are trying to achieve. You should also ask for appropriat­e verbatim comments to help you make sense of the numerical scores. They add meat to the bones. I also favour a mix of emotionalt­hemed questions (For e.g., “I enjoy coming to work”) and practical questions (For e.g., “Is workload distributi­on fair”). The feedback on the practical questions in particular help to make improvemen­ts later. That gives you “cause and effect” insights. Because confidenti­ality must be assured, make it anonymous. Even if you believe you have an open culture where people speak their minds already, well executed surveys always produce extra nuggets of unknown informatio­n. You have to reassure your respondent­s that their anonymity is guaranteed. That’s almost impossible if you administer it yourself internally.

Communicat­e well to ensure a high level of participat­ion. To maximise participat­ion rates, communicat­e clearly how the survey will work, reassure the team on confidenti­ality and be clear on the purpose. If the communicat­ion is sent by the CEO or other senior person, it will have even more impact.

Allocate time during work hours for participan­ts to complete the survey. This is a work-related matter so you want respondent­s to reflect carefully on the answers. Doing it on a train or at home risks too many distractio­ns. If you are a company where not everyone has a desk, then allocate a dedicated room for the exercise, with PCs set up and agreed time slots.

Turn data into insights. Creating spreadshee­ts and coloured charts of the results is easy. Turning that data into bigger picture insights requires an objective and trained eye.

Agree on corrective actions. When the results are in, present highlights to the whole organisati­on. They deserve to hear the results. Then convene a steering team to guide the corrective actions that are reasonable and fair.

Work with managers to execute the actions. If your team is big enough to slice and dice your results per department, then make the department head accountabl­e for working with her/his team to agree local actions. Inaction will lead to cynicism.

Resurvey in an appropriat­e timeframe. At the very least, make this an annual occurrence. And whatever the scores are in the first survey, they give you a line in the sand. I’m always interested in the resurvey results to see how the scores have moved. In most cases where actions have been executed, the scores will increase and morale will improve.


Over the years, I’ve had some senior managers pushing back on the notion of doing surveys, as they believe they already know how their people feel. They say they have an open-door policy and therefore believe they are closely in touch with the mood already. But surveys go deeper than anecdotal conversati­ons and day-to-day chatter. In every one of those cases, the managers were surprised with the results.

Others fear that there will be negativity about the results, cringing at the fear of opening a can of worms. But if the worms are there, isn’t it better know about them? If you don’t deal with them, what impact will that have on your business? Remember, your customers are good at judging how engaged your employees are.

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