Good Intentions Can Backfire With Survey Overload
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
I think we’d all agree that these are pretty common phrases spoken or heard at the workplace:
Please take a few minutes to fill out this survey.
It will only take a few minutes of your time.
Hi. What you think matters. Please let us know.
Employees are all-too-familiar with how “valuable” their time is and how quickly management recognizes that while finding more things to request of them. (Just a few minutes, right?) And though at CustomInsight we believe that employee engagement surveys are an invaluable tool to assess the level of employee engagement in an organization, identify problem areas, and come up with strategies to improve and succeed, administering surveys too frequently can lead to survey burnout.
You want to be on the lookout for the signs of survey burnout.
Survey overload is akin to getting telemarketing phone calls when you’re just sitting down to dinner. They feel invasive, empty, and are a time suck, taking you away from your hot meal. And just as we’re doing everything we can to hang up the phone and get back to a now-lukewarm dinner, employees will do anything they can to get back to work, deadlines, and “more pressing” matters.
We get it. You’re really concerned with how your employees are doing with the new changes implemented. You’re excited! You want to check up on them, make sure things are working. But when you send out survey after survey, you can create survey burnout and, quite simply, surveys become a meaningless chore, the answers may lose validity, and your employees might start to game the system.
Here are some possible outcomes of survey burnout and gaming the survey system:
1. Giving desired answers: If you administer a survey and start to implement a cultural change in the organization, employees will know (should know) what improvements you’ll want to see . An employee, then, might answer the survey accordingly to reassure and just “get on with it.”
2. Getting out of the follow-up comments: Any survey that has actionable results has follow-up questions. Comments are the most valuable part of the feedback process to explain numeric results and, often, find solutions to the problems. An employee with survey burnout will find a way to answer to reduce these follow-up questions.
3. Boredom backfire: Though well-intentioned, those reunions (whether it be family or friends) packed with the onslaught of, “How are you? How have you been? What are you doing now?” start to feel empty, and our responses become canned sound bites to make it through the interminable evening. The same thing happens with survey burnout. If, three weeks ago, an employee is feeling X, it’s safe to bet that a lot hasn’t changed. So their approach to the surveys will soon become canned, and reactionary … not responsive.
4. It’s annoying: Taking time out to stop work to respond to the same questions that were answered a couple weeks ago is really, really annoying.
There is a place for follow-up surveys. are a great way to check motivations of employees throughout the year. Again, we recommend every 3-4 months for a couple of reasons. 1: Every few months isn’t overwhelming. 2: After a few months, you’ll have a chance to see if implemented changes are working. (Before, it’ll be too soon).
Yes. You want to know how your employees are doing and how engaged they are. Having a strategic communication plan is a better way to approach the day-to-day and leave the pulsing for every 3-4 months.
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