The 12-Question Fallacy

How a Short Employee Engagement Survey Just Skims the Surface, Leaving More Questions than Answers

We’ve discussed Gallup’s alarming report "The State of the American Workplace", which presents the American workplace as a pool of actively disengaged and not engaged workers losing the US economy billions of dollars annually.

We don’t doubt that this is part of the picture. Certainly engagement problems need to be addressed. Gallup based the research on a twelve-question engagement survey, one they have administered to employees around the world since the late 1990s.

But there’s a catch. Very short employee engagement surveys that contain just a dozen or so items may do a fine job of identifying whether an organization has problems with engagement, but they will leave organizations with more questions than answers.

Who is not engaged and why? What areas of the organization have problems?

Short surveys tend to be too general, meaning they are not actionable. A solid employee engagement survey contains anywhere from 30 to 80 questions – ones that make follow-up focused and manageable. Moreover, it is key to have a clear, communicable plan and visible action. Conducting a survey as a feeler has been proven to actually reduce employee engagement.

Why bother asking if you’re not going to do anything about it?

So a short survey ends up being only the first step in the discovery process. It will need to be followed by focus groups, expensive consulting, and/or additional follow-up surveys in order to get a clear picture of what is really going on. There are no blanket formulas to boost engagement. Each organization, each department of each organization, has complexities that are rarely diagnosable with twelve questions.

Many companies are concerned about time invested. It takes on average eight minutes for employees to complete a fifty-three question survey. The time invested is minimal considering the results an organization can have with the right diagnosis and analysis.




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