5 Reasons Why DIY Employee Engagement Surveys Don’t Work

In a past blog post, we discussed how employee engagement surveys use many of the same tools we use in general marketing research. We said, “There is, however, a very important difference: employees and their relationship with your company are different from your customers and their relationship with your company. Not to overstate the obvious, but that difference means that employee engagement research should be handled differently than other marketing research.” And that goes double for DIY employee engagement surveys.

There are many DIY online survey platforms out there, including SurveyMonkey, SurveyGizmo, and others, that include template questions or even entire survey programs for employee engagement measurement. While the questions or surveys themselves may be acceptable, doing employee engagement surveys in-house is not acceptable.

Here are 5 reasons why you should not conduct your employee engagement surveys in-house:

    1. Can you design or select the right questions? Survey questions must be designed to measure the right items, but also to avoid biases. If you do not have survey best practice experience and expertise (or at least have access to it), your survey could be flawed, yielding misleading data and a bad respondent experience.
    2. Will your employees trust their data to be confidential and private? For accurate employee engagement measurement, it is paramount that employees trust that their responses will remain confidential and private. If they do not have that trust, they will not answer honestly – or perhaps not complete the survey at all. (Research has shown that in-house employee engagement surveys skew more positively than those conducted by an outside firm.) An objective, third-party research firm can offer the critical confidentiality and privacy to get your employees honest and open participation.
    3. How will you give the Boss bad news? Understanding leadership engagement is a critical piece of the puzzle. In fact, some research shows that 76% of employees leave a company because of the relationship with their boss. If you learn that leadership is the problem in your company’s employee engagement situation, will you be able to deliver that message effectively?
    4. Will your analysis be unbiased? Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, focus on, and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions. Try as you will, as an employee of the organization (and as a human being) you simply cannot ensure that your interpretation of the results will not be biased. And of course, the opposite is also true: your colleagues may dismiss your findings because they assume you are biased.
    5. Can you develop action plans? The most important part of an employee engagement programs is doing something with the survey results. When employees have taken the time – and for some, the risk – to give you their opinions, they expect the company to do something in return. Building action plans, therefore, becomes one of the most critical steps in the employee engagement process. Do you have the expertise to build and implement employee engagement improvement plans? Will you be able to gain buy-in and support for your plans throughout your company?

As we said in our earlier blog, “If you don’t have sufficient time and resources to do the job properly, you can severely damage employee confidence in the process – as well as produce highly questionable data!” You may have the analytical tools, and the time, to devote to analyzing your employee engagement results, but do you have the depth and breadth of experience needed? And even if you do, don’t you have more important things to worry about? The benefits of an objective third-party running your employee engagement measurement program far outweigh the disadvantages of DIY. Don’t short-change your organization in the interest of saving a little money.

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