The Folly of Staff Surveys

By Alexander Joy

Would you send a text to your children in the next room and ask them – “How do you think I’d rate so far as a parent? Are you planning to stay or leave?”

No? Well why would you do it to your staff?

I believe standard surveys don’t work for reviewing a company’s culture. That’s right I am not a fan of Staff Engagement Surveys. Whilst I do use tools such as the PCSI and LSI to test leadership behaviours and communication styles where appropriate I do not recommend organisation wide blanket engagement or satisfaction surveys as they can be viewed very cynically, provide only a snapshot of one day’s opinions and do not allow for deeper interrogation, questioning and contextual understanding.

I believe culture is unique to every organisation. Your culture is personal. It’s just as personal as the individual managers you employ and the staff who work with them.

Many employee engagement and culture survey tools attempt to fit organisations into standard types, metrics and generic standards which doesn’t allow for the personality of your firm. What organisations need is an approach to culture that is flexible enough to identify and work with their uniqueness – while still being rigorous and grounded in research.

To really understand your culture and where it is heading I recommend more frequent conversations, manager to team member. In fact it is the sum of the entire employee experience and perception throughout their entire journey with the company that creates the culture over time, not a snapshot, one off survey.

“The fundamental element required for an organisation to thrive and grow is having employees who are committed, motivated and engaged.”

That was the conclusion of the UK government’s 2009 review on employee engagement. This and other research studies – such as those by Gallup and the Corporate Leadership Council – champion the transformational possibilities of engagement when there is a strong positive relationship between managers and their team.Lack of concrete action, after an engagement survey, is the root cause of this engagement curse. Often these surveys ask broad and generic questions that fail to pinpoint exactly what action needs to be taken and fail to acknowledge the subtle differences between structural layers, ages, backgrounds and length of service of each employee leaving them actually feeling unseen and unheard.

Instead I recommend a 10 degree shift of managers working with their team to make small incremental changes made overtime, tailored for each staff member and contributing to the greater whole. Like the benefit of compound interest over time, the layering of these small, consistent changes will see long term dividends both for the individual and the culture in a way that is positively reinforcing and sustainable. It’s a win win for all.

About thr author

Alexandria Joy’s (AJ) mission is to empower people to create more meaningful, joyful lives that bring a deeper connection with themselves, others and our planet. She wants to shift the way we think about and deal with success in business and life.

As an aspiring minimalist and tiny house dweller she believes in keeping things simple and making 10 degree shifts in all aspects of life and work so you can do less and achieve more.

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