I am guessing at some point in your employee life that you have answered a survey about your employee experience (sometimes referred to as engagement). Typically, these are exercises that involve answering a large number of online questions anonymously, and once completed, the results are analysed from every conceivable angle in order to determine the level of engagement within an organisation.

On the surface there is nothing inherently wrong with this idea, in fact we run a growing number of employee surveys for our customers.  Obtaining employee feedback is certainly something every company should strive to do well.  However, there is one problem that these exercises can tend to overlook – the fact that everyone is a unique individual with their opinions shaped by very individual reasons.

Why is this a problem?  Employee surveys tend to be anonymous, and there are a number of good reasons for this including the fact that it might increase the chances of someone providing their true opinions.  However, what this means is that results need to be aggregated in order to be analysed.  This often occurs at the level of a demographic like Team, or Length of service.  Whilst this information is somewhat useful, these survey results therefore do not represent the experience of any single individual.  For example, whilst someone might be really happy with one part of their experience, another person in the same team might not be, and therefore their combined result is ‘average’.  Upon answering the survey, both individuals will feel that they have shared their opinions and that something will now happen based on this feedback.  In some cases, changing something that someone is unhappy with might actually change the opinion of the person who was originally happy with how things are.  It can be confounding for sure. 

Why is this a problem? 

How do you decide on which actions to take?  How does a company go about improving the experience for both individuals when no-one really knows the true shape of an individual’s experience?    In other words, by seeking opinions anonymously, analysing the results, and then implementing action plans based on this feedback alone, is there a chance that nobody will be completely satisfied?  Possibly.

The good news is that there is a relatively straight forward solution to complement existing employee survey initiatives.  We call it the performance drumbeat, an approach that combines an understanding of real-time employee performance with real-time weekly reporting that can be used to keep a real-time finger on the pulse of what is happening now.  It is a process that involves interactions between people to set clear expectations (yes, involving conversations), regular reflection about how things are going, and plenty of opportunity to correct things along the way.  When combined with existing survey activities, it becomes a very powerful alternative to annual performance reviews that prioritises feedback in real-time.

If your company is still relying on annual performance processes, get in touch to learn how a simple change of perspective can improve performance without increasing employee stress.

Jason Buchanan

General Manager; Insights & Innovation

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