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Ditch the Dated: Why Annual Employee Surveys are Yesterday’s News

February 6, 2024 Joe Mechlinski

Last week’s note about the hybrid work cultural drift hit a nerve, didn’t it?

How about this one? It’s time to ditch your annual employee survey.

Annual employee surveys are like gym memberships you never use — good in theory but kinda useless in reality.

And we’re all in the same boat: we recognize these surveys are far from perfect, but they’re better than nothing.

It’s an unwinnable game of sorts. One where you want to show people you care about their voice, BUT you also know your employees are likely giving half-ass answers because they don’t want to put themselves out there.

This Instagram reel on this is hilarious!

And if history repeats itself, you’re likely to get a ton of feedback you can’t do anything about (or are unwilling to). This happened recently where a client got back 100+ responses about people wanting raises …on the heels of doing just that.

And while I appreciate what Gallup has done to start the idea of employee engagement with their Q12 survey, I also have a serious bone to pick with anyone doing this stock, standard and stiff exercise and thinking it is giving them anything meaningful or actionable back.

Four Bones to Pick — Actually

You might be wondering why we have such a palpable disdain for these types of surveys at SHIFT. Here’s why:

Reason 1: The Once-A-Year Illusion

Imagine if your doctor decided to diagnose your health based solely on your annual check-up. No questions asked in between — just a one hour snapshot of your wellbeing across the whole year. Sounds ridiculous, right? It is.

Reason 2: The Intellectualized Guessing Game

“On a scale from 1 to 5, how satisfied are you with your job?” Seriously? Just to get persnickety for a second: is “satisfied” what we’re shooting for? And how does this rating scale capture the fact that I was a “1” this morning and a “5” yesterday? Whatever — I’ll just go with “3”

Reason 3: The Follow-Up Fumble

Here’s a classic move — leaders collect survey results, pat themselves on the back for showing they cared…and that’s it. The employees are left wondering, “Did they even read my answers?” Leaders, following up isn’t rocket science; it’s just common courtesy.

Reason 4: The Monotonous Check-the-box Exercise

Year after year, annual surveys present the same-old, same-old exercise. Employees start treating them like a bureaucratic checkbox. “Ah, yes, the annual survey; let’s get it over with.” How can you extract genuine feedback from people who are mentally yawning while ticking boxes? You can’t.


What To Do Instead of the Archaic Annual Survey?

OK, ok, so I just did a lot of shitting on surveys. But not all of them are bad or worthless. The problem is with the standard, run-of-the-mill annual survey. So don’t kill all of your surveys just yet…keep reading to find out how you can make them count.

Let’s start with two real examples:

Example # 1:

A 250-person company did a survey last year to get feedback that would give insights for high attrition and ways to improve it. It was a huge flop. The set-up was rushed, the messaging wasn’t clear and the questions were basic.

The result: meh responses + diminished trust + wasted money, time, and energy.

The aim: Do the exercise again, but this time, get valuable feedback from the team that will improve retention.

Example #2:

A 500-person company wanting to re-establish the hybrid / work-from-home policy.

The previous agreed upon working arrangements were no longer honored or enforced, performance was down, and the overall connection and culture was lackluster at best.

The aim: Recommit to hybrid work and do it in a way that doesn’t result in top performers quitting.

Both clients needed a survey, but the survey is just one part of the entire process as you can see below. Taking a holistic, multi-pronged approach is what creates the magic — all done in less than 4 weeks:

Align the Executive Team on the priorities, desired outcomes, hopes, and dreams. It’s shocking the hvac a misaligned leadership team can have on an organization.

Learn the Team’s Perspective — Understand the current state of the team. We do this through contextualized and customized surveys, pouring through past data, and one-on-one interviews with a significant sample of team members (up to 10%).

Build an actionable roadmap highlighting the quick hits and longer term recommendations with enough detail that our clients can implement them on their own (although 75% of the time they don’t and hire us to help!)

Engage the full team through what we call the Survey Engagement Process — a tried and true way of sharing the results and closing the loop. We normally combine this with a hot topic to level up their interest and inspiration. So it becomes an engaging working session of sorts.

Create change with Latch — we take everything from steps 1 to 4 and build a series of campaigns around what’s most important. These campaigns are made up of weekly launches that include a context-based survey question, a short video message, and two engagement prompts.

Our process is an end-to-end solution, enabling our client leaders to deliver what’s most important to their team each and every week in an engaging and measured way.

You Deserve Better, Leader

Built on the foundation of behavioral psychology principles, Latch provides the space for continuous, real-time conversations. It’s about keeping your finger on the pulse, not just taking a pulse once per year.

It’s time for a literal and figurative software update and to bid adieu to the traditional employee satisfaction survey because you deserve better.

Better is:

⭐ Context-based engagement metrics around what’s most important. AI-powered data insights highlight progress points and provide valuable insights for moving your organization forward.

⭐ A vehicle for delivering what’s most important to your team in a way that is fun and engaging. Latch elevates your “it” above the digital noise — ensuring important messages are no longer somewhere in meeting minutes or archived emails.

⭐ A partner that is dedicated to you winning (that’s us!). As most of us have learned the hard way, technology alone (SaaS) lacks humanness, which is why we wrap our 20+ years of consulting expertise tightly around Latch. Side note: check out the most recent All-in podcast that hits how SaaS has always missed the “as a service” part.

Grab a live demo spot here!

It’s time to get real with how we measure employee engagement.

Your team is more than just numbers on a survey; they’re the heartbeat of your business. Let’s listen to them, not just once a year, but every day.

Here’s to bringing our workplaces into the 21st century!

Cheers to progress, friend

✌️ Joe

TOPICS: Leaderhip, Business Growth, listening systems, surveys