Magazine article HRMagazine

Is It Time to Ditch the Annual Employee Survey?

Magazine article HRMagazine

Is It Time to Ditch the Annual Employee Survey?

Article excerpt

NO We need to double-down on our commitment to measuring employee engagement.

1 recently fielded an employee engagement survey for my company; it was the first such assessment we had conducted since 2011. Why, you may ask, did we let five years pass without listening to the collective voice of our 28,000 employees?

Well, we were in the midst of intense change. Leaders came and went, and we spent most of our effort working to turn the company around. It was a time to batten down the hatches, cut back on expenses and look to the future. While we continued to review customer survey data, hold focus groups and consult with external firms to interpret our shoppers' feedback, we did not do the same for our employees.

That was a mistake, and one that could have cost us more than the dollars we saved by not conducting a survey for five years.

In reality, understanding the wants and needs of employees has never been more important. A 2015 study by the intellectual property equity firm Ocean Tomo found that publicly traded U.S. companies realize 87 percent of their value from intangible assets-in other words, the contributions of people-and only 13 percent from tangible ones (cash, equipment, land, etc.). In the 1980s, that ratio was almost completely flip-flopped- with about 80 percent of companies' value coming from tangible assets compared to 20 percent intangible. In today's world, having a good, capable, engaged, highperforming workforce can mean the difference between success and failure.

Still, after not having gathered feedback for so long, I wasn't sure it would be worthwhile to pick up with annual surveys again. I consulted with Don MacPherson, co-founder of Modern Survey, the backbone technology platform for Aon Hewitt's talent measurement capabilities and current global head of talent marketing for Aon. He told me that "engagement surveys are highly predictive of future employee behavior, particularly around retention."

We made the right call in doing a survey in 2016. In addition to gaining a better understanding of our levels of engagement, we now know more about Millennial employees' career development needs. We also understand that our new hires need additional training, and we are taking steps to give it to them. As a result of the survey, we are thinking about how to integrate our engagement data with other key metrics, including retention, performance and diversity. And we are considering moving to more-frequent surveys.

Indeed, MacPherson is seeing companies conduct engagement surveys more often rather than less. Of organizations with more than 1,000 employees, 45 percent are measuring engagement more than once annually or considering moving in that direction, he says.

Nevertheless, most still haven't made that leap. And if we, as a Fortune 500 company, don't yet have the analytics support to conduct frequent surveys, surely many other employers are in the same situation. In the meantime, fielding an annual survey is far better than doing nothing.

The speed of business requires us to be flexible in many aspects, including keeping up with our employees' needs and wants. The only way to do that is to ask them, and the best tool we have for doing that is the employee engagement survey.

Vivian Rank is the senior manager of talent management at Supervalu Inc. in Eden Prairie, Minn.

YES These surveys rarely capture relevant real-time information that drives change.

Forgoing an annual survey may sound like a sacrilege. I and others have recommended engagement surveys for nearly 25 years. My company conducts these assessments for clients, and I have seen organizations transform using data from them. …

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