Ditch your annual staff survey: Here’s a better way to find out what your employees think

Ditch your annual staff survey

“You know that haunting feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when your best employee gives you her two weeks notice? Annual employee surveys just let that happen — they do nothing to empower managers to fix issues before they become major problems.”

That’s feedback from David Niu, founder and CEO of TINYhr, the company behind the innovative employee sentiment tool TINYpulse.

Annual staff surveys are at the core of HR practices at many major companies. The assumption is that managers will glean valuable insights that will help them create happier, more engaged employees.

And admittedly, this is a prudent purpose: Companies with engaged employees enjoy more than 50 percent revenue growth compared to their industry peers , and engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to leave a job, saving hefty recruitment costs. Given that 70 percent of the U.S. workforce is either not engaged or actively disengaged, companies really should be concerned.

But from Niu’s perspective, the problem is actually misguided execution of those surveys. Annual employee surveys receive notoriously low response rates, often as low as 25 percent. That’s not surprising, since these surveys are usually 50-plus mind-numbing questions long.

Plus, by the time the data is collected and analyzed, it’s usually out of date. Several months can pass between the analytics are ready, and more employees will have probably leave for new opportunities before then.

The solution

TINYpulse targets that problem with short weekly surveys. The primary aim is to gauge how happy employees are in real time (or as close to real time as possible), giving managers actionable insights that they can use to tackle problems before they become organizational nightmares.

Amy Balliet, co-founder and CEO of Seattle-based creative agency Killer Infographics, explains how weekly surveys revealed that she was a major bottleneck for her team.

“I was able to make the right changes before things got too bad,” Balliet said. “With TINYpulse [my employees] have become more engaged and empowered to help grow the company. They use the weekly surveys to identify process issues, share fun stories, and build each other up.”

Balliet assumed issues that were low priority to her were also low priority to her employees, but feedback in the TINYpulse surveys revealed that her lax attitude was causing morale problems.

As the economy grows, companies will find increasing competition for talented workers. And as millennials flood into the workforce, companies will need to adjust to a talent pool that loves to be heard. Balliet’s use of surveys to keep employees involved on a weekly, not yearly, basis proves that annual employee surveys just don’t work in a fast-paced work environment.

Niu admits that companies don’t need to ditch the annual staff survey completely, but for organizations whose annual review processes are linked to a survey, you could be missing day-to-day problems.

“Quick pulsing surveys can actually be a complement to your annual employee survey,” Niu said. “You can capture major organizational shifts annually while still measuring the quick changes in sentiment that impact short-term employee behavior.”

Information is your friend, and gathering employee feedback on a regular basis will arm managers with timely information that they can act on. Try using these weekly surveys to learn about what’s engaging for your team, what you can do to correct issues, and how you can drive toward a happier and more profitable company.


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