How to Make Employee Engagement Surveys Work for You

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Conventional wisdom says employee engagement surveys are a good idea. Companies are spending a lot of time, money, and energy using surveys to “check the office temperature” and then magically create a stress-free work environment where everyone is happy and productive. This doesn’t always happen. Employee opinions are given, seemingly no action or follow-up is taken by management, and so employees become (more) disengaged. How can you correct this vicious cycle?

Define employee engagement. As an HR buzz word, there are currently many different definitions. You need to figure out what employee engagement specifically means for your company. This doesn’t mean copying and pasting the definition from Wikipedia onto your letterhead. Also, if you are using a template survey, you aren’t getting the necessary feedback unique to your organization and consequently won’t be able to achieve effective results. You want to learn more about your employees’ attitudes, satisfaction and engagement, right? Define your questions according to your company, not someone else’s.

Make a plan. Gallup, a research-based, global performance-management consulting company, calls this action or impact planning. Instead of being an item on your “to do list”, use this as an opportunity to establish goals. Goals are important because they motivate employees to focus their efforts and improve their performance. There will always be change, conflict, challenges, disagreements, discomfort, and frustration in the workplace. And that’s ok! Without obstacles and mistakes, we never feel a sense of accomplishment or grow on a personal or professional level. By setting and achieving goals, your employees can feel a sense of satisfaction and empowerment. And that’s a good thing!

Use the data! Measuring employee engagement is ultimately about employee research – not a number. It’s about actionable insights that will enable you to make informed decisions about how to improve your work environment towards achieving great results. The way you look at your data should mirror your management philosophy. If you are a performance culture, how will you differentiate survey results by high versus low performers? Listen to what your top performers are telling you. They’ve proved their value and earned credibility. Spend less time and energy analyzing the demands and complaints of your worst employees.

Empower your employees. Allow employees to see themselves as in control of their own circumstances, not victims. Challenge them to take on more responsibility, and hold them accountable for the results. The next time an employee makes a request, turn the tables and ask “What are you willing to do to get that?” By replacing a sense of inferiority with a sense of empowerment, you can make them feel invincible and capable of handling anything that comes along. Note: this only works if employees know you care about their growth and development.

Don’t wait for the exit interview.  According to a semi-annual SHRM employer survey, the exit interview is the second most common way companies survey employee engagement. I hope it goes without saying that this is too late to fix any underlying issues. It can also send the message to the exiting employee that he is expendable and any information or opinion given will be used to help the incoming replacement.

Bottom line: Don’t bother to survey employees on engagement unless you’re willing to take their feedback, honestly evaluate what they are telling you, and take steps to resolve possible deep cultural issues. If you’re not willing to make that investment of time and finances up front, you will only serve to further disengage and disgruntle employees.

Still don’t know where to start?

Here are Gallup’s Q12 (12 statements) that best predict employee and workforce performance.

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my job right.
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.


  • Guest
    Praveen March 17 2015

    Employee appreciation, engagement and benefits has become an important factor in India now, considering the huge amount of attrition with recent times. My company, Work Advantage, is one of India's biggest employee benefits aggregator. Please visit if you wish to extend an awesome employee benefits package to your corporation. Thank you!

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Guest January 22 2018