Employee Engagement Surveys: Do They Work?

Employee Engagement Surveys: Do They Work?

Almost every company conducts some sort of employee engagement survey these days, however when LeadershipIQ asked over 3,000 HR professionals to measure the results of those surveys, and only 22% said that they are getting meaningful results from such programs.

So, what’s the deal?


Poor results driven by employee engagement surveys boil down to three things (which we’ll discuss), but one of the most common mistakes (and the most critical) is that leaders roll out these programs to measure employee engagement—as opposesd to using the data to improve employee engagement.

Getting data for the sake of getting data is not useful, and if employers don’t act upon the results to improve the experience for their employees, comradery and trust begins to erode. By conducting a survey, it’s an unspoken promise that you are planning on taking steps to improve the challenges and problems your teams are facing. If you ramp up the frequency of surveys, but don’t put demonstrable plans in place to improve things, you’ll rapidly notice that the completion rate and quality of answers declines dramatically.  

This is an absolute recipe for disaster, . If you don’t plan on investing the time and resources, and empowering the right people to make the changes required to bolster your team’s engagement—you may be better off in the dark (or just not having sent out the survey in the first place).

“It only takes one engagement survey to destroy the company culture you’ve worked years to create.”

- Laszlo Bock


That oversight between collection and action can become an incredible time burden on your team as well. Whether it is your HR/People Operations team who are tasked with deploying surveys at an ever-increasing rate, or  your employees that are distracted and taken away from their day-to-day tasks, survey burnout is real. You may be tempted to run pulse surveys and broader engagement surveys on such an aggressive cadence, that it is really hard to learn anything new. This makes it even harder to have the time to put new initiatives in place, let alone measuring the effects of any changes you’ve made.  

Now, on the contrary, doing an employee engagement survey once a year is not going to give you meaningful results either. It’s critical to remember that survey results point to a moment in time and can be very heavily influenced by recency bias. According to Relevant Insights, recency bias is, “the tendency to put more weight on recent events than earlier ones. When we ask people about their past behavior, their answers are more likely to reflect on their latest actions, the ones they remember best.”

If you’re conducting an annual engagement survey once a year, it’s nearly impossible to expect your team to accurately recount their feelings, emotions, and engagement over the past twelve months. This will distort your survey results (for better or worse) and not provide a level of significance to make comfortable, and acceptable changes.  

Asking the Wrong Questions

If you’re not asking the right questions, you won’t be empowered to make the right changes needed to bolster your company culture and keep employees engaged. A lot of times, surveys focus on thoughts & feelings, which in turn results in more subjective answers—versus verifiable and objective answers.

So, what’s the difference? A subjective question may look like: “Do you feel that your team leader values your skills and accomplishments?” That  sets the stage for a subjective answer. Instead, ask a question that can be objectively answered and quantified such as  “How often does your manager recognize you for your skills and accomplishments?”

Also critical, and looping back to the inaction problems we started with, make sure you are asking questions that have a pathway to driving real and significant change. Just like SMART (smart, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound) goals, each question you ask should be thoughtful, actionable, meaningful, and measurable.  

The Future of Employee Engagement Surveys

Much like traditional performance reviews, which historically happened annually, the employee engagement survey methodology is rapidly changing. To reduce bias and subjectivity in answers, many companies do indeed increase the frequency in which they check in on the engagement of the team—but it’s a delicate and costly exercise, and a culture bomb if leadership is unwilling to take the steps necessary to make impactful change.  

At Peoplelogic, we believe there is a better, easier, and frictionless way to measure the engagement and wellbeing of your teams and colleagues. Companies of all shapes and sizes are now for the most part cloud-enabled, relying on a number of tools to perform their work—along with these tools comes a mountain of data that can give real-time insight into the engagement of a team. The only problem? Many smaller organizations can’t afford the systems and professionals required to aggregate, structure, analyze, and drive action—leaving them out in the cold and relying on traditional, broken, and risky efforts.  

Peoplelogic.ai connects to the tools your teams are already using to help measure and quantify employee wellbeing and engagement. With our proprietary StayFactor scoreyou get an in-depth, easy-to-understand score that ebbs and flows continuously—not an arbitrary answer that showcases a point in time, without ever sending an employee survey ever again. Go ahead, give it a try yourself—after all, you can get started for free!  

We look forward to freeing you from those pesky surveys and helping you drive the change required to build a scalable, high-performing, and engaged company culture.  


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