Employee Engagement Survey Frequency: Quality over Quantity

Employee Engagement Survey Frequency: Quality over Quantity

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Employee Engagement Survey Frequency: Quality over Quantity

Why is calling customer service a universally dreaded experience? Maybe it’s the confusing automated systems, the long hold times, and—depending on the company—the lack of care from the person on the other end. Negative experiences with brands tend to stick with you and impact your reputation. On the flip side, if you’ve ever had an amazing customer experience with a knowledgeable and effective employee, it stands out. When it comes to service, your employee plays a large role in the overall customer experience.

Listening and taking action with an employee engagement program is the cornerstone of a successful business,  with effects that translate into a direct impact on turnover, customer satisfaction, and financial results. This is why many organizations have prioritized their employee engagement efforts and implemented formal employee experience (EX) programs—which often include frequent employee engagement surveys. However, this continuous approach to surveying can lose effectiveness, creating survey fatigue and weakening participation.

One of the most important elements of any EX program is pinpointing the right employee engagement survey frequency. Too little and you could miss timely insights. Too much and you get watered-down feedback. Let’s talk through ways to achieve the right balance.

Determine the right cadence

Although we are strong supporters of leveraging technology to enhance the experience and utility of employee surveys, continuous surveys (those asking questions daily or weekly) are often not the most effective approach to gain insight to truly take action on feedback. Continuous surveys are typically shorter and too shallow to give managers clear steps on how to improve the employee experience.

The more traditional annual survey (with supplemental pulse surveys) has a proven track record that links to business results. They are successful because they have the depth to provide enough feedback for managers to take action.

The limitation to annual surveys is in the name—you’re only measuring one or two times a year. In the age of social media where reviews can be posted by anyone at any time, you can’t wait to take action. Surveying only once a year to improve employee experience is a mistake when talent acquisition and retention is a key issue for many brands.

So, how do you determine the right frequency and approach to your company’s employee survey process?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Every organization needs to consider a few factors to determine its ideal cadence and survey strategy:

  1. What is the intended goal? What feedback do you need to make improvements?
  2. Are you asking the right questions to support your goal? Quality is more important than quantity.
  3. What are the critical elements that make up your employees’ work experience?

Strategy development is where today’s survey technology provides real advantages. To help make small adjustments and measure success in between, frequent collection of survey data can be beneficial. In this approach, internal communication is key to set expectations and help garner honest feedback and survey participation. Show you are dedicated to making positive changes that benefit the team.

Combining continuous methods with point-in-time surveys is the recipe for success for many brands. Gathering a point-in-time survey like a typical core engagement survey in combination with one or more of the solutions outlined below offers brands a mix of depth and relevancy to drive change.


Take, for example, the initial onboarding experience an employee has within an organization. Hiring is an ongoing venture, and a continuous measurement tool that captures insights from new employees can be very helpful.

There is valuable insight in identifying locations that train well and those that train poorly. When employees have strong job satisfaction (they feel welcome, supported, and appreciated) employee turnover decreases.

Exit surveys

Not every employee will stay with you for the course of their career. Human resource departments often conduct exit interviews with departing team members. Exit surveys are a great example of where the continuous collection method really works.

Employees leave for a variety of reasons, so it’s good to have a clear insight into why and stay abreast of employee morale and possible workplace trends. If you see common elements, you can use these metrics to gain feedback in future surveys.

Pulse surveys

Disruptive changes — like the implementation of a new POS system or other major operational changes can negatively impact work environments. Pulse surveys can help quickly understand the impact critical changes have. These check-ins help identify red flags or opportunities to improve the adoption of the new tool for stronger employee buy-in.

We experienced the true value of this with one of our clients, a restaurant brand that invested in a new Kitchen Delivery System (KDS). Shortly after implementation, the brand surveyed employees for feedback about the system. What we discovered was a great deal of frustration in the kitchen.

Many of the cook times associated with items were incorrect, resulting in food not being prepared as efficiently as it could have been. The company made some quick adjustments to the system, positively impacting the kitchen staff and resulting in a better implementation of the new KDS.

Why should employees wait to give you feedback?

An always-on voice of the employee (VOE) option is a passive feedback channel organizations can leverage to collect employee feedback 24/7 — and meet the employees where they are without waiting for a survey window to collect feedback.

It’s very flexible in terms of content: You can use VOE to crowd-source ideas and suggestions, replace an HR hotline or distribution list, and integrate with case management to make sure clients close the loop on employee queries. It can also be leveraged as a way to recognize employees anonymously or used as a qualitative training evaluation form.

Common survey mistakes

Asking employees questions about engagement only works if you listen to the answer and respond in a meaningful way. In fact, we’ve found measuring engagement and not following through on improvements negatively impacts employee perceptions more than if you’d never asked at all.

The good news? Survey results can quantify the positive impact of follow-through, which can then be communicated across the organization. SMG’s research demonstrates that respondents who saw positive follow-through improved their engagement by 18%, while those without showed decreasing engagement levels.

The best action plans include input from the very people who took the survey—your employees. By including them in the decision-making and improvement process, managers can align engagement issues and concerns to employees’ needs and wants. Inclusion creates ownership and the opportunity for better business outcomes.

Excluding respondents from action plan development, making decisions only at the management level cuts off internal communication. If a plan is crafted without employee input you risk creating a reactive climate where employees wait to be engaged instead of proactively solving problems with leadership.

Managers should make an effort to involve employees in decision-making where possible. Employees value the ability to make an impact.

Finally, be sure to thank employees for their time, participation, and feedback. They need to know their effort is appreciated. In turn, this helps keep participation rates up even when surveying frequently. Engaged employees want to know the results of surveys and see their feedback drive change.

How to measure employee engagement survey results

Let’s take another look at thinking through an intended goal associated with your employee surveys. As with any change initiative, and especially one that involves changing your culture based on the collective voice of your employees, consistent actions will be needed following the survey.

Now, ask yourself: How long does it typically take to execute and fully implement organizational change—a day, a week, a month, a quarter? If you’re like many organizations creating alignment and executing a lasting change, it could take six months or longer.

This isn’t to say organizations can’t initiate smaller changes more immediately, but too many changes at once lessen the chance of permanent impact and change. The answer to the question “How long does it take to enact change?” is a great guide to helping you determine your survey interval. After all, no one likes to be asked the same question they already answered without some sort of feedback/response to their previous response.

Following through on an employee engagement program requires the same focused planning, development, accountability, and assessment that drive every successful business practice. Tracking actions around behaviors that address an employee’s everyday needs will increase the likelihood that engagement will improve.

HR departments can support organizations by implementing systems that make it easy to track improvement plans. In addition to improving accountability, interactive action planning allows organizations to find pockets of success and share best practices across the company.

Putting this all together, your survey cadence should allow time for managers to take action between waves. For some brands, that can be a couple of months; for others, it’s six months. Building in that time between waves is crucial to not overload managers and give employees time to see real change in the workplace.

Creating a culture that engages your employees takes intentional implementation—building a plan and following through with accountability on activities and enhancements that work for your employees takes practice and insight.

If you’d like more information about how to build a highly engaged work culture for your employees, please reach out.