Is the Employee Survey Process Broken Too?

Elissa Tucker's picture

A lot of attention is given to the broken performance review process. But, has this focus on performance reviews led us to overlook another human capital management process that is also in need of fixing? Recently, I read a blog post that had me asking this question.

The blog post, Innovate, Disrupt and Improve Your Survey and Engagement Tools, was written by business professor and eePulse CEO Theresa M. Welbourne. Welbourne argues that the current employee survey process often fails to deliver two essential things. 

  1. The voice of the employee
  2. Information to help managers make better decisions

Without these outcomes, the process can do more harm than good, leaving managers with lots of complaints and no course for correction, notes Welbourne.

Welbourne’s focus on these limitations got me thinking. There is at least one more problem in need of fixing when it comes to the employee survey and engagement process. In other words, one more solution is needed if employees are to be fully engaged in their work.  

The “Other” Problem with the Employee Survey and Engagement Process

At most organizations, the employee survey and engagement process fails to fully define the employee’s role in engagement.

Most commonly, we think of employee engagement as an HR or a manager concern. And, while HR and managers play an essential role in engaging employees, there is another key player that we too often overlook—the employee.

HR can conduct surveys and offer the kinds of benefits, rewards, and learning opportunities that employees say they want. But ultimately, it’s the individual employee who truly knows what he or she wants from a work experience and it is the individual employee who is best suited to seek these things out. HR and managers can get everything about employee engagement right, but if the individual employee does not take advantage of these or is in the wrong job—he or she will not be fully engaged.

What Can Employers Do to Better Define the Employee’s Role in Engagement?

In her blog post, Welbourne suggests some intriguing new tools and approaches that employers could use to fix problems with the employee survey and engagement process. Following are some additional actions that I think are important for employers to take.

  • Directly communicate with employees about their role in having a satisfying experience at your organization.
  • Make sure that employee communications do not imply that a satisfying work experience is something that HR or one’s manager provides.
  • Provide employees with training and tools to help them shape personally engaging work experiences (e.g, private assessments that highlight areas where an employee is less engaged and then provide suggestions for ways to address these).
  • During the hiring process, set the expectation that engagement is a joint responsibility.

What Can Employees Do to Help “Fix” This Process?

Acknowledging the employee’s role in engagement is not about deflecting responsibility from HR or managers or making excuses for them. However, all the focus on what HR and managers (employers) can do to engage employees can make us forget that we as employees have a responsibility too.

As workers, we each play a key role in whether or not we are engaged at work. This is a fact of working life that is tempting to ignore. But, if we do not acknowledge and act upon it, we place limits on how satisfying our work experience can be. We have to remind ourselves as employees that we have choices too when it comes to being engaged at work. We do not have to sit back and hope HR rolls out the right programs and that managers develop excellent people management skills. We need to push ourselves, empower ourselves, to do what we can to find or create an engaging work experience.

Learn more about Employee Engagement and Human Capital Management Process Improvement.

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