5 Common Misconceptions About Employee Surveys

By Shantal DiGerolamo - September 18, 2018

In a recent webcast titled Strategic HR Starts with an Employee Engagement Survey, Sarah R. Johnson, PhD, Vice President of Enterprise Surveys and Analytics at Perceptyx, uncovers five common misconceptions about employee surveys. In the webcast she discusses each misconception and presents a better approach for organizations looking to implement employee surveys to help drive change and improvement. Below is a brief summary of her observations and advice. 

#1 - The annual employee survey is dead.

Industry experts have said that the annual or biannual survey of all employees, accompanied by manager reporting, feedback, and action planning, is dead.

TRUTH: All-employee surveys are alive and well.

“At Perceptyx, we work with more than 250 companies, and more than 85 percent of them conduct census surveys that include all of their employees. Trust me, these are companies that you know about, and they are leaders in their industry,” Johnson said. 

#2 - If your organization isn’t surveying frequently, then you’re doing it all wrong.

Some experts insist that surveys need to be done frequently (weekly or even daily) to create an ongoing flow of survey data. But how valuable is a daily engagement metric, and does a small change from one day to the next really matter?

TRUTH: Many leaders become overwhelmed with the volume of incoming data.

“Eventually most leaders stopped being interested in the data, almost immune to it, and stopped conducting the survey altogether,” Johnson said. “Employees may lose interest as well, especially if they are continuously asked to respond to questions, yet they don’t see any action or change as a result of these surveys.”

#3 - Surveys should be short, less than 15 questions.

Some experts have said that having more than 10 questions on a survey is too long. But why is length an issue?

TRUTH: What employees want to say requires more than 10 questions.

“Are employees so busy that we can’t take more than five minutes of their time? If we truly want to listen to employees and we care about their feedback, why wouldn’t we want to ask more questions?” Johnson said. “Employees can become frustrated with so few questions. They have something to say to us, important insights that they want to share, yet the survey is so limited in scope and length that they have no opportunity to express what they have to say.”

#4 - Companies should focus on continuous listening.

A lot of data, a lot of analysis, and theoretically a lot of listening.

TRUTH: Organizations should be talking about continuous acting.

The best and most effective survey programs provide the right data to the right managers and leaders at the right time. Too much data coming too frequently can actually impede the process of taking action.

#5 - When it comes to surveys, one size fits all.

There is a misconception that a generic survey design will work across all organizations. 

TRUTH: “One size” never fits all.

“There is no single approach that is right and appropriate for every company,” Johnson said.


It is nearly always a mistake to choose a survey methodology before creating the survey strategy.   

According to Johnson, each company needs to create their own survey strategy, geared toward the issues that are most important to their ongoing success. The approach that may work well in one company may not be effective in another.

If you want to learn more about using employee surveys strategically in your organization, watch Sarah Johnson’s presentation, Strategic HR Starts With Employee Engagement Survey here: http://webcasts.td.org/webinar/2886

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