By Nils Reisen | 4 minutes reading time
Who doesn’t know the good old employee survey? Many questions, a lot of effort, few noticeable improvements. At my former employer, a company with 20,000 employees, we used precisely this kind of survey. In a lengthy questionnaire, we asked employees about relevant and less relevant details. The results were not actionable, and we could only rarely translate them into tangible improvements.
It reminded us a bit of the wish list for Santa – and not only in this season of the year. Employees gave feedback on what was not going well and where improvements were needed. Santa looked at what he could conjure out of his sack. Unlike the real Santa, however, he often didn’t bring the right gifts.
Why did the employee survey have so little effect?
Although there was a lot of goodwill and heaps of time and energy spent, the feedback only rarely led to noticeable improvements. In spite of the fact that this was the actual goal of the survey. What was the reason for this?
The answer is simple: a basic marketing principle was turned upside down. The wrong information was sent to the wrong person in the wrong form at the wrong time.
The wrong information: presumed instead of actual engagement drivers
Although we asked a large number of topics, we focused on presumed engagement drivers based on which questions were asked and how. We could thus not identify relevant aspects that were not covered by the questions.
The wrong form: focus on numbers instead of underlying causes
We collected and communicated primarily quantitative data. The reasons for the evaluations remained in the dark. The summary of the results was another problem because so much valuable information was lost.
At the wrong time: months later instead of real-time
The evaluation of the survey was very time-consuming, and the results were only returned to the company months later – after which they still had to embark on a long internal journey. In the end, employees only received feedback when the survey was already a thing of the past.
To the wrong person: only management and HR (aka Santa) instead of everyone else
The primary recipients of the results were management and HR. They obviously should and did work with the results. However, this was often not easy, as many hurdles in the daily work were dependent on local and contextual factors. These were difficult to tackle top-down.
What if there was a tool ...
...that would make it easier for everyone in the company to do a good job? After all, this is the real goal of an employee survey. So we asked ourselves whether we could not create a solution that would make it possible for everyone in the company to ...
- communicate, what prevents them from doing a good job,
- find out what is going well at the moment and what needs to be improved,
- define and implement measures that lead to tangible improvements.
We could not find such a tool – so we created one ourselves and called it “Pulse”. Here is how it works.
The right information: current engagement drivers and barriers
With Pulse, our primary goal is to find out what makes it easier for employees and what prevents them from doing an excellent job by shedding light on current and vital issues. For this purpose, we have created a dedicated question that measures precisely that.
The right form: written feedback
Written feedback is a valuable source for a comprehensive understanding of the root causes that led to the given ratings. For each question, we use two comment fields (“What I like”, “What I wish for”) – as well as a few tricks to get as much constructive feedback as possible. This demonstrably works: with Pulse participants now write almost ten times as many comments as with the classic survey.
At the right time: in real-time
As changes in companies are happening faster and faster, employees’ feedback has a short “expiration date”. Current issues should thus be identified and dealt with as soon as possible. That’s why Pulse shows the results in real-time to all participants immediately after they submit the survey.
To the right person: focus on teams
Employees’ feedback is best understood by the colleagues they work with day in and day out. They can put the feedback into perspective, identify root causes and drive useful improvements.
The feedback should hence be accessible to everyone in the company, in a format that enables further discussion and active implementation of improvements. That’s why with Pulse comments are shown to team members with name and picture. They are also visible to everyone else in the company – in anonymous form.
Pulse is bottom-up, not top-down
Unlike traditional employee surveys, Pulse uses a bottom-up approach. This means that employees are not only surveyed but also actively work with the results. They discuss the feedback in their teams and define what they want to change and how. Instead of writing a wish list to Santa, they shape their cooperation and their working environment in a way that makes the most sense for them in their context. They only turn to management when faced with obstacles that they cannot solve themselves (e.g. overarching tools or processes). And this usually starts with concrete suggestions as to what they would like to change.
With this in mind, Merry Christmas!