Whatever Happened to Employee Satisfaction Research?
Anecdotally, it seems that one of the victims of the great recession of 2008 and beyond may be employee surveys. Whether this is because, in a time of limited budgets, employee surveys simply are not top priority or because, in a time of low employment, businesses worry less about their employees leaving, it seems that businesses have been doing fewer employee surveys in the last four years than they did in the years pre-recession.
As we dig our way out of the recession, it will be very important to reinstate employee satisfaction surveys so that we can 1.) understand the impact of the past years' struggles on employee attitudes and loyalty and 2.) develop appropriate strategies to retain employees (at least the ones we want to retain!) once the job market picks up.
Consider these facts about employee engagement:
- A Gallup study found that disengaged employees in the U.S. cause lost productivity worth more than $300 billion annually.
- The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the impact of employee turnover can run as high as 200% of a worker's annual salary and is estimated to cause the U.S. economy as much as $5 trillion each year.
- A study by Towers Watson, as reported by ChiefExecutive.net, shows that over a three-year period, companies with a significantly more engaged workforce deliver a much better financial performance - nearly 6% difference in operating margins and more than 3% difference in net profit margins.
The signs of disengagement are common: frequently late to work, insensitive to customers, chronic negativity and pessimism. Highly engaged employees are also easy to spot - they often get to work early, they willingly go the extra mile for customers and co-workers, share credit when things go well and responsibility when they don't, and simply convey an infectious positive energy. Who would you rather work with?
Whether a company believes its employees are appropriately engaged or not is really not the question. This is one of those areas that can must be continually managed and improved, because the benefits are so signicant and are really not limited in any way. So the first step in managing employee engagement must be an employee survey, to get an accurate and unbiased picture of engagement as well as to identify any short-term challenges and opportunities that should be addressed quickly.
And while it is attractive to think that you could do this survey in-house using commercially avaiolable survey software, if you want total honesty from your employees (as well as the highest possible response rate), you will choose to use a third party marketing research firm. No matter how good your relationship, employees will have concerns about being brutally honest in their survey responses if they know they are going to be available individually to management. Engaging a professional, experienced survey research vendor to complete this work sends a message to employees that it is important, and that their privacy will be ensured.
Another caveat to doing employee research: they will expect you to take some action based on the results, so be prepared to do so. I once knew about an organization that had a very serious morale problem (again due to dismal economic conditions) and the HR folk were adamant that they needed to conduct an employee satisfaction survey. The CEO was just as adamant that there would be no survey, because "they'll tell me I need to do something and I have absolutely no intention of doing anything about this at this time!" Bad attitude, but good answer. If your organization is not prepared to take action on the results, doing the survey could actually make things worse instead of better. (In his defense, he did allow the survey when the economy turned, and today the company is recognized for being a great place to work.)
But let's assume the time is right for your company to start thinking about employee engagement again. Kick-start your Employee Engagement efforts by starting with an Employee Satisfaction survey. Take a look at our Employee Satisfaction research white paper for more best practices and take advantage of this special offer:
Share your employee satisfaction stories here!