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Are Employee Surveys a Waste of Time?

By Sonya Buck, Australia


From time to time it’s important to take a step back and look at why you do things and if they are really effective.  There are many opinions on whether employee surveys are a waste of time and the answer is, they don’t have to be.


Firstly, why survey?


The main reason to survey is to provide a voice for your staff members.  Realistically, you can’t be on top of everything within your business.  Providing employees with an opportunity to provide feedback not only keeps them engaged, it gives you an opportunity to make improvements.


Experiencing a high level of staff turnover?  An employee survey may help you identify and address any issues.


How often should you survey?


The majority of organisations survey annually. This can help to keep the business focused on improving employee engagement, allows you to evaluate the impact of your change initiatives and identify any emerging workforce challenges.  In addition to annually, sometimes it may be wise to survey if you identify any issues in the period between surveys or have gone through a period of change.


Communication Method


If everyone is an email user great, survey electronically. If not, you’ll need to provide some workers with a paper copy to complete.  There are some great online surveys on offer, but make sure they can sort and provide reports for you. In addition, ensure employees are provided with the time to complete the survey.


The questions


Without the right questions, your employee survey could be fairly useless.  Basically, with any survey when writing each question you should ask yourself will the answer be useful, so you can take any necessary actions or make improvements.


Remember there is also an expectation from each employee that you are willing to action any feedback the staff provide, so if you are not prepared to do this, don’t ask the question.


Don’t forget to ask ‘open-ended’ questions which attract more than a YES/NO answer.


Feeling uninspired with the questions?  Some of the online survey providers offer suggestions on employee engagement surveys.




This is tricky.  Staff members are more likely to provide honest responses if they do not have to put them name to them, but what if they provide a great idea and should get the credit for it?  You could give the staff member the opportunity to provide their name or even ask staff to provide their name if they would like individual follow up on their survey answers.


Post Survey


Formulate a plan of action, fully costed if appropriate.


Don’t forget to keep your employees informed of any changes or improvements that you make, some of them may not be obvious. If for practical, financial or other reasons you can’t address the feedback, let your staff know that as well.


You can see why people may believe carrying out an employee survey may be a waste of time, but if you ask the right questions and take action from survey results, you can really make some positive and productive changes within your business.