It may have started at the enterprise level but companies of all sizes are starting to realise true benefits from employee surveys, specifically engagement surveys. And at last, not at the expense of employees.

We have been underwhelming them with ritual annual all-staff surveys since the 1950s. But even today, employees’ expectations can remain woefully low: that their investment in ID-100320357responding will lead to any meaningful change to their work experience. Remember, levels of engagement are stubbornly low.

Nevertheless, business leaders increasingly recognise that strong employee engagement links directly to greater staff retention and, ultimately, business performance.

One firm, at least, has been working hard to improve the survey process considerably for its clients. Over some fifteen years Kenexa (an IBM company) has compiled research that identifies 5 key aspects as the most significant for an employee’s decision to stay or leave:

1. Confidence in the company’s future success.

2. Satisfaction with the level of recognition received.

3. Perceived growth and career development opportunities.

4. Belief that the work matches their own skills and abilities.

5. Organizational support for achieving balance with work and life responsibilities.

For staff who rate these 5 aspects favourably the likelihood of them staying is over 40 points higher than those who rate them negatively.

Moreover, there’s a very substantial compound effect from the follow up behaviour of managers. Yet it seems only 30% of managers share survey results properly and take supporting action accordingly.

The clear news is that standard or universal surveys simply don’t work anymore. They don’t provide the necessary insights to help create a thriving workplace and high-performance culture. They need to be strategic exercises that reflect the vision of the workplace they are helping to build. They need to help managers take action and drive stronger, more effective behaviours. And more.

They must be crafted for each company and designed to capture insights over time. Never mind opinions about the vending machines, let’s focus instead on satisfying experiences at work and actions that help increase contribution. Eventually, let’s have engagement surveys represent a vital source of competitive advantage.

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