One of the hottest organizational topics over the past several years has been the lack of employee engagement.  A recent Gallup poll shows that employee engagement is holding steady at 32.1%.  This means that over two thirds of employees are still disengaged. 

Billions of dollars have been spent on surveys, assessments and consultants to improve these numbers.  Here is my question...........After all of this investment, has anything really improved?  Are employees more engaged?  Statistics seem to indicate otherwise.  Why is this the case?

I believe there are five key reasons why employee engagement surveys and the effort that follows have not generated real improvements in engagement and productivity.  If your organizational is guilty of at least two of these reasons, I would STRONGLY recommend that you DO NOT conduct employee engagement surveys until they are resolved.  They can do way more harm than good.  Let's explore!

  1. Everyone Else is Doing it! - What a terrible reason to do anything! Didn't we learn that from our parents?  So many times organizations talk to their peers, read some articles and go to conferences and find out, "everyone is doing it so we should too!"   In order to be successful in improving engagement, it needs to align to your vision, mission and values. It should be a strategic effort that the organization commits to.  "Everyone Else is Doing it," is not a strategy, it's a reaction.  Reactive initiatives are rarely successful since their is no real commitment or strategic value.

  2. To Win an Award - There are so many top workplace contests and awards right now it's hard to keep track.  These awards are great if you are entering for the right reasons.  I understand the value of winning these awards for recruiting purposes.  It certainly is easier to attract top talent when you have an award like this to share with recruits.  In my view, the best workplaces don't care if they win an award.  They develop norms, structures, systems and processes that create an engaged culture because it is key to their overall success as a company.  If they win an award that's great but it's not why they do it.  The award is simply a by product of their efforts. The irony is that the organizations that tend to win these awards are not focused on winning awards.  They are focused on developing and sustaining an engaged workforce that delivers intentional results.

  3. You Don't Plan on Sharing the Results -  If you are going to ask for feedback, you better be open hearing it and you better be willing to do something about.  This golden rule of feedback is the same whether it's organizational surveys or one on one discussions with your staff.  You are asking employees to share their thoughts on what's working and what's not working in your organization.   You better share it, warts and all!  Why wouldn't you?  The only way you can solve problems are by admitting you have them.  One of the big reasons employees disengage is that key information is not shared (lack of transparency.)  If you don't share and discuss, employees will become even more disengaged!   How ironic!  Please do not conduct an engagement survey if you have no intention of sharing the results.......with everyone!

  4. You aren't Committed to Changing Based on the Results - Let's say you have shared the results and you have made a good faith effort to be transparent.  Good for you but that is only the first step.  If the results are not followed with recommendations, action plans, accountable owners and deadlines; again you can do more harm than good. Organizations have to be committed from the top down in order to drive change.  This is no different in driving changes in engagement. If you don't have the project management discipline to implement recommendations and measure results, employees can become more disheartened based on the organization's inability to execute.

  5. It's Considered an HR Initiative -  If this is how your executive team views the engagement survey, run for the hills!  Employee engagement is NOT an HR initiative, it's an organizational initiative.  It's not a "To Do" list item that executives send to HR.  If you are really serious about improving engagement, it is not a checklist item.  It is something that needs to be worked on every day by everyone in the organization and led by the executive team.  I would strongly discourage conducting an engagement survey if this viewpoint is held.


Many of our parents also taught us, ""If you are going to do something, do it right."  If you are going to do engagement surveys, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons or you risk alienating your employees even more.