While it’s true that there are better solutions for gaining employee feedback, annual surveys are not entirely dead. No matter what industry you’re working in, odds are that you’ve filled out at least one annual survey. They’re a ubiquitous part of many workplace cultures, and most businesses start there when it comes to gathering feedback from employees.
But is an annual survey the best way to get feedback?
In most circumstances, the answer is “no,” at least not without a companion tool for employees to leave regular feedback. Changing workplace dynamics and the fast-paced nature of work and daily life mean you need a surveying mechanism that captures more frequent feedback and keeps a real-time pulse on worker needs.
Annual employee surveys have been around for many years, with the earliest versions dating back to the 1920s. Companies ask employees to fill out extensive surveys designed to measure how satisfied they are with their work, the company, coworkers and managers, and other aspects of the workplace.
While the annual survey is well-intentioned, it is often not well-executed.
Research has shown that these surveys are often poorly designed, causing employees to question anonymity and fear retaliation. This causes employees to give “safe” or political answers and keeps businesses from truly understanding employees’ wants, needs, and morale. On top of that, many employees simply feel overwhelmed to pack an entire year into one survey, making it difficult for businesses to get the most accurate insight of all of their employees.
But the biggest issue with annual surveys is that they’re constrained into one window of time. In a go, go, go world, asking for employee feedback and comments only once per year means you’re missing out on a vast amount of feedback — and the chance to make improvements.
Combine your annual survey with a real-time feedback solution to unlock its value. Instead of thinking of annual surveys as a one-time solution, think of them as a once-a-year confirmation that your more regular feedback cadence is resulting in improvements.
“Variables are changing all the time,” says Katie Love, Marketing Manager at WorkHound. “The time horizon is different for every industry, but for frontline workers, if something makes them mad one day, they may look for a new job the next, long before you’ve ever asked for their feedback. Asking for feedback more regularly helps you stay on top of the latest concerns, that way there are no surprises on your annual survey and you’re getting the full picture from every worker.”
The annual survey captures a picture of what employees need and want and can be valuable in tandem with other resources, but all alone, it’s a partial, incomplete picture.
“Annual surveys have some value in serving as a checkpoint, but that effort should always be complemented with real-time feedback,” Love adds. “With variables changing weekly and even daily, feedback changes, too.”
There’s another factor at work there, as well — particularly in high turnover companies where feedback is only asked for once a year. In these cases, the annual survey only gives companies a picture of the employees who are working for the company at the time the survey is given, meaning data can become out of date almost as soon as it’s collected.
If you get an annual survey once a year, you can be blindsided. With company goals and executive compensation often tied to annual survey metrics, the last thing you want are surprises on your annual survey. But if you add 24/7 always-on feedback to your arsenal, you can manage these metrics in real-time and support plans that are already in the works.
What are employees looking for when it comes to feedback? To put it succinctly, an easy and frequent way to give it.
“The truth is, people are looking for a way to give feedback,” Love says. “If the company is not providing a tool to do that, employees will look for other ways to share feedback, like online review sites or social media. If you offer more than one tool, such as a continuous feedback service like WorkHound plus an annual survey, even better.”
Using a tool like WorkHound to capture feedback gives employees an easy, seamless way to share their needs and wants with their employer. This, in turn, benefits the business.
“Many of our customers are surprised to find out that their employees have great ideas for solving problems,” Love says. “Asking for feedback regularly and then taking action because of that feedback not only expedites process improvement, but it also earns trust and improves workplace culture. Just imagine how much that, alone, will change the response in your annual survey.”
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