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Are employee surveys a waste of time and money?

The latest research from Josh Bersin of research and advisory service Bersin by Deloitte indicates that this is not the case

It is the time of year when companies send out their annual employee engagement surveys to gather the thoughts of their employees; however, is the effort put into such surveys simply a waste of time and money?

Companies want to find out things such as whether you have any concerns, any matters you want to bring up, any suggestions you have to improve the smooth running of the company, and any ideas to boost production and save money; however, the truth is that they are not only wasting your time but also their money. Setting aside all those employee man hours, the process absolutely has to nail good results to make the costs worthwhile.

The latest research from Josh Bersin of research and advisory service Bersin by Deloitte indicates that this is not the case. Deloitte’s 2015 Global Human Trends report states that employee engagement is the most important overall issue – edging out last year’s most important issue, leadership – and reveals that there are certain flaws built into the process from the start.

For one, the employee engagement survey is usually a once-a-year thing; therefore, everyone is ready for it. You have probably been storing up your thoughts for a good few months, meaning they are already out of date; in addition, managers know when these surveys are coming up and can put subtle pressure on their staff to improve results.

The central weakness is the time factor. These results are often not looked at for a few months, especially as they are normally handled by external agencies. Any information can then be up to one year old.

This is the 21st century – the age of big data and the app. Many new startups are coming along to potentially solve these nagging problems. Using these new technologies, they can correlate their findings in near real time, getting findings to clients almost instantly; however, this still does not solve the central problem.

These results must be acted upon and assessed against the core concern of the company and the fundamental reason for the survey – recruiting and retaining the best staff. Skilled staff are at a premium and this will only grow in the future.

Bersin believes there may be a better way to access all this information without going down the route of surveys or even new technology. He says that it is already within reach by utilising data the company already possesses.

He suggests that a company’s own internal HR systems, such as payroll, employee performance and skill management, contain all the information needed. The failing is that this is all locked away in separate areas. Bersin suggests that the future of employee engagement is by integrating these resources through workforce analytics. When used properly, this will look across all your systems and answer the big questions that you have been trying – and failing – to answer through annual surveys.

Going back to Deloitte’s latest report, workforce analytics has been identified as a major priority yet one that is sorely under-utilised. In the finding talent wars to come, the companies that properly use workforce analytics will be wielding the big guns.

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