Why a survey can make your organization lazy

Nowadays, conducting surveys, such as employee surveys, feedback surveys, and employee pulse surveys is easier than ever before. There are numerous providers of survey systems to meet expanding demand, from free smaller options to larger and more complex enterprise solutions.

But at a time when data is seen as the new black, it’s important to keep in mind that rather than asking in real life how our employees and teams are doing, we are only sending them a survey. We do this because it’s convenient – it does not cost much and does not take too much time. But sometimes we might forget why we are sending the survey in the first place.

Can digitalization replace leadership?

One customer told me that they had been carrying out weekly pulse surveys with their employees. In a few months, some of the employees had figured out how they should NOT respond to the survey because a certain type of response would ultimately trigger a phone call from the HR department. Employees got annoyed because they felt that the only way they got attention was when the survey indicated that someone should contact them.

Digitalization increases efficiency and affects our lives significantly. As the world is becoming complex, empathy, the ability to listen and, most importantly, time are sought-after elements in leadership.

–> Read more: Have you heard about inbound and outbound leadership

A single survey does not provide a solution

The same customer told me they were now looking into changing to a different survey provider. The company was not happy with the static data, because it was not actionable. We had a brief discussion about this and concluded that the problem could not necessarily be resolved by changing to a different pulse survey system. Instead, they already had an existing solution to the problem within the organization.

The customer had an existing practice for conducting regular one-on-one discussions, but how these were working, and their impact was not completely understood. We concluded that by combining the survey, the one-on-one discussion, and follow-up actions into one end-to-end process, they could solve two problems: dealing with the unsatisfactory pulse survey and gaining more understanding of the impact of the one-on-one discussions.

–> Read more: One-on-one discussion | 4 best practices

In the new solution, one-on-one discussions are prepared for by answering a short survey, which also forms an outline of the discussion. This makes the discussion more relevant and personalized. At the end of the discussion, the parties agree on actions that are followed up in upcoming discussions. Best of all, the data collected from the survey and the discussion can be aggregated at the team and organization levels. Moreover, the customer can be sure that behind every data point in the survey there has also been a meeting between individuals.

The most important thing is not data

This brings me to my key point: a survey is only a part of a process. In the example above, the purpose of the survey was to ensure that the one-on-one discussion is relevant. If we remove the discussion, actions, and follow-up from this sequence of events, we do not have a process anymore, only an isolated survey with minimal impact. This is why a survey can ultimately make an organization lazy. There is no point in conducting surveys just for the sake of amassing more data. They should be conducted as an element in a process that also includes a discussion, actions, and follow-up. Data is important, but even more so is empathy, the ability to listen, and – most crucial of all – time.