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Friday, June 9, 2017

Why Employee Opinion Surveys are Useless?

Employee opinion surveys are touted by HR as an important event on their annual calendar.

The whole premise is that such surveys help understand the current levels of employee engagement and help the management "correct" it through HR intervention.

There is a fundamental issue with the above premise - the typical remedial approach of HR and management to "correct" things does not work.

The basic assumption is this: employees will tell the unvarnished truth in such anonymous employee opinion surveys. But will they?

The irony is that such surveys have "funny" questions like the below:
  • "The company has an open and transparent culture"
  • "It is usually safe to speak up in the company"
  • "The management of the company is genuinely willing to listen"
Very ironical. Think about it.

If the above three were true, then the survey is not really required in the first place. Employees would have already shared what they had to!

But if the above three were not true, the responses to the above questions will not matter.

If the responses are all nice and good, the management and HR will pat their back on their own.

It's awkward and hard to pat your own back but in many organizations the management and HR folks become very good at it by repeating it many times, of course for silly reasons.

However, if the responses are not all nice and good, the management and HR will justify and rationalize why that is just normal. 

Employees need to grown up!

Other aspect is related to design of such surveys especially in small-time organizations where at times the number of questions is more than the number of employees!

First, there may be too many questions.

And most of them are very vague - do you think your manager keeps you informed? do you get the resources to perform your job?.

It is ridiculous to assume that any sound-minded professional will not share the above concerns with his or her manager when the situation so warrants but wait for the silly circus of opinion surveys by the HR jokers to share them.

And if employees do indeed wait for the silly survey, then something is fundamentally and majorly wrong with the organization at the most basic level.

Open culture? Transparent culture? Very funny.

Second, the options one has to choose are typically a variant of strongly agree, agree, no opinion or neutral, disagree, strongly disagree.

What does "no opinion" mean. Ideally this should be a 10-pointer (with 1 being least happy with that aspect and 10 being most happy about it).

So if the question is "The company has an open and transparent culture" what does "no opinion" mean?

The culture might be sucking and sickening which would mean 1 or amazing and inspirational which would mean 10. Or based on the employee's perception somewhere in between.

It can and should never be "no opinion".

So even if one employee states "no opinion" that is just one more reason that would make the entire survey completely useless.

Third, such surveys are generally kept anonymous.

Now that means an employee would share certain things in the survey that he can't share otherwise in any other forum.

This is a complete antithetical statement.

If the organization has an open and transparent culture, then employees should have shared their concerns and grievances already.

So no need for any stupid survey.

Such exercises shouldn't be seen as another tick-the-box by the HR folks which it has unfortunately become in the current corporate construct.

Fourth, these surveys are run by the management and its close-knit coterie for the lesser mortals.

So obviously, they are not required to participate in such surveys.

This shows the sick culture prevalent in such organizations where there is clear demarcation of "Us" versus "Them".

Again, this goes against the very notion of an open and transparent culture. 

This ganging up means should an employee decide to be honest in such surveys and provides the real/raw feedback about the style of management (or rather the lack of it) of the top folks including the close-knit coterie, they will refute it collectively.

The "Us" would simply conclude that the "Them" need to grow up.

Such feedback will be disowned, disparaged and conveniently thrown to the trash bin.

Above tendency is generally highly prevalent in the small-time, Lala-driven and and coterie-infested companies.

These are the so-called "Desi" and the "Pseudo-MNC" companies.

However and very unfortunately, such surveys will continue to happen as a ritualistic exercise by the HR every year.

That would be the case since such surveys tend to serve the "real" but ultimately useless agenda of the management and its close-knit coterie very well. 

Such surveys become yet another management tool (or manipulation tool, if you like) in the hands of the "Us" while dealing with the "Them".

The top dog would say, "Look, we have an open and transparent culture, that's why our HR does this thing, this annual employee opinion survey, as we genuinely want to know what they think".

It is quite amusing to note that the top dog conveniently forgets what stops employees from sharing their concerns otherwise. Why a survey?

As the top dog is saying the above, you can well imagine the manipulative HR head, sitting next to the top man with a Cheshire cat smile, glancing cunningly at the close-knit coterie present in the company's board-room, all nodding their heads with a stupid look on their faces!

It is quite clear that opinion surveys are a mere hogwash and completely useless.

It is useless because the "Us" - the indispensable management and its close-knit coterie all fully understand what is really going on (how much they genuinely care is anybody's guess).

It is useless because the "Them" - the dispensable employees also fully understand the drama being performed in the name of opinion survey where survey counts (for the HR, to tick the box) but not the opinions!

And it might very well happen that the person who was "highly engaged" as per the opinion survey responses drops his resignation letter the very next day.

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