Employee Survey: Types, frequency, and balancing insights and action

Author - Ennova

With an employee survey, you increase the probability of keeping your employees’ needs in focus across the entire organization to act on problem areas more efficiently when they arise. Get the most important insight you need to know about conducting your employee survey. 


Table of contents
•    What is an employee survey?
•    Why conduct an employee survey? 
•    The balance between insight and action 
•    Different types of employee surveys 
   Pros and cons of employee surveys 
•    What is the right frequency?

What is an employee survey?

An employee surveys is a data-based method to get feedback and insight from your employees. If the survey is conducted with optimal impact, the results will give you an indication of where your biggest untapped potential for improvements is. But remember: data is only data – a steppingstone for you to take action to make things in your organization even better. Without acting on the data, you will never improve.

If the purpose of collecting data from an employee survey is to make organizational improvements,  you should consider the employee survey as a map of the landscape that qualifies the subsequent dialog. Do not conduct an employee survey if you do not have the time, resources, or competencies to follow up and act on the survey data.

Why conduct an employee survey?

There are different types of employee surveys, and regardless of which kind of survey you choose to conduct, the survey will be a first step to start strengthening your organization. 

Employee surveys can increase the probability of keeping your employees’ needs in focus across the entire organization, allowing you to act on problems more efficiently when they arise. Therefore, we think employee surveys should be a strategic priority in every organization.

Employee surveys can help you create the best possible employee experiences and increase employee engagement, because you become aware of where to improve your effort and where you are right on track. Engaged employees are good employees. And employees who do not feel seen or heard by their leaders will sooner or later be very costly  in terms of employee retention.

The balance between data insight and taking action

You should always consider your employee survey as a map of the landscape that qualifies the subsequent dialog in the team. Data is only data and, as mentioned before, data itself will not lead to improvements. Subsequent action will. Therefore, to get the most out of your survey, you should always make sure that you act on the insight. You must demonstrate to employees that the resulting insight will also be acted on. Otherwise, why spend resources, time, and energy on the survey?

Before the employee survey, you must put processes and a structure in place to support this follow-up work, whether it is HR, upper management, other management, or individual teams that receive the insight and are expected to act on it.

If you don’t provide a structure and process for continuous action to match the insight, you will get a flood of insight that nobody acts on. 

Balanced focus 

Data collection that is not followed up with action will quickly produce frustration in the organization and among the employees who have spent their time providing feedback. But the opposite is also possible, i.e., the organization is mobilized to work on employee experiences but lacks a steady flow of facts and insights to guide it in the right direction and ensure that people are not left to work in the dark.

Different types of employee surveys

If you want an effective survey that gives you the insights you need, you must know the exact purpose of conducting the survey and why you want feedback from your employees. Knowing that will help you navigate between the different types of employee surveys to choose from.

Employee Engagement Survey:

The Employee Engagement Survey helps you engage and empower your employees to perform and take action, so you can improve employee engagement and drive change. 

Examples of insights from an employee engagement survey:

  1. Gain necessary insight to empower employees to thrive and your organization to succeed.
  2. Focus on what is most important and guide leaders to take effective action.
  3. Keep momentum all year and stay relevant to your employees.


Employee Journey Survey:

The Employee Journey Survey will help you navigate your employee journey, so you can ensure a good experience from recruiting and onboarding all the way to alumni – knowing the most important touch points in your employee journey is vital to both employee performance and retention. An Employee Journey Survey will also help you to better employee experiences.

Examples of insights:

  1. How you ensure the right candidate experience.
  2. Get to know if your employees are onboarded effectively or not.
  3. Get a systematic approach to collect employee exit insights.


Employee Culture Survey:

An employee culture survey is a survey that focuses on the employees’ perception of the culture in the organization. Culture is what employees do when no one is looking. That is what makes culture such a complex, intangible, and difficult phenomenon to measure.

Examples of insights:

  1. Insights into mindsets, beliefs, and behaviors among employees on the individual, team and organizational level.
  2. Identify your organizational culture’s strengths and weaknesses
  3. Insights that will help you turn the identified cultural pain points into value. 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Survey: 

An Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Survey helps you measure, understand, and improve your DE&I and to take the next step in building a truly inclusive culture.

Examples of insight:

  1. How to take the next step in your diversity, equity and inclusion journey.
  2. How to utilize data and surveys to find the DE&I pain points of your organization.
  3. How to reduce unconscious bias in the recruitment process
  4. How to grow inclusive leadership.


You can watch our on demand webinar "How to work with DE&I + Experiences from IKEA Denmark" right here, if you want great insight on how to work with the data from an Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Survey. 


Pros and cons of the employee survey

If you are considering conducting an employee survey, remember to take these pros and cons into account in your decision-making if you don’t want it to be a waste of time and money. Let’s have a look at the most important pros and cons to be aware of:  

1. Pro: Creates huge value if you do it correctly 

Make sure you know what the survey should lead to. If you can answer these questions, your survey will more likely create value in your organization:

  • What is the purpose of the survey?
  • How will the survey support the local dialogues and initiatives?
  • How will you support the managers’ preparation and team dialogue?
  • What initiatives should the survey lead to?
  • How will you implement that change afterwards?
  • How will you support the local follow-up?

Considering this will give you a good starting point to carry out an employee survey that will support dialog, initiatives and follow-up.

2. Pro: A road map to strengthen your organization  

How do you know what makes your employees engaged, satisfied, or frustrated if you don’t ask them and listen to what they think and how they feel? To work with the right problem areas that also have the biggest potential to improve your organization, you need data to you tell you what they are. Try ask yourself: Do you/my workplace listen often and broadly enough to the employees?

Besides that, employees are demanding more and more that the employer take their individual wants and need into account when designing employees experiences and the workplace. Again, how will you do that without asking and listening first?

1. Con: Needs prioritizing in an already busy HR schedule

Strategic anchoring is crucial if an employee survey is to be considered an important project and thereby prioritized in a busy workday. HR needs to encourage the top management to buy in and sincere commitment, which is only possible by linking employee experience to the bottom line of the business. See how HR can convince the CEO and top management to prioritize the employee experience.

2. Con: Excessive surveys will hurt engagement

There is nothing more frustrating for your employees than to see their feedback ignored by their mangers and colleagues. Everybody will get frustrated by not having the time to react to the feedback they receive. Over time these frustrations can erode the trust, satisfaction, and motivation in your organization. The right frequency will improve your employee engagement. 

That means you should not perform surveys more frequently than you can follow up on the results  with respect to the available time, resources and energy.

What is the right frequency?

Even though technology has made it possible to perform monthly or more frequent surveys, this is rarely the best solution. Responding to hyper-frequent surveys and subsequently follow-up on the insights with action requires a near impossible level of discipline.

With the right feedback frequency, you can improve your employee engagement. That means that employee surveys must be performed in an intelligent way and regularly throughout the year. But the exact frequency depends on the type of employee survey you are conducting. If you are conducting an employee engagement survey, up to four yearly surveys will provide you with the best balance between follow-up and peace to work on the data. The important part here is that the question is adjusted to the processes and challenges of the individual team.

If you make too many surveys, you will end up with a flood of wasted employee feedback, because you don't have the time to follow up. It will frustrate your employees who just took their time to answer the survey for no reason. And if you don't make surveys enough, you don't listen often and broadly enough to the employees, and they will feel that you do not listen to their wants and needs. 

Balanced focus

But remember every organization is unique, so an approach to more frequent insights that works for one organization may be a waste of time and money for another. For example, a companywide survey alone can certainly work for an organization that is already a top performer and experienced in this area. Meanwhile, an organization facing challenges, operating in a turbulent industry, and dealing with many internal changes may benefit from more frequent surveys.  



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