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Employee Engagement Surveys - Is there more to what they tell?

Interesting dichotomy... or pollsters bias??

National Business Daily: 26 May, 2016 “60% of employees hate their current jobs

National Business Daily: 29 May, 2016 “Indian employees most content about their well-being

As I read these two survey’s, I sat wondering as to how the two Surveys published in a leading business newspaper, came out with varying results, even when referring to a common theme, or "employee wellness - engagement!!"

Even for the most cursory reader, the above statements, and surveys, are in a way contradictory of each other, despite being a result of objective study around employee engagement (theme). That shouldn’t come as a surprise to many an astute HR Professionals.

For a student of Employee Engagement, it is imperative to understand surveys & survey methodologies, as in the above instance, overall employee experience measurement can swing wildly depending on the way the question is phrased/put across, or data analysed or presented! (while discounting the many differentiating factors in the two examples above, such as maybe not the same sample/industries/questionnaires etc)

Anatomy of an Employee Engagement Survey:

Employee Engagement surveys are without doubt one of the most popular tools companies and managers use today to understand what their teams think of their jobs and their company. Despite their “ubiquity” these surveys remain an important measure, and often finding space in the performance KPI’s of Managers/CEO’s.

Various employee engagement measurement tools available, focus on similar “thematics” under different terminology or aspects of evaluation. However, as a HR Manager responsible for implementing this survey and its findings thereafter, it is important one understands fully well the limitations of this instrument.


While it is tempting to use the results as “The Measure”, one must acknowledge, there can be some shortcomings in this tool, and therefore work toward reducing the impact of the same.

This awareness will help structuring the survey in a way, that helps us HR Leaders achieve the ultimate objective, of improving employee performance, and therefore the company’s performance. And even before stepping into the entire exercise one must carefully consider, senior management commitment, clear communications, survey design, its frequency, choice of benchmarks and HR staff involvement.

Some of the important things to keep in mind for “survey design” being:

  • Difference between Satisfaction, Engagement & Motivation. Be very clear of what is your desired objective, and accordingly design/select a tool

  • The Tool to collect data, and how the data will be gathered, treated and presented

  • People lie, not always consciously, but respondents often tend to give out “Socially acceptable answers”

  • Sample size and distribution across levels, functions and geography

  • Language of the survey, and its interpretation amongst the respondents from diverse sample groups.

  • Careful consideration should be paid to the interpretation of the results, “psephologists” have been known to go wrong on National Prime-Time TV.



There is a proliferation of survey instruments/tools in the HR marketplace, but remember, no two organisations are alike and this is not the place for a one-size-fits-all approach.

Misguided motives & ignored results, tend to disengage and demotivate all employees.

While attaining high engagement levels, and Good Employer recognition across industry, can be a boon to the companies’ employee value proposition, reputation, attractiveness and employee morale, a misguided objective to “go for these awards/recognition” by senior leadership can backfire in a most unattractive manner. Your objective of the employee engagement survey should always be “Improvement Internally.”

Proper implementation of employee engagement surveys can yield valuable and long-lasting results to the organisation. But when they are used improperly, they can cause long-lasting damage.

IMP: A survey is only the First of a three-step process.

For best results and credibitly of the process, an employee engagement survey should be viewed as only the fist step of the three-step process of Survey-Employee Feedback-Manager’s Action Plan.

RK (Rama Krishna) is a Sr Human Resource practitioner, with 20 years of Corporate HR Leadership, Learning & Organisation Development experience, across industry verticals.

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