ORG Blog

An Open Letter to Leaders Who Don’t Believe in Engagement Surveys



You’re right, engagement surveys can be a colossal waste of time and money.
So why do you keep using them?

Have you fallen prey to any of these justifications:

  • Because that’s what good CEO’s do
  • Every other company is doing engagement surveys, so they must work—eventually
  • Even if nothing changes, issuing the survey shows that I care about engagement
  • I’ve been promised results—maybe this time will be different

Engagement surveys have been touted as the go-to solution for garnering employee engagement. The promises are alluring: Complaints will go down; Performance will go up.

But if you’re like more than one CEO we’ve talked to, you’ve been disappointed by less-than-stellar results. In fact, many leaders report that complaints actually increase post-survey. They wind up feeling that the surveys did more harm than good—and in the end, made them look like they weren’t effective leaders.

Sound familiar?

If this is the case, it makes perfect sense to stop investing time and money in surveys.

But first, it’s worth considering why and how some companies are reporting success with their engagement approach. Notice the word “approach” as opposed to “survey.” It’s true that a survey alone probably won’t do you much good. Boosting engagement is a much more involved process.  

Take a step back and reconsider the desired outcome of engagement: COMMITTED EMPLOYEES

 Issuing a survey isn’t going to magically create satisfied employees. That’s like taking someone’s temperature and then expecting their health to improve because you’ve stuck a thermometer in their mouth.

Beyond surveying, what today’s most successful CEOs have learned is that it’s crucial to lead the way by being engaged yourself:

  • Take meaningful action
  • Make tangible changes
  • Deal with systemic issues
  • Do the hard work of developing or removing leaders that are not performing
  • Don’t focus on the questions, seek to understand the real messages
  • Hold listening sessions to truly understand what the survey is telling you
  • Make sure all leaders are visible and hands-on
  • Show employees the important things you’re working on
  • Study the data yourself – don’t let your staff filter it too much

With this approach, you stand a much better chance of seeing the change you desire. You actually can save money, fix long standing employee issues, avoid headaches, and increase productivity.

If you’re serious about making a real change, it really is possible. But you’re right, a survey alone won’t get you there. It’s important to refocus and make sure your engagement efforts are multi-pronged and aligned throughout the organization.

When you ask employees to invest time and effort into completing a survey—they need to believe something is going to happen as a result. If no changes are made and you ask the same questions a year later, it becomes a joke. For this reason, we agree that you shouldn’t use an engagement survey


  • You really want to make a positive change in your organization
  • You genuinely care what your employees have to say
  • You have the full, authentic intent to act on what you learn from survey
  • You’re interested in developing a plan that goes beyond the survey
  • You are willing to listen even if it means you are part of the problem

But if you can’t honestly answer yes to those intentions and don’t decide to follow through, you're right probably right—an engagement survey sounds like a colossal waste of time and money.

Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and put a plan in motion that can truly transform your organization? We can help.


Topics: Breakthrough Collaboration Employee Engagement