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The Employee Engagement Survey Bribe

Updated: Jan 4

Yesterday, my friend sent me a picture of a coffee mug and a KitKat bar, saying, "Look, this is how HR is trying to incentivise us to complete the engagement survey." I laughed and thought; Here we go again!


I have seen worse. HR, managers, and leaders put people in meeting rooms and forced them to complete the survey. Why? Because we have a completion rate target of a minimum of 90%. I remember working in corporate looking after 350 hotels in the region; engagement and appraisal times were all about reminders. You have no idea how many reminders it took to meet those completion rate targets.


The problem is that the forced survey completion yields incorrect data because employees just put in random comments and scores to comply with their managers' instructions. We then build strategies and action plans using bad data, wasting company resources. But we are happy to show that we have an action plan:-)) Corporate will ask you to produce an action plan. If not corporate, then your HR or leader. Hotel GMs love action plans even though they have no foundation or you don't put them into action. We just love the plan:-)


Here is the thing: a low completion rate of 20 or 30% is your result. It is accurate data and more telling about the landscape of the workplace than a forced 90%. Work with that!


It tells you that only 20% of the workforce responded to your request. This is the best data you can have because from here onwards, you can go into the workforce and show genuine interest in trying to understand what is behind the completion rate.


You may find that people are so disengaged that they cannot be bothered taking on another task of completing the survey.


Maybe you find that people have been telling you about their problems in the past few months or years, but nothing has changed, so now they feel like, "Dude, I already told you everything. Why are you asking me again?"


You may find that people are happy, and because they have frequent open communication with their managers, they feel heard and don't have anything else to add.


You don't know what you will find. But one thing is certain: the answers you are looking for are outside your engagement data.


There are other reasons why engagement data is incorrect, even if you have a voluntary 100% completion rate. I will write about it tomorrow. We are so wrong with this KPI and how we measure it. But we don't stop and think about why global engagement rates have not moved for five decades despite us doing this exercise every year.


It's time to stop and think. More about that tomorrow. Today's lesson is that a low completion rate is the most valuable data you can have. Work with that instead of bribing people into action. That's not how you get the best out of your workforce.


Let this be the year when you send out your survey, send one reminder, and then sit back and see what happens. Are you brave enough to do it? Do you want to see reality? Are you confident enough to face reality or rather choose false data to avoid looking into the mirror and addressing the real issues?



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