How Often Should You Survey Employees?

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If you’re an HR professional, you know how important it is to survey your employees.

However, we know that there are lots of fears that tend to come along with surveying your employees too often:

  • “What if we’re unable to act on the feedback?”
  • “What if we’re surveying too often? We’re afraid of survey fatigue.”
  • “Our employees already have a lot on their plates. I don’t want to overburden them with one more task of completing a survey.”

These are all valid concerns, but they can hold you back from gathering invaluable insights.

Rest assured, your fears around surveying “too often” can be addressed with some careful planning and follow-through:

What to think about when planning a survey cadence

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to creating a surveying cadence. However, we can offer some food for thought based on our findings in working with thousands of organizations every year.

Before launching an employee survey, it’s worth asking yourself:

  • What is my goal for launching a survey?
  • If I send out a survey, does my team have the bandwidth to act on the results?

Here are some example survey objectives:

  • I want feedback on how to better support my employees during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • My employees are returning to the office soon and I want their feedback on how to make this transition as smooth as possible
  • I’ve never surveyed before and need to gather baseline data so I know how we should focus our strategic planning moving forward.

If your leadership teams don’t currently have the space to act on the survey results, you should hold off on surveying until they’re able to do so.

For example, maybe your organization has busy seasons which would make it tough for leaders to act on feedback if you were to roll out a survey during those times.

If now isn’t the right time of the year for your organization to survey, figure out when would be a better time and commit to it. Don’t keep putting it off.

Most companies survey at least once a year

90% of our customers survey their employees once a year. There are myriad reasons why. 

Consider how often your workforce makeup and demographic changes – certainly more than once per year. Then add on the events employees have had to deal with since March:

  • Dealing with anxiety and stress over the pandemic
  • An abrupt transition to remote work
  • Protests after George Floyd’s death are new calls for racial justice and equality.

The rapid pace of change makes capturing your employees’ experience at least once per year essential to understanding and responding to your organization’s ever-changing needs.

Checking in with your employees 1:1 is obviously necessary as well. However, not everyone feels comfortable sharing feedback in person, and surveys provide an avenue for employees to do so openly, honestly, and confidentially.

Besides, it’s easier to get buy-in for new initiatives when you have data to back your suggestions.

Advanced listening calls for pulse surveys

Many organizations with advanced listening strategies take advantage of survey data by using more frequent surveys. There are many different cadences, but the most popular are twice yearly, quarterly, monthly, or even weekly (like Workday’s Feedback Friday survey.) 

Once you’ve gotten used to working through your survey feedback once per year and communicating the results out to your employees, start thinking about surveying more often.

However, it’s not a good idea to survey just for the sake of surveying. It’s important to analyze the results and use them to inform your next survey.

First, look at the results from your first annual survey and identify your main growth opportunities. Then, think about launching a pulse survey around one or two specific growth opportunities once you’ve done some work with your feedback.

For instance, maybe your survey results show that your tenured employees are having a less positive experience than your new hires. Think about following up with a pulse survey geared specifically towards asking your new-hires some follow-up questions about their training and onboarding experience.

We also recommend facilitating a listening session with your newest employees to better understand why they’re having a less positive experience.

Here at Great Place to Work®, we take our own Trust Index™ survey once a year and run pulse surveys on an as-need basis:

  • Our leadership team rolled out a pulse survey in March to better understand how to support our employees during the pandemic.
  • We hired about 10 new employees towards the end of 2019, so our leadership team decided to run a pulse survey to gauge how their onboarding experience has been.

How often is too often? How to avoid survey fatigue

Survey fatigue only occurs when it becomes clear to employees that leadership doesn’t take their feedback into consideration.

Here are some steps you can take to avoid this feeling:

  • Express genuine gratitude for your employees’ participation and feedback 
  • Facilitate listening sessions to gain more context into your survey results 
  • Summarize leaderships’ key takeaways and commitments to action 
  • Take action as promised
  • Clearly communicate results from new initiatives and programs created as a result of the survey.

Whether you survey once, twice, or 20+ times a year, if you develop a careful listening strategy built on employee surveys, you’ll gain insight that helps you make more data-driven business decisions, support your people and take impactful strategic action. 

Ready to start your pulse survey strategy?

Contact us to learn more about our Trust Index survey and how we can help you create survey cadence for your organization.

Lauren Wada

Lauren Wada is a Client Solutions Manager at Great Place to Work. Lauren partners with organizations seeking to assess and transform their workplace cultures and receive recognition through our Certification™ program and Best Workplaces™ awards.

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To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.