Often, the first step in creating a new process or policy is using a survey to measure the success of an existing one. Through employee opinions regarding the status quo, a company can hold its leaders accountable for things they control and confirm that leaders control the right things. In this way, surveys confirm that policies and processes are or are not effective in both operational and financial terms.
Through employee surveys, past experience guides the selection of metrics that will gauge future performance. Consequently, employee surveys serve as the foundation of many company initiatives, including employee engagement and employee benefits.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Advantages and disadvantages of employee engagement surveys include the flexibility the format provides, the anonymity of answers and how easily the data can be skewed.
Advantage: Flexible Format
You can create and distribute a survey in a variety of formats. For example, you can distribute a survey using the internet for respondents to access using their computer or mobile device on their own time or the businesses's. You also can print a survey on paper and distribute it by hand or by mail.
Of all the pros and cons of employee surveys, the flexibility of the format is perhaps the biggest advantage. By offering the survey in multiple formats, you can ensure that every employee can access it, understand it and devote as much time as he needs to complete it. This ensures you get a good response rate.
Advantage: Smaller Time Commitment
The time required to create and conduct a survey is less than that needed to collect data using other methods. For example, a case study requires you to observe or interview a subject in a particular context, as well as document and analyze your observations or the subject’s responses. In contrast, you can use a mass mailing or other method to distribute a survey to respondents who independently provide responses, which they return to you.
Advantage: Low Cost
Many of a survey’s cost elements do not increase in direct relationship to either the number of survey recipients or respondents. Instead, a significant amount of a survey’s cost is determined by development and analysis activities. The cost also is dependent on the amount of statistical confidence you require, your tolerance for error and the degree that each response varies significantly from all others.
Disadvantage: Skewed Results
Unless surveys are conducted on a somewhat frequent and recurring basis, it is difficult to determine if the results reflect reality or if findings are skewed by unusual events, such as a new product initiative or a recent employee layoff. In the latter case, the survey renders a snapshot of employee perceptions at a particular time, which may be heavily influenced by one unusual event.
Disadvantage: Incomplete Data
Conducting an employee survey can be a resource-intensive process. Consequently, surveys may not be conducted as frequently and thoroughly as need be for the results to accurately portray a situation. If a survey is conducted only once per year with a small sample size, and if few of the distributed surveys are completed and returned, survey results may be meaningless.
Advantage or Disadvantage: What Happens Next?
Not all employee survey advantages and disadvantages are completely clear. What happens after the survey can be considered an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on how the company's management handles the process and the data collected.
A survey is an independent activity that has no direct effect on business processes or financial or operational results. For a positive return to be achieved on the survey investment, a company must take action to address issues highlighted by survey results. But in some cases, managers are not held accountable for issues identified using the employee surveys, situations are not improved and the cost of the surveys is for naught.
Billie Nordmeyer works as a consultant advising small businesses and Fortune 500 companies on performance improvement initiatives, as well as SAP software selection and implementation. During her career, she has published business and technology-based articles and texts. Nordmeyer holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting, a Master of Arts in international management and a Master of Business Administration in finance.