10 Things I Hate About Employee Satisfaction Surveys

In theory, employee satisfaction surveys should help to improve your business. Unfortunately, they often completely miss the mark. Find out how and why in this week's blog post.

June 20, 2023

“I hate the way you're always right; I hate it when you lie” (OK enough of that...)

Employee satisfaction surveys are tricky little things that many people attempt to utilise (because they feel they should) but that few manage to successfully pull off.

There are just too many things that can go wrong and often not a strong enough strategy in place from day 1!

Don't worry; I'm here to help (and not just to go on a huge rant...)

Behold; the 10 things we ALL hate about employee satisfaction surveys and how YOU can resolve them!

1. They’re not anonymous.

“We’d like to invite you to take part in a completely anonymous employee satisfaction survey…”

No one believes you.

As far as your staff are concerned; you could absolutely find out who completed each survey, so there’s really no point going overboard on the whole “100% anonymous thing.”

(By the way, the more you tell us that something is anonymous, the more suspicious we become.)

How to fix it…

Instead, you should focus on building an open culture in your company.

If you encourage and reward honest feedback (all of the time) instead of punishing it, then employees are much more likely to offer suggestions and ideas in your surveys.

You could even host a face-to-face group discussion, rather than your anonymous questionnaire – this will show that you’re not afraid of criticism and encourage people to talk more freely.

(If you’d like some more advice on building honest, open lines of communication, click here.)

2. They’re dishonest.

“No one else is going to tell the truth, so why should I?”

If you already have a trustworthy, honest and open culture, then this one shouldn’t be a problem; your employees will feel comfortable giving feedback, without worrying about facing a backlash.

If not, then you can probably expect to receive a pretty inaccurate response to your survey.

Your employees will be worried about looking like a troublemaker and will simply write any old thing down that they think will keep you happy.

(If you are the type of horrible boss who punishes first, asks questions later - you need to seriously rethink your strategy!)

How to fix it…

This will be your toughest barrier and it will take some real work on your culture and communication to overcome it; you’ve got to prove that no one’s going to be judged.

It might help to show off the results from last year and how you positively worked to improve things without anyone getting in trouble.

Unfortunately, building this trust may take a while.

(Just make sure that you don’t actually EVER take things out on your employees when they’re honest with you – you’ll completely ruin your chances!)

3. Nothing ever changes.

I must admit; I don’t understand this, but it’s incredibly common.

Employers will send out a survey and then ignore the results for twelve months, until it’s time to send out another one.

It’s a completely futile exercise and one that employees will find just as pointless.

How to fix it...

Actually do something about your feedback.

Your employees are in the perfect position to advise you on how to improve things; processes and people management.

Use what you learn to better your business.

4. They’re elusive.

If you expect employees to be honest with you, you have to return the favour!

Do you share your results with your employees? Do they know what’s going on? And what other people thought?

If not, why not? They’re bound to be interested.

How to fix it...

When you’ve collected all of your results, share them with the team.

Either via email or in a face-to-face meeting, actually state: “this is what you said we could improve and this is how we are going to do about it.”

They’ll appreciate your honesty and the fact that you’re actually trying to improve things.

5. They’re boring.

There’s nothing worse than having to spend a whole hour trawling through a boring survey that really isn’t relevant to our day job and/or interests.

Questions like ‘how do you feel about your work station’ and ‘are you comfortable?’ are boring and pretty pointless (save them for your health and safety stuff).

How to fix it…

Less is more; choose fewer, more structured and direct questions that are easier to answer.

Using scales (“rate your answer between 1-5”) may help speed up the process, but do make sure you include regular spaces for more info/clarification if employees wish to add their thoughts.

6. They’re confusing.

Sometimes, employee satisfaction surveys don’t even make sense!

I’ve seen questions like: “what do you think about the corporate structure?” (This is far too vague and could mean a variety of different things…)

If something doesn’t make sense, employees will get frustrated and give any old answer.

How to fix it...

Ask concise questions that are easy to understand and focus on one clear topic.

Don’t go round the houses; simple is often better.

7. They’re biased.

Questions like: “What do you love about the company?” crop up all the time and they’re pretty biased if you think about it.

What if I don’t love anything? What if I don’t even like anything?

It’s unlikely (because of the fear-factor we’ve already discussed) that they’ll write ‘nothing;’ instead, they’ll be forced to come up with some meaningless, untrue answer.

How to fix it...

Ask unbiased questions like ‘what do you like about the company’ followed by ‘what do you dislike about the company?” And don’t make every question compulsory.

This means they can skip questions they don’t want to/can’t answer.

8. They’re so ‘corporate.’

“What is the number one thing you would improve about our company?” “What do you think of our company culture?” “On a scale of one to ten how well do you get on with your colleagues?”

SNORE! These boring, corporate-style questions are bound to turn some employees off, especially if you work in a usually fun-loving, friendly business.

How to fix it...

Your employee satisfaction survey doesn’t have to be dry, starchy and corporate!

You could write it in a casual tone, asking questions that are more fun and friendly and relaxing your employees, so you’re much more likely to get a truthful response.

9. There’s nothing in it for "me."

What exactly are your employees getting in return for their honesty?

There probably is some sort of reward involved, but have you made it clear to them?

How to fix it...

The whole point in this survey is to improve the business and (hopefully) to make your staff happier, so make sure you communicate that during the process.

(I know it seems pretty obvious, but some employees may not connect the dots between being honest and how it could and will improve their lives.)

Always say thanks to employees for filling out the survey and (if you feel like it) you could offer them some sort of reward too?! (Chocolates, a night out, a company breakfast).

Especially if they come up with some amazing ideas to improve your business.

(If you'd like some ideas of how to reward your staff, click here.)

10. They’re negative.

It’s absolutely terrible when you open up an employee ‘satisfaction’ survey and it’s completely riddled with negative questions like…

“What do you dislike most about the business?” “What do you dislike most about your team?” “What do you dislike most about your boss?”

By the end of the survey, your employees are bound to feel negative about your company!

How to fix it...

Make sure your survey is positive and rephrase negative questions.

Think ‘how could we improve the company culture’ rather than ‘what do you dislike most about your colleagues?’

Ready to start satisfying your staff?

Now, this post may seem pretty negative but in theory, I’m totally FOR employee satisfaction surveys; in fact, I sent one out to our team last week!

But if you’re going to do something; do it right!

Recruiter Pro Tip Employee satisfaction surveys can help you to…
  • Improve your company culture and efficiency.
  • Build an honest line of communication between yourself and your team.
  • Enhance employee engagement and thus, staff retention.
Unfortunately, if they’re done wrong (as you can see above) they’re just pretty pointless.

If you’d like more information and guidance on how to engage your team, click here to subscribe to this blog!

Good luck.

Coburg Banks - Multi-Sector Recruitment Agency
We help great people get brilliant jobs in top companies.

By clicking “Accept”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Cookie Policy for more information.