5 Reasons Why HR Should Ditch the Annual Employee Survey

Employee engagement is in crisis. Gallup report that only 32% of US workers are engaged at work, and this figure has barely moved since they started tracking engagement levels in 2000. So why hasn’t employee engagement improved in 18 years?

Gallup explain that companies who rely on “invalidated, unfocused annual surveys” are going to be left with nothing but metrics and no real insight into actionable improvements. In other words, an annual survey isn’t enough, and it’s holding back progress on increased engagement levels. As Gallup so succinctly puts it, “creating a culture of engagement requires more than completing an annual employee survey”.

Here are more reasons why human resources teams need to stop the annual employee engagement survey today, and start creating an engagement program that actually works:


A survey is too generic, with no focus on the individual employee experience

Surveys are too generic and don’t take into account how one employee’s experience of engagement is different to another’s. Every employee is unique and what drives and motivates them in their job is unique too. An annual survey isn’t tailored enough to unlock these insights; what’s needed is a conversation between individual team members and HR, so that a bespoke engagement program can be created.

Predefined questions means there’s no room for employee opinions

The whole point of a survey is to gather opinions. But surveys are also intrinsically inflexible. They contain predefined questions, swaying the survey towards a certain outcome before employees have even had a chance to share their experience. For something as open-ended as employee engagement, a survey is simply too rigid to get the whole picture.

Again, conversations need to happen between staff and HR in order to gain a true insight into an employee’s view on engagement. Monthly or even weekly touch points should follow, to ensure that agreed engagement initiatives are actualised and to keep regular tabs on engagement levels. Business tech such as online intranet software can help HR managers to log progress and also receive automatic notifications to remind them to check in with staff.

An annual survey feels transactional

Employee engagement is not a box-ticking exercise, yet sending out a survey every year certainly makes it look like one. Receiving a survey in your inbox and being asked to complete it by a deadline feels transactional rather than inspirational, and doesn’t give the impression that the employees’ needs are being put first.

Example of Annual employee survey

Employee engagement should be ongoing – not a one-off survey

Employee engagement is a moving target, therefore an annual survey isn’t going to be an accurate reflection on reality. By the time the survey data is obtained and analysed – which could take weeks or months – it’s out of date, making any decisions based on the data irrelevant.

Ongoing interactions with staff will ensure that the data you get is always fresh and any potential issues that arise can be addressed proactively rather than reactively. One-question polls can be an effective and quick way of capturing the current mood and invites staff to voice their opinion on an ongoing basis.

Example of  a mini Employee Survey and Poll
Get quick employee feedback by using polls

Nothing really happens once the survey results are in

Worse than the annual survey itself, is creating one and doing nothing with the results. This is guaranteed to make staff feel like their opinions don’t matter and that the whole exercise was a waste of time. Yet management inaction is all too common, with a recent study reporting that 20% of employees never received a response to their survey, and over 50% of managers admitting they reviewed the results but did nothing with them.


In today’s modern and increasingly digital workplace, sending out an annual employee engagement survey is simply old-hat. Having regular, meaningful conversations with your staff, creating frequent touch-point opportunities, and utilising the right technology to help record and automate data gathering, will be much more fruitful for improving engagement levels than a one-off survey.

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