9.09.2014

Three potential surprises in employee engagement survey results

We often get asked what results to expect out of our culture surveys. This is an impossible, but understandable question - What are we going to uncover when we start asking our employees these questions?

The real answer isn't always the shock that people expect. You’re in the organization and often have a pretty good implicit understanding of what is going on.

The power of the survey is often giving a voice to these issues and being able to understand the relative priorities — Driver Analysis is an essential part of this. While the result may be something "known" it’s hard to have a structured conversation with a real metric. 

However, you will see surprises. Often they are a surprise of omission; Something you expect to see, but don't. What do I mean? Well here are three good examples that I’ve come across:

The Noisemakers

Many of the organizations we work with take a less traditional approach to company hierarchy. As a result, often there is a direct line of communication from employees to senior leadership and the CEO. This is often an essential ingredient in being a responsive, innovative company.

However, there is a downside. Many employees may be confident in raising their voices about topics directly relating to their work. The same employees may not feel the same about raising issues relating to things like culture, strategy or values. This risks that the CEO will only get feedback “noisiest” employees. There's nothing wrong with being noisy, but it needs to be balanced. Sometimes that “major issue that everyone is complaining about” turns out to just be the grind of a handful of people.

Remote Offices

Often HQ worries about smaller satellites. This is fair. How are they connected to the organization? Do they get the love that the Head Office gets? They might not even be getting the same office perks. HQ is where the action is, where the big calls are made. So surely they must feel a little left out?

This can definitely be the case, but not always. Often these remote offices are the result of a growing company. You’ve nailed San Francisco and now you’re expanding into Austin. They’re set up to take something already successful and break new ground. It’s a small team, they’re kicking goals and excited about the possibilities. Far from feeling detached and disconnected, they feel energized by being on the new frontier. This is a great finding. Often HQ may get too involved in the day-to-day at locations, not realizing they doing just fine (indeed, better) left to their own devices.

Managers managing up

Sometimes the superstar isn’t as super as they look. A part of your company may be doing great, but when you dig in your find the team feels differently.

This could be for a lot of reasons. The manager may be “managing up” really well. They may be taking credit for more than their team finds acceptable. They could be hiding or filtering poor performance. Or, they might simply be doing an good job in a challenging part of the company. e.g. This is sometimes true of support roles during a difficult phase.

If this is the case, a Manager Effectiveness survey is a great way to dig into how your Managers are going.

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