Employee Surveys Are A Source of Valuable Insights

A National Post opinion piece made a heartfelt argument for an ostrich approach to management:
Barbara Kay on Statistics Canada: Seek disgruntlement and ye shall find.

The argument against using surveys to identify workplace problems are:

  1. They provide a vehicle for groundless complaints from grumpy people, and
  2. They identify problems that resilient employees will overcome regardless,

This view strays wide of the facts. The evidence shows conclusively that disgruntlement at work is a lot more closely tied to problems at work than to personality. If people are disgruntled, there is a management problem.

Survey results do not simply flag unsolvable problems. The capacity to drill down to department or workgroup levels in a survey report provides a means to locate actual problems where they are happening. They become a manageable problem for a first-line manager. Senior management can take action to support supervisors in tough situations.

The biggest waste of money in the public or private sector is wasted effort from ineffective, poorly managed work. The cost of surveys is insignificant in this equation. Building the capacity of workgroups is essential and employee surveys provide valuable information towards that goal.

Yes, there are useless surveys. They use measures lacking validity or generate reports lacking action plans. Management may leave the report on the shelf, confirming suspicions that the survey was all for show.

But results-focused managers can use a well-designed, clearly reported survey as a basis for action. It can give people a view of the larger organization. It provides benchmarks, permitting real accountability.

Ignorance is not bliss; it’s poor management.

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