Employee Surveys

Most employee surveys are a waste of time for operations leaders

June 21, 2024

RESOURCES Most employee surveys are a waste of time for operations leaders

When it comes to capturing employee feedback and transforming that feedback into actionable insights, traditional surveys often fail to meet the needs of frontline leaders.

Why do these surveys fall short? It usually comes down to buy-in, resources and results. It’s hard for leaders to buy-in to a process they’re excluded from. And so often, operational leaders are excluded from the annual survey planning process. This results in a disconnect between the data collected and the needs of frontline leaders. Traditional employee surveys are also resource-intensive to deploy, and often result in stale or outdated data that feels disconnected from the operational realities frontline leaders face. And to make matters worse, survey tools aren’t built with operations leaders in mind. The way the data is collected, delivered and actioned on usually works well for corporate employees and leaders, but often neglects the day-to-day world of a frontline leader.

Ops isn’t bought in

Traditional employee surveys often fail to effectively capture the experiences and perspectives of frontline employees due to the exclusion of operations leaders in the planning process. This oversight leads to several issues that undermine the usefulness of survey results for operations leaders. Firstly, they are not consulted on crucial aspects such as when the survey will be conducted, the questions that will be asked, and how the collected data will be utilized. This lack of involvement results in surveys that may not align with the unique challenges and needs of frontline employees and leaders.

Secondly, operations leaders don’t have an opportunity to review or contribute to the survey questions before the survey is conducted. This means that the questions may not accurately reflect the concerns and priorities of frontline employees, which can lead to irrelevant or incomplete data. Without the input of operations leaders who have a deep understanding of their teams’ daily realities, the survey may miss crucial areas for improvement.

Distributing a traditional annual survey requires a ton of leadership involvement. Socializing the survey, monitoring response rate and, oftentimes, creating specific time and space for employees to participate become added responsibilities for frontline leaders. All of this for an initiative they’re not bought into, and often don’t see positive results from.

Furthermore, the survey results are designed with HR – not the Operations leader – in mind. Operations leaders may not have the training or experience to effectively analyze the data or derive meaningful insights to help drive improvements. Without buy-in from the beginning or confidence that the surveys are designed to capture applicable feedback, it may be challenging for frontline leaders to identify key trends and patterns that could help inform decision-making.

Without applicable data, operations leaders won’t be able to take meaningful action driven by survey results. Without the means to implement changes based on the survey findings, operations leaders can become frustrated, and employees can lose trust in the survey process, perceiving it as a mere formality with no tangible outcomes.

Most traditional surveys aren’t built with operational needs in mind

Many traditional employee surveys fail to address the unique needs and challenges of frontline employees. This oversight can lead to several issues that hamper the effectiveness of these surveys.

Traditional surveys often lack questions about operational topics and themes. Most company-wide surveys may not address areas of concern related to physicality, tools and physical safety in ways that make sense for frontline employees. Instead, they concentrate on generic HR topics, which may resonate more with corporate employees and won’t specifically address the concerns of frontline workers. This disconnect results in surveys that fail to capture valuable insights into the operational aspects that directly impact frontline employees’ daily tasks and experiences.

Traditional surveys tend to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, disregarding the diverse roles and responsibilities of frontline employees. Consequently, the surveys may include irrelevant or inapplicable questions, leading to low response rates and compromised data quality.

Lengthy and time-consuming surveys further contribute to low response rates among frontline employees. Their demanding schedules make it challenging for them to invest significant time in survey completion. This hurdle impedes the collection of accurate and representative feedback, undermining the survey’s credibility and usefulness.

Traditional surveys frequently rely on subjective measures, such as employee satisfaction and morale. While these measures provide a general sense of employee sentiment, they are often difficult to interpret and translate into actionable insights. This ambiguity hinders operations leaders from implementing targeted improvements based on the survey findings.

To address these challenges and effectively capture the feedback of frontline employees, surveys must be specifically designed with their needs in mind. This entails incorporating questions that delve into operational topics relevant to their roles, adopting a tailored approach that acknowledges their diverse responsibilities, and ensuring that the surveys are concise and easy to complete. Additionally, surveys should more directly tie to objective measures, such as operational metrics and performance indicators, to provide more tangible and actionable data.

By aligning surveys with the unique perspectives and requirements of frontline employees, operations leaders can obtain valuable insights that inform decision-making, drive operational improvements, and enhance the overall employee experience.

Infrequent = inaccurate 

Another reason why traditional employee surveys are not beneficial for operations leaders is that they are conducted infrequently. Most companies conduct employee surveys just once a year – some even less frequently. This makes it difficult to get an accurate picture of employee sentiment because the employee experience can change drastically from day-to-day, especially in a dynamic environment where the temperature in the warehouse or lack of critical equipment can have a massive impact on workforce productivity. As a result, operations leaders receive stale or outdated data from HR, which they have no desire to act on because they know it’s incomplete.

To make data-driven decisions, operations leaders need real-time insights. Every other part of the business runs on real-time data and analysis – workforce visibility should be no different. In order for operational leaders to incorporate employee feedback into their day-to-day, they must see employee feedback as a critical data input. If the feedback is stale or outdated, the accuracy and the value of that feedback is also stale and outdated.

Implementing real-time feedback mechanisms, which use AI to gather more actionable qualitative feedback from employees, helps combat the narrative that employee feedback is inaccurate or inactionable.

Close the loop with employee feedback tools

Show your employees that their voice matters. Empower your HR and Operations teams to action on employee feedback and close the loop with your frontline with WorkStep.

Act on employee feedback

No one is following up

One of the biggest challenges with traditional employee surveys is that no one has the time to follow up on the results. Operations leaders are typically very busy and don’t traditionally allocate time in their day to wade through pages of survey results. Even if they did have the time, traditional surveys are not designed in a way that makes it easy to take action on the feedback. The questions are often too general and the results are not specific enough to provide actionable insights. This means that even if operations leaders wanted to follow up on the results, they wouldn’t know where to start.

The lack of follow-up on survey results is a major problem because it sends a message to frontline employees that their feedback doesn’t matter. This can lead to decreased employee engagement and morale, which can ultimately hurt the bottom line.

To be effective, employee surveys need to be followed up on in a timely and meaningful way. This means that operations leaders need solutions that deliver relevant insights directly to them in their preferred communication channels. Unlike traditional annual surveys, real-time employee feedback can be incorporated into the day-to-day management tasks frontline leaders are focused on – eliminating safety risks, identifying high and low performers and communicating across physically distributed teams.

Real-time data is King

The standard employee survey doesn’t serve the needs of a frontline workforce and frontline employees and their leaders deserve more. Though annual engagement surveys often feel like a waste of time for operations leaders – there is a better way! By implementing purpose-built frontline solutions, people-centric operations leaders will have the tools they need to hear from their frontline and take action. By providing actionable data in real-time, facilitating targeted action and employee communication, solutions like WorkStep empower frontline leaders to make data-driven decisions that meaningfully impact the business and the lives of their employees.

Zoe Morin

Zoe Morin, | zoe.morin@workstep.com

Zoe Matho Morin is the VP Marketing at WorkStep. WorkStep is an employee engagement solution that helps organizations engage and retain their frontline workforce. Prior to WorkStep, Zoe led marketing at a global HR tech company.