Just two fifths of employers conduct annual engagement surveys, report shows

Experts say the only things that should be yearly in the workplace are ‘Christmas and birthdays’ as businesses increasingly seek staff feedback more frequently

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Annual engagement surveys might be becoming a thing of the past as their use has dropped by more than half (53 per cent) in four years, research has found.

WorkBuzz’s The State of Employee Engagement 2022 report, which polled 300 people leaders in June and July 2022, found that just under two fifths (37 per cent) of UK organisations conducted engagement surveys annually or less frequently in 2022. 

However, it highlighted a greater focus on surveying people across the employee lifecycle, from onboarding (42 per cent of UK organisations) to exit (70 per cent). 

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The findings indicated that, instead of relying on annual surveys, organisations are now reviewing employee sentiment more regularly, using listening tools such as pulse surveys for more consistent temperature checks.

Gary Cookson, director of Epic HR, said: “The only things that should be annual in an organisation are things like Christmas and birthdays. Annual surveys are often not worth it as it's too long in between surveys to make meaningful sense of what they are saying, and often they are being done as a tick-box exercise to satisfy stakeholders, and don’t lead to any significant changes.”

In addition to the change of format, the frequency of feedback collection has also changed, as a quarter (25 per cent) of employers are now surveying their staff at least once a month, while 23 per cent are sending out surveys quarterly and 23 per cent are doing so every six months. Meanwhile, 10 per cent of organisations poll employees as often as every month, and 4 per cent survey them every week. 

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The report attributed the differences in employee surveying to the changes brought forward by the pandemic, as well as hybrid working and the increasing pace of change that created the need for more regular feedback from employees.

Confirming the survey’s findings, Kerry Miller, director of HRLife, said the landscape of employee feedback was changing as it was “ever more important, with wellbeing, EDI and engagement high on most HR agendas”.

“We think most CPOs and HRDs are keen to shift away from the annual surveys to a more regular pulse-type survey that allows for results and feedback either daily, weekly or monthly. Things can change so quickly that there is a much greater need to be listening and reacting much quicker,’’ she added.

Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, pointed out that measuring aspects of employee engagement was an important element of people analytics in order to understand the strengths and weaknesses of an organisation. “Measurement can help the organisation understand how motivation is changing over time and what factors motivate or demotivate people,” she said.

At the same time, Suff said organisations needed to ensure they used reliable and effective approaches to measure engagement. “Employee engagement surveys can be helpful if they provide data that’s clear and specific enough to be actionable. It’s also important to use a holistic approach that combines quantitative methods with qualitative ones, such as focus groups, to gain a deeper understanding of what’s influencing employee engagement,” she added.

A previous Workbuzz survey found that culture attracts employees more than salary or flexible working. It found that almost half (45 per cent) of UK employees and business leaders believe a ‘great’ culture is the most important factor when looking for a new job. It also revealed that the top priority for job applicants is a consciously created culture that provides a wonderful employee experience, followed by pay (31 per cent) and challenging work (28 per cent).

HR consultant Gemma Bullivant said employee feedback was closely related to company culture. “Company culture is crucial at the moment and, in most companies, the most important lever to pull in is the attraction and retention strategy,” said Bullivant, adding that if people trust that the company operates in a way that meets their values, they are more likely to stick with the organisation during more turbulent times: “To do this, leaders and colleagues need to 'walk the talk' and behave and communicate in a way that is congruent to the culture and values of the organisation.”