Employee engagement surveys are great ways of keeping track of your staff’s overall satisfaction and pinpoint areas that management can improve on. Conducting them also shows employees that you care about their opinions and happiness on the job. That said, engagement surveys can be both ineffective and inaccurate if conducted too often or too little. So, how often should these surveys actually be administered, and what kinds of questions should you be asking?

Annual Surveys are Outdated

Once upon a time, it was customary for companies to give their employees an annual survey to fill out. However, these annual surveys are becoming increasingly less common. In fact, a recent Gartner study found that only 74 percent of companies relied on annual surveys to gauge employee satisfaction in 2019, down from 89 percent in 2015. But it’s not that companies are caring less about employee opinion.

Instead, the problems with annual surveys are numerous. They tend to be long and take up valuable time on the employee’s part, with many of them even spending their entire break filling them out. Responses may therefore be inaccurate, particularly towards the end of the survey, due to employees becoming frustrated and just wanted the survey to be done. Annual surveys may also be inaccurate due to long amounts of time that may have passed since significant highs and lows of an employee’s experience. If they got promoted or commended shortly after taking the previous survey, for example, the feelings from that moment may be unlikely to carry over for a full year. The same goes for negative incidents that employers will want to be made aware of.

Additionally, the sheer amount of questions often seen on annual surveys may lead employee responses to become too general or vague. Likewise, many employees may not believe any serious action will be taken as a result. This concern often proves to be all too valid, with lengthy surveys taking weeks or months to process and providing companies with more information than they are prepared to handle. By the time any response or employer action can be taken, it is far from timely and may no longer even be effective.

Survey Alternatives

A newer alternative to the annual survey found to be more effective is the pulse survey. These shorter questionnaires provide more detailed questions about the employee’s individual experience, allowing them to give more specific, accurate feedback. While questions do not need to be overly detailed, it is often helpful for them to ask both about the employee’s thoughts on their team and direct supervisor, as well as their own performance. Likewise, flex surveys can provide more feedback about specific areas or projects. Pulse and flex surveys alike are often single pages, and the data is far easier for companies to process and take action on more immediately,

How Often Should Shorter Surveys Be Given?

Employers should be forewarned — conducting pulse or flex surveys too often (like every week or even every two weeks) may take away from their value. After all, both employers and employees may take them less seriously if they know they are being administered all the time. While the needs of each company will vary, giving employee engagement surveys out monthly or once every two or three months is sufficient and effective for many.