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Surveying When Times Are Tough


Waiting for the perfect time to survey employees is detrimental and counter to why we survey employees in the first place. Selecting the perfect time to survey to make the leader or organization look better, when results are expected to be higher, is manipulative and deceitful. Employees are smarter than that and deserve more.


Even during busy and challenging times, employees need a feedback channel. They need a forum to be able to share their challenges, issues, and obstacles, and as leaders we need to be ready to clear the way so they can be successful. Not only do employees need to feel heard, they need assurance action will be taken.

Some leaders are concerned that employees do not have time to complete a survey. If that is true, then perhaps you are pushing your employees too hard. If they cannot step away from their work for fifteen minutes to provide valuable feedback, they are likely burnt out.


Too many leaders are afraid of feedback, especially the negative or constructive kind. Not surveying is like ignoring there is a problem, and it is dangerous to only be cheerleaders and focus on the positives.

As leaders, we also cannot assume what employees are feeling or thinking. It is risky to think we know the way, solutions, and answers. Employees who are closest to the work should have a voice, even when times are tough.

Employee surveys are just one way to get information. When completed, they should be followed by focus groups and interviews to dig deeper. Other ways to find out what employees are thinking and feeling are stay conversations, coaching, and town hall meetings.


Before you survey, leaders should:

· Partner with an experienced consultant and/or survey vendor to determine the objectives of the survey and customize it to meet your needs. Consider the types of questions and possible industry benchmarking.

· Promote the importance of the survey to ensure as many voices are heard and increase participation. Using an outside vendor increases confidence levels and shifts the survey management to an expert.

· Probe for more information through the use of focus groups, feedback sessions, and interviews. There is a story behind the data and talking about the results will bring more insight.

· Plan for changes. Managers across the organization, at all levels, take what they have learned and commit to next steps to drive engagement through action planning.


Providing a space for employees to share their concerns is integral to your success as a leader and as an organization especially during busy, challenging, and trying times. So, embrace feedback, seek it out, and view it as a gift. Employee surveys are powerful tools for leading change.

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