Employee surveys don’t provide answers

Published by Tony Quinlan on


Yesterday’s post on the FT article threw up some questions for me, in particular relating to the use of employee surveys and other tools that, in the words of the article, "take your staff’s pulse."  Most of the tools we use, are sensible, rational questions in surveys, with a little support from focus groups.

But we also know that people play with surveys and questions.  They interpret the intention of the questioner, they identify the desired outcome – and then react accordingly.  Not the clean, objective results that we then present them to be.

In addition, as Malcolm Gladwell talks about in this talk on "Human Nature", asking the questions changes the thought and response – making it an intervention, rather than the diagnostic that many communicators belief it to be.  (The truth, of course, is that every diagnostic is an intervention and every intervention a diagnostic.)

The need for a clean survey tool that reflected more than just a rational perspective but included more about the intuitive (often unrealised and unvoiceable) ways in which people see the organisation was what led us to develop the Emotional Audits – tools for uncovering the unconscious perceptions that people have about organisations.