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Culture

Why surveys are failing you and your organization

Globally, employee engagement was recently reported at an abysmal 15%. With a number that low, it comes as no surprise that organizations are making significant attempts at improving employee engagement. Surveys are the tool most commonly used by leadership to engage employees and measure workplace conditions. But what if the surveys used to understand engagement actually stifle it? Here are a few reasons why surveys are actually doing more harm than good.

Surveys reduce employees to respondents

If you have ever responded to a survey, you know this. The very act of clicking through a survey turns you into a respondent. Into someone who reacts to other people’s questions. Your job as a survey respondent is to confirm or deny the assumptions of someone else. The questions in an employee engagement survey reflect what is on the mind of the leadership, NOT what is on the mind of the employees. In this way, the survey experience is terrible at allowing employees to feel seen and heard. This can reinforce the division between management and employees, or worse; stifle initiative and proactiveness from employees.

Those who do respond are few and far between

Survey fatigue is real. Statistics show that the response rate to surveys is between 30-40%. On top of that, 30% of employees feel that surveys are useless to begin with. Why do they feel this way? Likely because 58% of organizations fall into these 3 disappointing categories: 1) Willing to take action on survey results but never actually doing so; 2) Only taking action on easier issues and avoiding the tougher problems or; 3) Not being willing to act on survey data at all. If employees feel that responding to a survey does not lead to any changes, then sending them more surveys is sure to demotivate them even further.

Survey data is biased, but pretends otherwise

Survey data is dependent on two things: the questions asked, and how the respondents interpret those questions. The persons designing the survey decide what questions are most relevant. They use their own experience and frame of reference to make that decision. This means that often the questions can feel irrelevant to those answering the survey. Not to mention, surveys are often riddled with double-barreled, leading, assumptive or confusing questions. As a result, the data from an employee engagement survey more often reflects how the person answering interpreted the question and how they felt in the moment, rather than provide a “true” measurement of employee engagement.


Surveys are the go-to tool for employee engagement, but using surveys has a range of pitfalls. Before you decide to turn to a survey to measure or boost employee engagement in your organization, it is worth considering if the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.
And luckily, you do have alternative approaches when it comes to measuring and boosting employee engagement. With Qvest, all participants get to ask the questions that matter to them. Plus, they get to receive responses about what matters to them from the people who matter to them.


To really increase engagement, give Qvest a try and see why it is the anti-survey.

Ava Cramp

Ava Cramp

Marketing Associate at Qvest. Ava is passionate about the power of questions and clear communication. When she is not juggling marketing tasks for Qvest, she is pursuing her Masters in Brand and Communication Management at Copenhagen Business School.

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