What is the use of an employee survey?

According to Autoblog, is surveying its salaried workers in the US for their views on various human resources matters to give “the leadership team valuable input” and enable it to “collectively understand employee views on the survey topics and continue to move forward as a team.”

In public relations, we recognise that two way communication is a good thing, but are surveys really the best approach?  In the case of Ford, it saw one in eight salaried staff leave the company in February as part of its Way Forward restructuring.  It may still need to lose another 4,000 workers from the remaining 42,000.  What kind of confidence in the future can employees feel to express their honest views knowing their jobs are on the line?

Apparently, Ford leadership also claims, “More education of the workforce is required as fewer than half of employees say they believe Way Forward will help Ford achieve sustainable business success.”  That sounds more like propaganda, than an open-mind for really hearing, and engaging with what people think.

I don’t know why leaders find it so hard to realise employees – and customers – are just as talented, often even more so, than themselves.  So why do they only seek views in order to persuade others that management is wonderful and has all the right answers?

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

5 thoughts on “What is the use of an employee survey?”

  1. Now you’re touching on one of my fields, the other being failure analysis. Essentially, both HR and employee surveys are political tools used by the management in many cases to ‘tailor make’ a scenario acceptable to them. HR certainly don’t do the bosses’ dirty work but they are selectively quoted, shall we say and therefore the result is foregone.

  2. Thanks James – I feel internal communications is a critical area for organisations at present, where the real challenges of educated, empowered, connected workforces are not recognised by management. As you indicate, HR/PR are too often involved in propaganda or asymmetric communications. The message is “our employees are our most important asset”, but management don’t seem to genuinely believe this and seem frightened of actually engaging.

    There is an interesting story today regarding some banks telling their employees they have to open accounts or they’ll face disciplinary action. One wonders why they don’t realise the potential to find out more about why customers might not want an account with them. Great research resource rather than seeing employees as a market to be coerced.

  3. But why wouldn’t you want a bank account with your employer? As long as it’s as competitive as what you had before then why not?

    I would say that changing a million direct debits is what puts people off. If they make that a smooht transition then I’d be in the queue. I’d want to be co-orientated and feel part of the organisation.

    The banks are going about it in completely confrontational way, though I agree. And folk are immediately hostile to that.

  4. Jill – I agree that you should want to have a bank account with your employer, so the question that the banks should be asking, is why don’t they. They all claim it is easy to transfer direct debits etc, so if that is an issue, then the banks could learn from employees’ resistance.

    Also – what happened to the days of there being incentives for bank employees? When they stop giving good mortgage rates etc to employees, where is the incentive to bank with them?

    Of course, people should want to support the business that pays their salary – so the big question is why don’t they? Seek the valuable research rather than simply forcing uptake, I say.

  5. Yes, I agree.

    I didn’t know, though, that banks have stopped giving ther employees good mortgages.

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