Employee questionnaires, worth the effort?

An article on the BBC news site caught my eye today, it was about a company that allows your employees to give feedback on their happiness and wellbeing anonymously via a phone app. I’m all for looking out for the wellbeing of your employees, but it got me thinking about anonymous online questionnaires and how seriously we can ever take the results.

I used to work in a large organisation where we got the typical anonymous employee questionnaires sent round every few months or so.  As in any large organisation, some people in the office were unhappy for various reasons (some justifiable, others less so), but when we got the survey through most of my colleagues wouldn’t bother filling it in. In fact the only one who religiously answered it did so with purpose written positive answers as he tutted and muttered “yeah, like heck this is anonymous, I just want my boss to like me”. So, year after year the management continued to believe that was getting a warped view of employee wellbeing.

For me this raises some interesting points.  With internet surveillance so much in the news at the moment, how much do we trust anything that says it’s anonymous? To log in and register your answers, someone somewhere must have the data saying who said what, and while most companies are honest in this respect, all you need is for your employees to not trust that you are being honest, and suddenly you have a worthless set of results. Do you have employee satisfaction surveys, and if so how honest are you when you answer them? And not only is there an issue of people being too positive because they refuse to believe  that they will remain anonymous, there is a counter issue to do with people using such questionnaires to be unreasonable in their replies and carry out grudges against colleagues. If your replies are anonymous, and you complain about someone through this method, then that person will never get a chance to defend themselves against their accuser.  Is that fair?

I can see where companies feel that they’re going with this, and on the whole I like it. Goodness knows, we here at Refined Practice love it when people use technology well. I just can’t help but feel that maybe, sometimes a personal touch is easier to deal with. If you have a grievance against someone and you don’t feel that you can say it to their face there are better ways of dealing with it than through an anonymous survey.


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