Blog Post

8 Reasons Why Employee Engagement Survey Data Alone Isn’t Enough to Drive DEI Change

By Michael Rizzotti and Diana Forster
April 10, 2023

In today’s data-driven workforce, employee engagement surveys have become one of the primary sources of data on staff satisfaction. They are the industry standard, and they give organizational leaders something deeply important—quantitative data that puts rigor behind assertions and is hard to argue with. However, the insights they provide are often superficial, and the data that comes from them tends to be insufficient to drive meaningful change. We’ve found that employees don’t trust the anonymity of surveys implemented by their companies and, in fear that their manager will come after them, they inflate their responses.

Many organizations are identifying talent challenges within survey data but don’t have the information needed to solve them. When problems present themselves within the survey data, leaders are unable to follow up with respondents to understand the why and the levers to improve progress on the data they collect. That is why oftentimes, surveys must be supplemented with an employee listening tool that helps to capture the right data to make real progress on DEI and talent goals.

Here are eight reasons why employee engagement survey data alone isn’t enough to drive meaningful change:

1. Employee engagement surveys are focused on quantitative data

While quantitative data is useful in pinpointing areas of opportunity, without the in-depth, qualitative responses that you would get from a live interaction to contextualize the data points, leaders are often left asking, “But why?”

2. Employees are uncertain about survey anonymity

Employee participants often do not trust that their answers will be truly anonymous, leading them to respond untruthfully. In fact, a 2021 study by Gartner showed that only 29% of employees trust their organizations with data collected through common feedback processes and technologies.

3. Organizations are unable to conduct follow-up to the responses they receive

When problems present within the data, leaders are unable to follow up to dig deeper and get more information. This leaves leaders playing guessing games and being unsure of how to develop an appropriate strategy to address the problem.

4. Employee engagement surveys lack facilitation

Employee participants are unable to ask clarifying questions about what they are being asked. This can lead to confusion and untrustworthy responses when survey respondents are lacking the context they need to respond truthfully.

5. Employee engagement surveys are impersonal

Employee participants are unable to speak to their own personal experiences and perceptions in specific detail. Without the forum to be able to provide context as to why they answered a certain way or to give direct examples, leaders are left unsure as to how they can provide the proper support to their workforce.

6. They ask surface-level questions

Surveys often include a standardized set of questions, and leaders at the organization only get data responses only to questions that they had the foresight to ask.

7. Employees give passive responses

When replying to static surveys, employees typically feel like their input is going into a “black box” that may or may not ever be directly addressed; therefore they don’t feel the need to take the time needed for mindful answers.

8. Employees may experience survey fatigue

Surveys, especially ones that require detailed thinking, can inevitably lead to what is known as “survey fatigue,” which reduces the quality of the responses given by employees. We have found that having a moderated, interactive discussion is far more engaging experience.

Key Takeaway

Don’t wait until you start losing top talent to discover vulnerabilities in your organizational culture. Now more than ever, fostering inclusive culture and psychological safety among all employee cohorts as well as building trust between leadership and workforce are crucial to retaining and recruiting key talent.

Powered by innovative technology, Seramount’s Assess360 tool can capture unparalleled and unfiltered insight into the experiences and perceptions of your workforce. Our unique DEI assessment methodology helps our partners identify levers to drive meaningful change, engage all stakeholders in driving progress, and attract, engage, and motivate their workforce.

Do you see problems showing up in your engagement survey data? Contact us to learn how we can help you drill deeper.

About the Authors

Michael Rizzotti
Head of Research, Measurement, and Insights
Seramount
Michael Rizzotti is the Head of Research, Measurement, and Insights at Seramount Consulting. He is an Industrial Organizational psychologist with a background in motivational psychology, organizational behavior, data science, survey research, academic research, and statistics.
Diana Forster
Director of Qualitative Research
Seramount