Companies, agencies, organizations, and Little League teams, for all the Barometer knows, use all three. In fact, they pay through the nose for experts to come in and run all three. There are two problems. The first is that the surveys almost always include demographics. Employees do not answer honestly because, for example, if there is one female in a department (say, at Google, for instance), and the survey asks for the employee’s gender and department, the survey is not anonymous. The solo female in that department has figured that out. Identify employees on these surveys by gender, race, education, etc. and with the name of their department, anyone could take the survey and determine who answered what way on the surveys. The probablility that the solo female in a department who is identified by the demographics will disclose problems in her department are about as high as the chances that Scottish guy was going to win that fight last weekend. We all knew that was a show, and the employees know the surveys are for show, not truth.
The second problem is the managers. Their evaluation may include metrics on how well employees rate the company in these types of surveys. So, like car dealerships trying to get all 10s on customer satisfaction surveys, they begin talking with customers following the service but prior to the survey so that they can make things right. Managers sit down with employees prior to survey time and ask if there if they do indeed “Agree Absolutely,” as the surveys will read with all the good stuff, and “Absolutely Disagree” on all the bad stuff. In other words, managers coach their employees up a bit in a pre-survey huddle.
Be careful what you incentivize and how you measure. You will get great numbers; they just might not be real. Figures don’t lie, but survey takers and their managers do game the system. Instead of the metrics, analytics, data, and expense, ask your employees this simple question: Is there anything that you did at work or were asked to do at work during the past year that bothers you? You will be stunned at what’s going on, and all while your numbers were so great on the surveys.