Employee Engagement Surveys, Culture Surveys, and Ethics Surveys

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.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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