Unlocking the Full Potential of Employee Surveys: Common Mistakes You Might Be Making


Picture it — you’ve just gotten your coffee, plopped down into your office chair, and you’re ready to work for the day as the manager or a leader of an organization. Your team is hard at work, plugging away at the projects and tasks assigned to them, and everything seems pretty status quo. 

However, you don’t really know what your employees are thinking and feeling. Everything may seem calm and collected, but underneath the serene workplace surface, employees could be grappling with dissatisfaction, stress, interoffice arguments, or a lack of belief in the company’s direction or mission.

Employee surveys can be like a backstage pass to the inner workings of your organization, helping you get into the hearts and minds of your team and figure out how to improve processes, make your space more inclusive, or better retain talent. In an age where people are fleeing toxic employers left and right, moves by organizations that are statistically proven to help retain employees are smart moves to make. In a recent study, 71% of managers say that employee engagement is absolutely critical to the success of their organizations. 

Employee surveys have changed since the days of the suggestion box that no one ever checked. In this era of remote work, “water cooler chats” and unused suggestion boxes have been replaced by quick surveys and intentional conversations, allowing leaders to get to know how their team members feel.

However, it’s important to remember that the employee survey approach is not a perfect science. There are best practices — and then there are times when you make a survey misstep, don’t ask the right questions, or leave unused data on the table. To help optimize your surveys, here are some of the top mistakes leaders make when implementing an employee survey plan so you can make the most of your employee feedback.


Neglecting regular surveys can mean a litany of missed opportunities for businesses. If one is only doing a survey once a year — or, worse, never at all — they are not truly tapping into the evolving sentiments of their team. Giving regular, shorter surveys is the best way to have a finger on the organization’s pulse. 

Ignoring the results 

Employee surveys only work if you act on the results. Gathering feedback is great, but doing something about issues uncovered within that feedback takes your engagement initiatives to the next level. Please don’t think that you have to make drastic changes or solve every issue, but acknowledging a concern and giving a reason why you won’t (or can’t) fix it right now goes a long way and helps your employees feel heard.

Failing to outline goals

Employees don’t want to fill out survey after survey without knowing why and how it impacts their work experience. Companies sometimes make the mistake of jumping into doing surveys that are chock full of generic questions with no specific focus. This can lead to low engagement, worthless results, and a team confused about what they’re being surveyed for in the first place. 

Not taking confidentiality seriously

With the current surge of virtual workplaces, employees are becoming more aware of data privacy and confidentiality. Research shows that people are not only more apt to answer anonymous surveys but are also more likely to be honest within these anonymous surveys. If a company doesn’t protect the confidentiality of its employees, the result will be a team of employees hesitant to answer a survey, and if they do, you can almost bet on losing out on genuine feedback.

Relying only on surveys 

Surveys are a great way to get an idea of what your employees think and feel, but they are not the only way. Face-to-face interaction, team-building events, regular check-ins, all-hands meetings, and even simple informal conversations are all great approaches to finding out what your team members are thinking. Be intentional about building genuine relationships, and real feedback will naturally follow.

Confusing surveys 

Make sure the surveys that you are giving are designed well, with questions that are easy to understand. Surveys that are vague, complicated, or far too long will nip engagement right in the bud, defeating the original purpose of the survey. 

Not making surveys an integral part of work communication

Surveys are not simply a “check-box” item on a list of things managers must do. They are an effective tool in the leadership toolbox. Now more than ever, it’s essential to engage with your team and help them understand that their thoughts and feedback are critical when it comes to seeing success. Surveys can and should be woven into the communication approach of the entire company, top to bottom, to be truly effective.

Now, no one is perfect, and every leader will make a blunder here or there with an employee survey plan. If one of these missteps sounds all too familiar, consider it a sign to reevaluate your survey approach. With great surveys comes great responsibility. 

And if you can’t remember everything we’ve talked about today, remember this: Follow up, follow through, and engage with your team. 

Only then will you truly unleash the awesome power of the employee survey and begin to reap all of its benefits. 


Logan Mallory is the Vice President of Marketing at the leading employee engagement and recognition software, Motivosity. Mallory is a public speaker, professor, and thought leader on culture and leadership in the workplace to achieve employee retention. Motivosity helps companies promote gratitude and connection in today’s digital era of work.

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