Your Next Employee Survey Needs to Ask This Question

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Jan 20, 2022

What’s the fastest way to improve your employees’ engagement? Is it creating a more transparent, accountable, and empathic culture? That would be great, but it’s not going to happen quickly.

What about finding a few of your employees’ biggest roadblocks and just eliminating those frustrations? That’s something that would have an immediate impact on engagement, as well as stress, burnout, and productivity.

Unfortunately, most organizations and leaders aren’t actively reducing their employees’ roadblocks. The study “The State of Leadership Development” reveals that only 16% of employees say their leader always removes the roadblocks to their success.

Asking the Right Question

That’s where your employee survey comes in. Since leaders aren’t jumping on this issue, use your next survey to ask people about their biggest frustrations and roadblocks. An effective way to word this question is, “What’s your biggest frustration at work that stops you from being as effective or productive as you would like?”

While some of the answers you’ll get will highlight deeply entrenched or intractable problems, a great many responses will identify roadblocks and frustrations that you can fix almost immediately. For example, an organization recently found that their most-mentioned roadblocks included:

  • Meetings that last too long or get off track
  • Recently-set goals are too vague and/or not tangible
  • Some managers require duplicative data entry because they haven’t learned the newly-installed software
  • Conflicting priorities between vice presidents and managers
  • Work-from-home days on Tuesday and Wednesday (rather than the much-preferred Monday and Friday)
  • People not entering data into the correct fields in the software (making data retrieval cumbersome)

Imagine having to waste an extra hour or two every day hunting for the correct data because someone didn’t enter it into the correct field. Or wasting 30 to 90 minutes every day because one or two leaders can’t manage a meeting agenda and end on time. Or being held accountable for a goal you don’t really understand.

Any of those roadblocks could drain the energy from even the most resilient among us. Yet all of them are pretty easily fixable. You could institute a new rule that no meeting can go longer than 45-minutes or that there has to be a one-question survey at the end of every meeting to ensure that meetings are useful.

You could issue a directive that every employee has to validate that they understand their goals. You could mandate that every single manager has to demonstrate proficiency in the new software. Or change the work-from-home days. 

The point is simply that once you know the top frustrations hurting your employees’ productivity and engagement, it’s typically a straightforward process to remove those roadblocks.

Surveys Should Have One Purpose Only

Why don’t more companies use a question like this? One big reason is that they have lost sight of the purpose of engagement surveys. Surveys aren’t an excuse to buy a new app and get daily happiness data; the only reason to survey employees is to discover specific issues that will increase their engagement.

Asking an open-ended question about employees’ frustrations may seem a bit old-school, but it’s the fastest way to get actionable data that you can use immediately. If you can discover a few issues that will reduce your team’s frustration and burnout, you can make changes within a week. And that’s going to drastically improve your organization.