If you were my friend and you only checked in with me once a year to see how I was doing, you wouldn’t really be my friend.
So why do companies think that surveying their employees once a year is representative of how they really feel about their work and the company?
Look, I’m not bashing annual surveys here. Companies invest a lot of time, money, and energy in them. It’s money well spent and employees do appreciate being asked.
It’s just that once a year isn’t enough anymore. Imagine how much more effective leaders could be if they could tap the overall mood of the company on a more frequent basis.
Know the delta between the highs and lows
Every company has its share of moods. Even when things are going well financially, morale can be low because of a festering organizational discontent over something completely unrelated to profitability. Frustration only increases when leaders express surprise at the annual survey results and promise to look into it – to employees, it seems the problems should have been clear all along.
Similarly, when the company mood is on a high note, leaders can miss opportunities to tap into that energy and creativity if they don’t have a good sense of the delta between down and up moods. Research by my colleague Michael Goldberg has revealed four ways to keep up with a company’s mood swings:
- Look outside the company to learn what’s going on inside. External indicators: social media, including posting by employees about their work; review sites like Glassdoor.com; also tools and apps that track signals about personal well being – these can be used to take workers’ temperatures and to try to make work more fun.
- Monitor internal movements. If people are moving not just within their silos but across geographies, divisions, and functions, it shows that employees are motivated and have opportunities to advance their skills and experience.
- Set alarms. Perhaps the best aspect of HR technology tools is that they don’t forget. The tools prompt managers to set goals with employees and encourage follow up. Goals make for more productive meetings; more meetings gives managers more opportunities to encourage actions that lead to positive performance, correct those that require addressing, and offer positive reinforcement for employees so they repeat the behaviors over time – rather than just once a year at review time.
- Recruit internally, not just externally. Poaching employees from one area to another shouldn’t be frowned upon; it should be actively encouraged and given formal support. Employees will be happier if they are encouraged to move around rather than having to negotiate on the down low, which can harm relationships and hamper performance.
Of course, understanding employees’ moods isn’t enough. You also have to take action to help them feel more satisfied. We interviewed a bunch of experts about how to do that in the Q&A How Empowering Employees Creates a More Engaged Workforce.