Staff Engagement Surveys – How Often Should You Run Them?

By Alex Martinez


Organisations often seek our opinion regarding the ideal frequency for running a Staff Engagement Survey. Although the question is simple, getting the answer right can in many cases influence whether a workforce is motivated and engaged compared to one where staff exhibit low discretionary effort and try to get by only by doing the bare minimum. Numerous studies(1) around the world show a positive correlation between a workforce that is highly engaged and an organisation that is profitable; thus underpinning the importance of getting the frequency of these surveys right.

So here’s the conundrum: run a Staff Engagement Survey too often and run the risk of (1) creating ‘survey fatigue’ across your workforce, and (2) not having enough time to measure if the action plans put in place as a consequence of the survey results are paying off. On the other extreme, if too much time is taken between running Staff Engagement Surveys, the main risk is one of not being able to detect and influence in a timely manner the issues that are affecting the motivation, morale and performance of staff members.

So, how often should an organisation run a comprehensive Staff Engagement Survey? Although there is no exact science that would allow anyone to answer this question with just one number, there are a few key factors that you should consider in your decision making process:

Size of your organisation

Smaller organisations are easier to steer in a particular direction; whereas larger organisations typically take much longer to manoeuvre. Let’s take use the example of an accounting firm with 150 staff members versus a bank with 10,000 employees. Strategies can be communicated and put into action much more easily and rapidly in the accounting firm and as such the frequency of an all-encompassing Staff Engagement Survey can be higher than that of a large bank. The bottom line is staff will only continue to participate in your surveys if they can see that their feedback is being acted upon – for some larger organisations this change process is slower.

The nature of your organisation and ‘pace’ of your industry

Do you work within a slow moving Government department, or a fast paced ever changing tech firm? Your answer may well impact the recommended frequency of your engagement survey. A technology firm, for example, may place more importance on moving quickly to respond to continually changing competitive forces, whereas a Government department may not have the same competitive pressures. As such, organisations in fast paced environments may find it more relevant to more frequently measure staff engagement. This enables them to more quickly respond to any change in employee outlook towards the changing parameters in the market and readjust to workplace trends owing to frequent project movements, competitive threats, and market adversities.

In the end it comes down to having a good feel for the ‘pulse’ of your organisation and the impact of external forces within your sector. If changes are occurring frequently, the worst thing you can do is bury your head in the sand and stop listening – ensuring your staff are motivated and engaged throughout any change period is crucial to your success

Would smaller, more targeted surveys be more appropriate?

Just because an organisation is very large and has a mostly blue collar geographically dispersed workforce, it does not mean that many years can go by between one Staff Engagement Survey and the next. In these instances, the running of smaller, more targeted ‘Staff Pulse Surveys’ can be a great contributor to the success of an employee feedback program.

So, taking all this into account, how long should an organisation wait before running comprehensive, all-reaching, Staff Engagement Surveys? The answer to this question is typically no less than 12 months and no longer than 24 months. In addition to this, organisations must not underestimate the benefits of running targeted and more frequent ‘Staff Pulse Surveys’ focused on specific areas of interest to augment their wider-reaching 12 or 24 month Staff Engagement Surveys.

What are your thoughts?

I’d love to hear from you. Give me a call to discuss the plans for your next Staff Engagement Survey initiative on the details below.

Ph +61 2 9232 0172.

Or request a demo of our Staff Engagement Survey software.

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