How You're Wasting 75% of the Power of Employee Surveys

The employee survey still is perhaps the most ubiquitous tool in use for HR to give their employees a voice.

It may be changing and being disrupted (debatable) by regular or real-time continuous listening and other feedback mechanisms.  Regardless, employee survey data collection will continue.

I am, however, constantly amazed by the amount of power that is overlooked in these surveys. We’re gathering some incredibly powerful and telling data. Yet, we barely use a portion of the informational wealth it holds. 

Why? Most organizations don’t know how to leverage the confidential employee survey results correctly and maintain the privacy provisions they agreed with your employees during data collection.  

The Iceberg: The Employee Survey Analytics You're Missing

Specifically, you are missing out on connecting employee survey answers to post-survey behaviours.  Did the people who said they were going to leave actually leave? Did the people who answered they lack opportunity for training, actually take a training course when offered?  Did a person who saw a lack of advancement opportunities leave the company for a promotion? How do employee rewards affect subsequent engagement scores? And of course, there are hundreds of examples that could be thrown out there, it is almost a limitless source of questioning, you don’t get this level of analysis ROI from any other data source.

Anonymous vs. Confidential Surveys

First, let me bring anyone who isn’t familiar with the difference up to speed.  An anonymous survey is one where all data is collected without any identifiers at all on the data. It is impossible to link back to a person.  There’s very little you can do with this data apart from what is collected at the time of questioning.

A confidential survey, on the other hand, is collected with an employee identifier associated with the results.  This doesn’t mean that the survey is open, usually, the results are not directly available to anyone from the business which provides effective anonymity.  The survey vendor that collected these results though does have these identifiers and in your contract with them, they have agreed to the privacy provisions requested and communicated to your employees.  And a number of survey vendors will be able to take additional data from you, load it into their systems and be able to show a greater level of analysis than you typically get from a straight survey. This is better than nothing but still far short of amazing.  

Most companies, however, are not aware that survey vendors are generally happy (accepting at least) to transfer this employee-identified data to a third party as long as all confidentiality and privacy restrictions that they, the customer, and the employees agreed to when the survey was collected.   A three-way data transfer agreement can be signed where, in the case of One Model, we agree to secure access to the data and maintain confidentiality from the customer organization.

Usually, this confidentiality provision means we need to:

  • Restrict the data source from direct access.  In our case, it resides in a separate database schema that is inaccessible by even a customer that has direct access to our data warehouse.  
  • Provide ‘Restricted’ metrics that provide an aggregate-only view of the data, i.e. only show data where there are more than 5 responses or more than 5 employees in a data set. The definition of how this is restricted needs to be flexible to account for different types of surveys. 
  • Manage Restricted metrics as a vendor, preventing them from being created or edited by the company when a restricted data set is in use.
  • Support employee survey dimensionality that adheres to this restriction so you can’t inadvertently expose data by slicing a non-restricted metric by a survey dimension and several other dimensions to create a cut to a population that otherwise may be identifiable.

One Model employee survey analytics

Get Ready to Level Up Employee Survey Analysis!

Your employee survey analytics can begin once your survey data is connected to every other data point you hold about your employees.  For many of our customers that means dozens of people data sources across the recruit to retire, and business data spectrums.  Want to know what the people who left the organization said in their last survey? Three clicks and a few seconds later and you have the results.

HR analytics employee surveys analysis

Want to know if the people you are recruiting are fitting in culturally and which source of hire they were recruited from

Or if low tenure terminations show any particular trends in engagement, or culture responses?

Or whether people who were previously highly engaged and have a subsequent drop in engagement have a lack of (choose your own adventure) advancement|compensation|training|skilled-peers|respect for management?  

Literally, you could build these questions and analysis points for days.  This is what I mean, a whole new world opens up with a simple connection of a data set that almost every company has.

What can I do?

  1. Go and check your last employee survey results and any vendor/employee agreements for how the data was to be collected and used.  If the vendor doesn’t state how it’s being collected, check with them, often they are collecting an employee identifier (id, email, etc).
  2. If you are lucky you might have enough leeway to designate a person or two within your company to be able to run analysis directly.  Otherwise, enquire about a data transfer agreement with a third party who will maintain confidentiality. I’ve had this conversation many times (you may need to push a little).

  3. If you don’t have data collected with an identifier, check with HR leadership on the purpose of the survey, and the privacy you want to provide employees with and plan any changes for integration into the next survey. 

This is a massively impactful data set for your people analytics, and for the most part, it’s being wasted.  However, always remember to respect the privacy promise you made to employees, communicate how the data is being used and how their responses are protected from being identified. With the appropriate controls, as outlined above, you can confidentially link survey results to actual employee outcomes and take more informed action on the feedback you collected in the employee survey analysis.

If you would like to take a look at how we secure and make survey data available for analysis, feel free to book a demonstration directly below.

Ready to see us Merge Employee Survey Data with HRIS Data?

Request a Demo!


Written By

Chris Butler is an HR Data and Analytics expert with a long history of working with the world’s most prestigious organizations to make them successful in their people analytics programs. Chris has a vision for how HR data will be used and how people analytics practices will mature and he is leading One Model to be at the forefront of this evolving industry.

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