We are often asked, “When is the right time to run an annual engagement survey?” This recurring question, surprisingly, does not always receive the thoughtful consideration it deserves. Annual engagement surveys stir debate, as critics doubt their capacity to accurately reflect real-time employee sentiment and argue they may not effectively enhance organisational culture and engagement. They advocate for a more refined approach to harnessing the Voice of the Employee (VoE). Despite these debates, engagement surveys stand as crucial tools for HR, offering a snapshot of the workforce’s collective heartbeat at a moment in time.

Thus, the timing of launching an annual engagement survey is key, an aspect frequently overlooked and missed in the noise. We talk a lot about what questions to ask, what numbers to crunch, and how to share what we find. Yet, we hardly ever speak about when to do it.

Optimising the Timing of Your Annual Employee Survey

The essence of this decision boils down to this: what you’re aiming to discover, and lining it up with the beat of the business and the company’s operational rhythm. The foundation of conducting an engagement survey is understanding its purpose. For many organisations, the initial foray into engagement surveys is a reaction to rising employee turnover, a quest to uncover the root causes. Upon recognising the survey’s value, companies often make it a regular exercise. Yet, the critical question you really need to ask yourself is: Why conduct an engagement survey? Is it merely to diagnose turnover causes, or is there more? 

Pinpointing the primary aim is essential for determining the optimal timing. For instance, if the goal is to shape HR initiatives for the coming year, scheduling the survey before the budget season can yield strategic insights for budget allocation. Alternatively, if aligning employee and company goals is the aim, coordinating the survey with goal-setting processes becomes crucial. In some cases, there may be instances where the need for a survey arises from specific events or significant organisational changes, such as mergers or acquisitions, making the survey a gauge for change management effectiveness.

Engagement & Satisfaction: When to Gather Employee Feedback

At times, the ideal timing for a survey might clash with the operational demands of the business. Operational realities cannot be ignored in these discussions. The rhythm of work operations and peak seasons significantly influence survey timing. In certain industries such as hospitality, timing surveys for the quieter “off-peak” periods can significantly enhance participation rates. On the other hand, if your business is subject to seasonal fluctuations and relies on temporary staff during these times, scheduling a survey at the season’s close can offer key insights from those temporary team members.  Additionally, ensuring the survey does not coincide with significant organisational events, like performance reviews, is crucial to securing undivided attention for the survey process.

Any HR professional conducting an annual engagement survey expects two outcomes: achieving a good response rate and garnering honest feedback. Timing can impact both.

  1. A poorly timed survey, amidst operational chaos, can result in poor response rates, indicating a scheduling misstep rather than disengagement.
  2. Honest responses are also timing-sensitive. You might be asking how timing influences honest responses? Given the survey captures a moment in time, it’s wise to avoid scheduling it during major events, like team-building activities or company parties. The “feel-good” factor from such events could skew responses positively. Conversely, if a recent event has unsettled the company atmosphere, this could unduly heighten negative feedback and affect the overall insight into employee experiences.

The timing of salary discussions also plays a crucial role in annual surveys, as it can heavily sway survey responses. Holding surveys before salary adjustments helps prevent biases, whereas surveys conducted afterwards can assess their effect on employee morale. However, this approach risks contaminating the feedback with sentiments stirred by recent salary changes. Conducting surveys in times of relative stability offers a more accurate, unbiased view of the organisational climate.

Integrating Annual Engagement Survey with Regular Pulse Surveys

These timing considerations fuel much of the discussion around the traditional annual surveys. Critics of engagement surveys argue that their snapshot nature, influenced by current events, might miss the continuous engagement narrative. Therefore, it’s vital to integrate annual surveys into a wider, more comprehensive strategy for gauging engagement. Employing tools that assess employee sentiment and conducting regular pulse surveys in addition to annual ones can offer a more dynamic view of employee engagement, revealing trends and patterns that inform strategic direction.

After pinpointing the optimal time for your annual engagement survey, maintaining a consistent schedule year after year is key for enabling comparisons over time, which is essential for monitoring progress and spotting long-term trends. Nevertheless, remaining flexible to adjust the survey’s timing in response to major occurrences is crucial to ensure the insights gathered remain pertinent and reflective of the current organisational context.

Properly timed, an annual engagement survey remains a potent tool for fostering and measuring employee engagement. Talexio Team Voice provides a sophisticated platform for conducting these surveys, enabling organisations to make year-on-year comparisons. By aligning survey timing with business cycles and operational realities, companies can derive actionable insights, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and strategic agility.