Long Surveys + Short Analysis = Waste

Your company beckons 10 000 customers to fill out 30 survey issues. Since 10 issues took about 30 seconds to fill out you figure the 30 survey issues take about a minute and a half of your customers precious time.


If you average five survey issues in one minute a correct formula may look something along the lines of time=(n2)/5 where n is the number of survey issues.  30 survey issues takes three minutes and 50 issues take well over eight minutes as survey fatigue sets in. An engagement survey of 100 issues really tries your engagement by subjecting you to half an hour of very intensive work.  That is not counting the coffee break you have to take afterwards to recouperate from the ordeal.

Let’s say your company is subjecting 10 000 key customers to 30 survey issues. That is about three months of your customers’ time. That investment pales with the investment of having 50 000 employees fill out 100 issues. That engagement survey takes about 13 years to fill out, and hopefully twice that time in post survey process.

Based on Survey Web Stats

Based on Survey Web Stats

I am just trying to point out the real costs of surveys. Long surveys are far larger investments than most people realize.  A 100 issue engagement survey that is used primarily to inform top management of the overall working climate is very unlikely to be a good investment. Most of the value comes in local processing of the survey results. 50 000 employees discussing how to improve their local results. That is where the investment pays off.

Unfortunately the result feedback usually comes some three months after the survey was run. At that time the information is old. The frustrated talent who filled out the survey in August has probably moved on in November. This process needs to be reversed, as we did in a large telecoms/it company 20 years ago.  Everyone got their work group results the morning after the survey closed. Top management got theirs a month later. By then we could include information about what the groups had done.

A second problem is that the consulting companies focus on productivity. An analyst can run the same standard analyses on every company and come up with a predictable set of impressive looking slides in hours.  Running a real analysis where this rich data is turned upside down for different angles takes weeks.  Guess what happens?

Suboptimal Chain

13 years of survey material is analyzed for half a day to maintain productivity.  That’s a good example of how the difference between visible cost and invisible cost leads makes us suboptimize.

If an average engagement score was all you wanted, a sample of 1000 employees would have done fine at 2% of the cost.   

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