Why Paper Surveys aren’t keeping Employees Engaged

Surveys and Engagement

Collaboration is the cornerstone of any culture that houses truly engaged employees, and with a basic paper survey, there’s no room for open innovation.

Trae Tessmann|
March 11, 2016

All organizations, from early tech startups to local hospitals to multi-national conglomerates, want employees that are interested or engaged in what they’re doing.

But according to Gallup, only 30% of US employees are engaged with their work, with the remaining 70% being disengaged or actively disengaged, or caring so little that they’re negatively affecting those around! The numbers are even worse internationally, with as few as 13% of employees engaged in their work on a typical day. Something is clearly wrong in many of those well-intentioned organizations, so where should they start?

The first order of business is to find out what’s wrong, and that means getting employees talking.

But sending out a questionnaire is only going to magnify the problem! Why? Because it is highly unlikely that the currently unengaged are going to jump at the opportunity to thoughtfully fill out a survey, so while it might answer some questions and motivate a few people to speak up, it’s only a small bandage on a culture that’s bleeding talent.

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, keeping employees engaged starts with sparking a conversation company-wide. It takes a little creativity, some extra resources, and a willingness from everyone to give some of their precious time to the effort, but the conversation can benefit everyone.


Management needs to approach employees.

A survey shows you care about what your employees think to a point, but is a basic concept that can help measure your engagement levels, but ultimately prohibits creative thought on the topics that really matter.

Paper isn’t personal, and doesn’t help to better relationships between levels of the hierarchy and solidifies the wall between the employee and upper management. If employees don’t feel comfortable approaching you, they probably won’t, even if they’re in possession of a game-changing idea for the organization.

Let them know what you’re looking for in terms of feedback and ideas. By being more transparent about your goals and intentions in the near- and long-term, you open yourself up for personal engagements and show that you’re not just interested in listening, but acting on their ideas.


Stop handing out surveys. See what your employees are REALLY capable of!


Employees need to approach management.

Filling in bubbles and rating experiences on paper turns an employee into just another number in the system. That’s the type of mentality that kills morale.

Active employees are the ones paying attention to their work, seeking ways to improve both what they and the company are doing, but they need an outlet to communicate their findings. If that outlet is unavailable, then what’s the point?

Management needs to insure employees know that there is always room for improvement and can be approached with ideas. Prove that you’re ready and able to take action on the sometimes risky, albeit innovative and insightful business management ideas that employees come to you with.


Employees need to approach each other.

Collaboration is the cornerstone of any culture that houses truly engaged employees, and with a basic paper survey, there’s no room for open innovation. Even on a message board there’s a chance for participants to communicate with each other.

A focus on knowledge sharing and collaboration makes it possible and comfortable for employees from different departments and responsibilities to speak with each other. 75% of employees say team work and collaboration are very important in the workplace, as it allows them to share ideas, improve those ideas, and validate that they can make a difference in the organization.

These casual interactions create a more tight-knit community inside the company, which leads employees to care not just about their performance, but the performance of others and the organization, creating a more trusting and transparent workforce where everyone is more attentive in what they’re doing.


Healthy communication leads to a stronger workforce, which in turn motivates employees to stay engaged with their responsibilities. Its science! For those who remain actively disengaged and are unwilling to adjust to a new, more communication-centric culture outside of surveys, it may be time to part ways. Regardless of your efforts, disgruntled employees often do nothing but bring others down.

In the end, paper surveys aren’t useless. They’re just better to measure engagement and supplement your efforts, not serve as a driving force to make people care more about their work. Keeping employees engaged stems from a culture that values not just feedback, but continuous improvement on that feedback and a system to insure action is taking to keep everyone moving forward.


What steps are you taking to keep your employees motivated and attentive in their work?

Let us know below!

About Trae Tessmann

Co-founder of Ideawake

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