Opinion: How often should you run employee engagement surveys?

While employee engagement surveys are indeed useful, how often should they be conducted? One expert goes over the ideal survey frequency for your company

Opinion: How often should you run employee engagement surveys?
Like most people in the business of dealing with human capital, you know that happy, engaged employees translates into happy, engaged customers. You also likely know that additional benefits of excellent employee engagement levels include increased productivity, less employee turnover and even a safer work environment. As result, experts suggests that it’s critical to use an employee engagement survey to assess employees’ opinions of their own engagement to know whether you are achieving the critical goal of an engaged workforce. The real question around employee engagement surveys is not whether they are valuable, but rather how often they should be conducted.
There is no perfect answer to this question since it really depends on individual workforce situations. If your company is fairly stable with limited employee turnover, it is perhaps safe to just run employee engagement surveys on an annual basis. Even if there are problems starting to appear, addressing them after the results of the annual engagement review should still be within the timeframe to correct them. However, the primary reason that you can get away with conducting only one survey per year is because with a stable workforce, your management team should have the deep-rooted relationships that will alert them to problems before they blow up. The engagement survey is more an exercise of quantifying the company opinions rather than learning new things.
On the other hand, if your company is the type experiencing hyper-growth in staff and customer base, you should conduct employee engagement and other staff surveys far more frequently. The culture and attitudes of the staff could be constantly changing along with the business, and without frequent surveys, your management team would have no idea if there are urgent issues that need to be addressed.
The best analogy for deciding how frequently you need to conduct employee engagement surveys is to think of them as a medical checkup with a doctor. A stable company is akin to an adolescent or mature adult that needs an annual checkup to discover any new issues that have appeared since the last checkup and advise on any ongoing ones.
Newborns and young children need to visit the doctor quarterly and even monthly until their growth has stabilised and they have achieved certain milestones. Even a baby born perfectly healthy might experience urgent health issues requiring early intervention at anytime. Frequent checkups are the only way to stay ahead of medical issues and begin treatment as soon as it is necessary. Similarly, a new company or one experiencing hyper-growth should also have their own schedule of frequent checkups, so intervention can begin as soon as it becomes necessary.
Finally, these recommendations are only minimums and even a stable company will benefit from frequent surveys. Studies have shown that companies that survey more often see larger improvements to engagement. If the costs or efforts involved in running a full employee engagement surveys are prohibitive, you can run standard employee feedback surveys on just samples or subsets of the company. Regardless of how often surveys are conducted, you must always ensure that there is positive communication between employees and management with a constant feedback loop for the staff to relay concerns upwards. A survey is only as good as the questions you ask, but the best information will come from open conversations with employees.
How often does your company conduct surveys and what frequency would you recommend?
About the author: 
Eli Schwartz is the Director of Marketing, APAC for SurveyMonkey, the world’s largest online survey platform. He oversees SurveyMonkey’s marketing efforts in the Asia Pacific region. In addition, he leads the company’s global SEO efforts and strategies across 17 languages. SurveyMonkey serves over 25 million customers worldwide, including 99% of the Fortune 500, and collects over 3 million online survey responses daily. You can reach him via Twitter @5le

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