ESAT Key Steps
When to Repeat the Employee Satisfaction Survey

We often hear the question, "how often should I conduct an employee satisfaction survey?" Our recommendation is once a year for most organizations.

Depending upon methodology and the size of the organization being measured, it usually takes three to four weeks from the implementation of a survey until the issuance of the final report and departmental reports. (It can be done more quickly, especially if the Internet is used and the organizational culture encourages rapid response.) If a good post-survey communication plan is in place, results should be disseminated throughout the organization in approximately two weeks. The time it takes to design action plans will vary from organization to organization, but two to four weeks following the dissemination of results throughout the organization is a good target. This means that an organization can begin to make progress toward improving the items found in need of improvement within two to three months following the commission of the survey. This leaves at least nine months for improvement to take hold.

Nine months is a sufficient time for improvement to be seen. If the efforts are effective, a survey one year after the prior survey will show that efforts to improve have been successful. If the efforts are not effective, conducting another one year after the previous one will give the organization a chance to alter course before waiting two years to do so.

There are instances when an organization might choose to repeat at time intervals other than one year. If an organization's culture is such that results can be disseminated and acted upon more quickly than the schedule outlined above, a six-month schedule can be considered. However, this is too quick for most organizations, as it does not give sufficient time for improvement before the next measurement. It would be good for us monetarily if all clients went to a six-month timeframe, but we do not recommend this in the lion's share of circumstances because we feel most clients will not receive sufficient value from such an aggressive schedule.

An eighteen-month interval may be appropriate in an organization that is slow to act on the survey results. If six or eight months (or more!) go by before improvement efforts begin, it will be disheartening to see that little change has taken place after one year. This does beg the question, however -- "is there something in the processes and culture of the organization that should be improved if it takes this long to implement change?" In this day and age, competition is fierce and organizations need to be nimble.

A two-year interval simply is too long for several reasons.

  • It is such a long length of time that an organization could actually improve in targeted areas, and then relapse. The subsequent survey then might show no change, when in fact two changes had taken place -- one positive and one negative. In such a circumstance, the erroneous conclusion might be that the efforts to change had no impact.
  • It can be difficult for an organization to maintain focus for two years. Other competing priorities will inevitably arise, and it will be easy for some people to shelve, at least mentally, employee satisfaction improvement programs when the next measurement is in the distant future.
  • People move around. In two years you might expect to have many new people and many people in new positions. The people responsible for implementing change may no longer be in their old positions. The new people may be unaware of how they should be contributing to the organization's planned changes which resulted from the previous employee satisfaction survey.

We recognize that, even though employee satisfaction surveys can pay for themselves, it can be difficult for some organizations to set aside the funds needed to complete a program annually. Our recommendation in such circumstances is to consider a "pulsed" approach, where in the first year and every other report the organization goes with our (or the equivalent of our) Gold program (with full written analysis), and in the off years the organization goes with a Silver program (where there is no written analysis, but there are complete charts and graphs at all appropriate levels). This saves money, while still enabling an organization to reap the benefits that come with an annual employee satisfaction measurement program.