Most employee surveys suck. Here’s a better approach






Employees will be more willing to take them (and you’ll actually get value of you do these things.


Although technology enables us to meet and be successful virtually, it doesn’t work so well for gaining insights that help leaders understand how their workforce is doing and where they need to make changes.

In an effort to close this gap and understand what employees want and need, many companies have doubled down on surveys. But in many instances, they’re exhausting this line of communication due to a lack of strategy or action.

While it’s important to know what your employees are thinking and feeling, too many surveys with too little action can have massive ramifications on an organization, especially when it comes to cultivating a great company culture in a remote or hybrid environment.


Some lessons you learn the hard way; we at Okta are no different.

In the past two years, we’ve gone from sending our employees a regular pulse survey—almost every week—to a more intentional approach, which has proven to provide us with richer insights. While our initial intentions with the weekly surveys were good––focused on employee morale during the pandemic—we found that employees would eventually tune out and avoid taking them. It wasn’t the right approach.

Employees want their voices heard but don’t want that to happen through a relentless bombardment of impersonal surveys. They also want action based on survey responses.

An intentional approach to surveying rests on what employers do after the survey. Leadership needs to take action based on the survey findings. When you start to see trends in responses, it’s time to make a change. For example, if a large number of U.S.-based team members ask for retirement plan support, consider rolling out a 401K match program. This is change that we made based on our annual employee engagement survey.

When we do this survey, we also make a big deal out of it and the results. Our CEO speaks about it at all-hands meetings, and teams have meetings to discuss the results and what needs to change. One of the outcomes of recent engagement surveys was what we call Oktappreciate, an appreciation tool we rolled out because we heard employees wanted a way to be able to appreciate each other more while not physically with each other.

We also heard that employees wanted more work-life balance, so last year we launched two paid “Wellbeing Weeks” at the end of November and December to enable a collective disconnect, allowing all employees to take much-needed time away to recharge and refresh from their computers.

Another way we ensure our employees’ voices are heard is by giving them a say in what our offices look like. As part of our Dynamic Work initiative, we’ve been redesigning our office spaces to support a more hybrid work environment. As we think about new spaces, Okta surveys team members in that region before designing the office to ensure we’re creating a space that employees want to go to and be productive in. Employees also “vote with their feet.” We use sensors in our spaces to identify areas of high usage, so we know what types of workspaces employees want in future offices.

Another way I’ve seen companies get more intentional and action-oriented with surveying is through a daily pulse check. This type of survey asks a few questions when employees log into their computer every day. For example, “Did you meet with your manager this week?”

Depending on your answer, you might get a follow-up question. The results go back to the management team every single day and enable them to quickly pivot based on responses. And for employees, since it’s integrated into their workflow and is one simple question, survey fatigue is less of a concern.


While surveys have proven to be a valuable way to understand the satisfaction or concerns of employees, not everything requires a survey. In fact, there are a lot of issues that come into play when it comes to surveying employees on highly charged, sensitive issues, the most important being privacy and personal space. At Okta, we do not survey employees on these topics because we’ve found that feelings around these issues are simply too nuanced for a survey to capture adequately.

Instead, we work with employee resource groups (ERGs) to create safe spaces for employees to voice their concerns and feel heard. Also, at every all-hands meeting, employees are encouraged to share their thoughts, opinions, and questions through an anonymous Q&A with our CEO. In this way, we’ve been able to personalize the work experience without making our employees uncomfortable in the process. 

Companies rely on surveys to make critical decisions, but they need to be implemented the right way in order to be impactful. Getting rid of surveys completely isn’t the answer. However, companies must redefine them and conduct them in a more intentional, action-oriented way.

Employees will be more willing to take the surveys if they see leadership taking action based on the findings and understand the value of providing honest feedback. Get it right and you’ll get valuable insights on how to make your employees happy and create a work environment that makes people want to join and stay.



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