KPMG Abandons Employee Engagement Surveys: Throwing Baby out with the Bath Water?

This month the employee engagement survey bandwagon stumbled when a long time proponent of employee engagement — KPMG— reported that all of their employee engagement efforts had not resulted in increased performance. KPMG decided to forego the employee engagement survey.

What are employee engagement surveys? They vary. Some HR Departments retain consultants to perform what I call the “lovey-dovey survey.” These surveys ask questions such as “Do you like your coworkers?” and “How do you feel about your employer?”

A different type of employee engagement survey asks questions like “Does your manager listen to you?” The downside of this kind of survey is that it often creates employee expectation that if managers don’t listen, the company will take action!

Some consultants implement employee engagement by looking at measurable results. One company successfully used employee engagement efforts through a pilot. The test group showed a 54% increase in comparable store sales.

So this begs the question, are companies throwing the baby out with the bath water when they abandon employee engagement including this pilot that actually has measurable results?

KPMG is implementing a program of in the moment performance feedback. This is much appreciated by the experienced employees who don’t feel traditional annual employee reviews are motivating.

But how will the Millennial react? Millennials have been brought up with the accolade “good job” for every action they take. They received trophies in sports just for showing up and no special reward and feedback was given to the best players. Experience with the “specialness” of Millennials has influenced some companies to get rid of any comparative feedback and they’ve abolished performance reviews all together.

Going forward, as companies like KPMG re-introduce measuring performance instead of relying solely on measures like “Great Place to Work” contests, HR and management will have to design motivating feedback mechanisms for all of their diverse employee populations. Baby boomers and Millennials are not motivated identically.

The decision making should evaluate keeping the employee engagement methods that have proven to result in measurable performance gains­ while getting rid of the surveys that focus only measure employee satisfaction without corresponding gains in productivity.

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