It’s a funny old time here in Melbourne town.

No, I’m not referring to the lockdown marathon we are currently enduring.

Nor do I mean the whole Grand Final in October AND in another state shocker.

The weather is living up to it’s four seasons in one day reputation, and then some. 14 today, 27 tomorrow.

One beautiful consistency however (well, beautiful to this workplace culture nerd) is that September is annual employee engagement survey time for many organisations.

Interestingly though, I’m hearing tales across the board of a downwards trend in overall engagement scores.

Employee engagement in 2019? Scores in the top quartile, 75% and above. #Winning.  

2020 result? Dropping down to bottom quartile and scores hovering around 25%. #Badverybad.

Sure, it’s tempting to blame this fall totally on our old foe Corona.

But is that the whole story? Are you planning to find out? Can you handle the truth?

Why you should be conducting an annual engagement survey as a bare minimum

If you are reading this blog, I suspect you already understand what an engagement survey is, and why it is important. Click here if in doubt.

Conducting the survey annually is important as it provides an organisational benchmark. Measuring overall engagement scores against where it was 12 months earlier, 2 years prior and so on, is a great way to confirm that progress has been made towards improving engagement.

Options for online engagement surveys have boomed in the last decade, and there is a plethora to choose from.


Two that I personally know well include Culture Amp (I was an early adopter, nay guinea pig, for the app during its early days) and Gallup Q12 for which I am a ‘Certified Employee Engagement Champion’. Woot Woot.

Workology Co has developed our own online survey we use in cultural audits; another organisation I worked for developed an ‘Organisational Health check’ for clients.

The point is – whilst there are many options for gathering quantitative data via online surveys, it is my very firm belief that online surveys alone ARE NEVER ENOUGH.


Image courtesy of Shutterstock by licence

Indeed, this is a fundamental Workology Co philosophy, and personally I would rarely if ever, work with a client who was only interested in conducting an online survey. See below for an example of why.

Yes, I know that is an unusually strong stance for me. I am after all born under the October Libran scales, and balance is my middle name (well, it should be. It’s infinitely more interesting than my actual middle name. Sorry, parentals).

All employees have opinions about their workplace.

Whether that be opinions about the product; management; customer service or the organisation as a whole.

And they want their opinions to be heard.

But when the only option to express those opinions is via an online survey, employees are limited to choosing from a narrow set of predetermined optional answers in order to provide their ‘opinion’.

The trouble is, this means only a narrow, qualified picture of the whole story is gleaned, rather than a richer, broader, more accurate and complete story.

Let me share a cautionary example

Two years ago, I worked with a client on their first ever engagement survey.

Despite my best endeavours to convince them otherwise, initially they were only interested in conducting an online version.

When the results came in, one manager was devastated as the results suggested his team were very unhappy, overall and in particular with his management style.

The manager’s personal performance review was at risk, as his KPIs were now partially tied to engagement scores.

The organisation agreed to find out more, and by digging deeper via focus group sessions, we uncovered the Lucifer in the detail.

One factor was that the manager had not been holding regular one: one or team meetings with his team.

As a result, his team felt unsupported, mistakes were increasing as team members found it difficult to gain clarity from their manager, and blame was rampant. Both within the team and externally.

Learning that the team desperately craved this interaction with their manager was a game changer. Weekly team and individual meetings were immediately introduced; and by the next pulse check, the engagement score for this particular team had tripled.

This is not an uncommon story.

Listening to our people, hearing what they truly believe, want, and need, is one of the ways to build trust within a team and the wider organisation.

Equally important is providing feedback after the survey results are in.  Sharing the results, and a version of:

 ‘You told us X, so we are stop/starting/changing/continuing Y’.

Or ‘We can’t do A just now due to COVID19, but we plan to when, so B happens’.

How does this help organisations whose score has taken a nosedive?

If you are one of those organisations whose overall engagement score has fallen dramatically in 2020, then I have two suggestions, nay, requests of you.

  1. Don’t just assume the score is a Covid by-product (like those extra kilos which are entirely due to lockdown life. *cough*), and so will magically improve in 2021.
  2. Explore – dig deep- to find out the complete reasons WHY.

Run Focus Groups to tease out themes that emerged from the data. Hold some 1:1 interviews with a cross section of employees.  

Unpack what in particular it was about the pandemic that affected your employees.

For example, did you or did you not…


It’s not too late to start the deeper dive into those fallen engagement results.

Good news alert– Workology Co can help you with that! Reach out via or call 0400 019 599, and let’s starting turning that big red thumbs down skywards.