Workplace Surveys: ‘Like’ or ‘Like Not’, There Is No Try.
‘Everyone’ is on FaceBook and that allows us to express our views by clicking LIKE when we feel like it. Is this a useful approach in the future for workplace surveys?
I follow the blog of Scott Adams. Scott is the creator of the workplace-lampooning cartoon ‘Dilbert.’ Recently he mooted that online social networking could be a great tool to bring neighbours closer together. Technology for decades has helped society retreat into our cocoon homes with food deliveries arranged via cellphone, home theatres and a microwave in every room. Then the onslaught of the internet arrived and people could be more connected than ever without ever having to actually connect at all. Kids no longer played outside in treehouses like we constantly lie to them about having done so ourselves as children. Adams felt that there was the potential for the tide to turn and for social networking tools to stimulate and reinforce connectivity amongst neighbours who never ventured out to borrow a cup of sugar (or maybe these days, a cup of phenylalanine.)
Sure enough, such services already exist to share resources like babysitters and extension ladders or encourage carpooling. People can opt in to go halvsies on housewashing or attend social events. Ubiquitous networks like FaceBook even have a rudimentary ability to connect people who could simply look out their window but mostly don’t. FaceBook also has those little LIKE buttons to click and many express a desire for there to be a DISLIKE option. That says a lot about people and that there isn’t a DISLIKE is a laudably non-evil aspect of FaceBook.
One of the themes of this month’s issue of Employment Today is workplace surveys. Is there an opportunity to combine the network neighbourhood idea and the FaceBook LIKE / DISLIKE concept with the intent of workplace surveys?
Workplaces (big ones) survey lots of things. Workers tick boxes. Graphs are constructed and pinned to noticeboards. Other things might happen as well but they’re not always as noticeable. Action steps get added to action plans for someone to do something at a later time. There is a substantial disconnect between those surveyed and anything that may or may not happen as a result of the information that gets collected. Even assuming the information is worth anything. Not so big workplaces tend to have one person ask another individual a direct question face to face, respond to the answer given and move on with their lives. Most people work in not so big workplaces.
Time lag is just one of the limitations of traditional workplace surveys. Often people don’t return them at all, thus skewing results and the cloak of anonymity can allow the disengaged to vent non-specific and unconstructive fury. I love watching debates about response scales, “Never give them an option to sit on the fence.” If not the best response scale, then certainly my favourite, had 7 points. Each point had a smiley face which waxed and waned the degree of smile depending on which end of the scale you were looking at. Charming! I say though, if you’ve got seven points and that much imagination as a survey drafter, then use the seven dwarves. I’m sure at least six of them are relevant to workplace cultures. “Dammit Williams, how’s the troops’ morale this quarter?” “Well sir, Sales are happy, Accounts receivable are grumpy and most everyone in Marketing is dopey.”
(If you’re in the mining industry, maybe don’t try the dwarf model.)
I haven’t seen a paper-based survey for a while. Most are online with links being sent out by email and responses followed up automatically. Response rates are better. (The results always get printed out though, don’t they?) Could a canny intrapreneur create an internal workplace equivalent of FaceBook? (WorkBookTM?) Given the amount of time people at work are supposedly on there anyway, it might get a rapid uptake. Trending topics of actual workplace relevance could be captured and assessed in realtime, replacing the need for cumbersome and generalised surveys. Is everyone digging the new deodorant scent in the toilets? The new courier service – how’s that working out? Will the proposed accommodation changes enhance your productivity or simply impede your work-avoiding prolonged toilet stops where you’ve developed an unnatural addiction to the new deodorant scent?
I know LIKE / DISLIKE is all a bit simplified and binary and not like real life at all. Real life is much more fifty shades of grey. Well, seven shades anyway.
You could probably take the WorkBookTM concept a bit far, I suppose. Bosses probably shouldn’t have a list of their favourites, it’s generally unwise to gift a co-worker a sheep and poking at work is never appropriate.