One way many companies gauge employee happiness and engagement is with an annual employee survey. Conducting a survey is one way to tap into how your employees are feeling.  Many business owners feel that making these surveys anonymous will elicit the most honest results from employees. But research shows that isn’t the case. A recent article in Forbes points out five flaws that are inherent in anonymous employee surveys that may outweigh any of their benefits:Microphone

1- Skewed results– When employees know their name will not be attached to something, they may be harsher rather than being more honest.  In most companies (and most groups of people) the few upset employees will have the loudest voice and be the most likely to respond in detail. The happiest employees may say little to combat this, so your results will be skewed.

2- Misinterpreted feedback- Without the ability to understand the context of an employee’s response on a survey, companies may misinterpret the results of their survey. Owing who the feedback comes from allows business owners to take that into consideration when processing and applying the feedback.

3- Lack of follow-up- What if one of your employees presents an innovative idea to an issue you have been having on one of these surveys? Wouldn’t you want to be able to follow up with that employee and get more information about their thoughts? And if you find out an employee is unhappy, wouldn’t you want to have a conversation about that and try to find a solution? With an anonymous survey, you aren’t able to follow-up on any of the ideas or feedback shared by employees.

4- Limited responsiveness- These types surveys can be time consuming to develop, administer and evaluate the results. Precious time is lost and often the feedback provided is no longer relevant by the time the results are ready to be shared.

5- The inability to hold leaders accountable– You may discover that a group of employees responded that their supervisor was great, while another group reported that supervisor was a huge problem. You will want to know which employees and supervisors are working well together and which ones are not. Maybe one supervisor in particular is a problem, or maybe it is only one employee having difficulty with that supervisor. It is hard to tell this type of information on an anonymous survey and therefore you are unable to hold leaders accountable for the feedback.

So, what is a better solution to measuring your employees’ happiness, engagement and level of commitment? Create a culture of transparent feedback.

The best way to do this is to create a system for providing feedback, so that employees and leaders know what to expect. There are numerous technology platforms you could use, but you can also create your own system. Find something that works for your organization and fits within your culture. Creating this system also involves training leaders on the appropriate way to respond to both negative and positive feedback. If leaders respond poorly to feedback, employees will be less like to come forward in the future.

Finally, it will take time to show employees that it is ok have an open, honest two-way conversation with leaders. Find ways to highlight some of ways you have implemented suggestions by employees. Reward those that do come forward and encourage others to participate in the conversation.

Have you do this in your organization?  Share some of your best practices with us her or on Twitter using the #APlusInsights.