HR Advisors Conference Blog

Further thoughts from the conference or about the challenges of being in an HR Advisory role.

The French Revolution and Engagement Surveys – what’s the link?

Back in the 1780’s the King of France had a problem with Paris. It was filthy! Sewerage ran down the streets, the river ran brown, fumes and chemicals from tanneries clogged the air and there were too many dead bodies to bury. No-one knew what to do, so King Louis 16th decided to ask the citizens of Paris for their suggestions.

And what ideas they gave him! Hundreds and hundreds of submissions were received by the Court showing that Parisians were engaged and motivated to make their city better.

King Louis and his Court then asked each person to present their submission and listened to these over several days before considering the outcomes. Excitement was high! The citizens were keen to hear which ideas would be used to restore their city to a clean and healthy place to live.

But the King could see that any solution was going to cost far too much of his money so he decided to DO NOTHING AT ALL. He figured that the citizens had been living with the filth for so long, they could just continue. He was badly wrong.

Shortly afterwards the French Revolution broke out resulting in not only the end of the monarchy but in heads being lost too.

What does this have to do with engagement surveys?

If you run an engagement survey then do nothing with the results – it’s worse than running the survey in the first place.

I’ve seen this in action myself and the results were not pretty (although not quite as messy as a guillotine).

But engagement surveys take too much time and money!

They don’t have to. In fact in companies I’ve worked in where we’ve done the large, expensive surveys – the results are often overwhelming and take months to come through. What works much better is the following:

  • Do short surveys with a few targeted questions
  • Ask people for their top 3 short term suggestions – and then pick which of those you can do, communicate them to everyone and get them done
  • Ask for the top 3 long term suggestions – also communicate these but put time frames on them. They’re often things that then get built into your HR plan.

We really do tend to over-complicate things in HR. Simple is sometimes best. And it seems slightly ironic that the way we measure engagement by running big surveys can often be a way to disengage people!! Off with their heads…..


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This entry was posted on December 11, 2013 by in Engagement Surveys and tagged , .


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