Don’t Cut Out Employee Engagement Surveys

Topic(s): culture, engagement, job satisfaction
Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology (2011)
Article: Measuring employee engagement during a financial downturn: Business imperative or nuisance?
Authors: D.L. Van Rooy, D.S. Whitman, D. Hart, S. Caleo
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin

In these difficult economic times, organizations have been forced to cut costs. One way in which organizations are saving money is by reducing the use of employee surveys, but Van Rooy et al. (2011) contend that these surveys are valuable and should not be cut. The authors argue that measuring engagement is important because engagement has been shown to be related to many important business outcomes, such as turnover, efficiency, and performance. By researching engagement, an organization can better protect its current talent and prepare itself to attract talent that may leave other organizations.


The authors provide advice for practitioners who want to measure engagement but are looking to save money. Re-administering a survey without making changes from the previous administration will reduce costs, though it will present challenges if edits need to be made. Items should be directly actionable, so that responses to the items can be used to make real changes.

For example, “I dislike my job” is not directly actionable, but “I do not have the technical assistance to perform my job to the best of my ability” is an item that suggests actions that can be taken. Items designed internally can allow the survey to be linked to business initiatives and strategic plans, which in turn can help increase buy-in for the value of the survey.

Instead of providing completely anonymous surveys, the authors argue that confidential surveys should be used. By doing this, organizations can learn how engagement is related to individual-level variables. However, if confidential surveys are used, it is important to protect that data, minimize identifiable information, and inform employees regarding who would have access to the data.


Van Rooy, D. L., Whitman, D. S., Hart, D., & Caleo, S. (2011). Measuring employee engagement during a financial downturn: Business imperative or nuisance? Journal of Business and Psychology, 26, 147-152

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