Editor's note: John Goodman is vice chair of Customer Care Measurement and Consulting. Scott M. Broetzmann is president and CEO of Customer Care Measurement and Consulting. Ted Nardin is co-founder and principal consultant at service consulting company 5th Talent. 

“The annual employment survey needs to be retired. The reason companies do these surveys…remains as important as ever. But workers don’t like the surveys and often won’t respond to them, and most companies don’t do anything with the results anyway.” 1

So argues Wharton’s Peter Cappelli in his August 2020, Wall Street Journal article, “It’s time to get rid of employee surveys.”

While Cappelli is spot-on in suggesting that the traditional employee survey has increasingly deteriorated into a tick-the-HR-box, low-ROI exercise, our work points to an alternative and more powerful solution for reinvigorating employee surveys: reframing the employee experience around the concepts of “meaningful work” and “internal service frustrations.”

Cappelli contends that conventional employee surveys have generally outlived their usefulness and should be jettisoned for at least five principal reasons. And while each justification has some relative merit, we believe that the greater shortcomings of orthodox employee surveys have more to do with flawed execution and stale conceptual grounding than they do the intrinsic weaknesses of more formal, in-depth annual employee surveys. Perhaps a better approach to revitalizing employee surveys is to meet those distinct challenges head on rather than dismissing the “old way” of conducting employee surveys altogether. Consider Cappelli’s chief criticisms of employee surveys: 

Annual employee surveys are too long. Cappelli argues that employee surveys often have too many questions to maintain respondent interest (which he suggests leads to the second weakness of low response rates from the overall employee b...