Can Your Company Handle the Truth?

“You can’t handle the truth!” Col. Jessep (Jack Nicholson) in “A Few Good Men” Can your company handle the truth?

“You can’t handle the truth!” Col. Jessep (Jack Nicholson) in “A Few Good Men”


Can your company handle the truth?

This week I had plenty of time to contemplate stuff. A “simple” day surgery turned into 3 days in the hospital and a painful recovery period. While I was trapped in my hospital bed, watching inane day time television and frequently hitting the morphine button hooked up to my IV, the hospital took the opportunity to use the TV for a Customer Satisfaction Survey. And I began to think about why more Companies don’t recognize the value of Employee Satisfaction Surveys and Employee Focus Groups.

I’m a big believer in the value of Employee Surveys and Employee Focus Groups, but most of my clients are not. The more progressive among them do annual Customer Satisfaction Surveys, using outside firms to ensure they collect the right information, and, then based on an evaluation of that information make changes to improve their relationship with customers. These companies recognize that by including the customer as a stakeholder and asking for input about how to make the relationship better, they are ensuring ongoing loyalty in a time when loyalty in the marketplace is hard to come by. Yet these same companies fail to see the value in an annual Employee Survey or periodic Employee Focus Groups that allows the Employees – important stakeholders in the company – to express their opinions about how their relationship with management could be improved!

Upon reflections from my hospital bed, I believe most companies think the Annual Employee Survey or Employee Focus Group is a waste of time and resources for the following reasons:

1. Companies think their Employees will let them know about problems in the workplace without being asked. Most Employees are not willing to openly criticize their managers in the best of times unless invited to do so and unless promised protection from retaliation. In times of company distress, an open dialogue between Employees and Management about what is causing that distress is even less likely to occur since Employees who would offer constructive advice do not want to be seen as “complainers” or not aligned with the company’s goals.

2. The Management Team thinks they know how Employees will respond to survey questions. Managers who are not on the Front Line every day get filtered information. Properly structured Employee Surveys and Focus Groups remove those filters and reveal, with surprising accuracy, the organizational barriers that restrict increased Employee Engagement and improved Employee Performance.


3. Management doesn’t want to be held accountable for the poor performance of their work group. Surveys and Focus Groups establish accountability for performance. Properly constructed Surveys provide a measurable “snapshot in time”, work group by work group, which identifies specific work issues linked directly and objectively to Employee Performance. Once these work issues are identified measurements can be created and accountability for future Performance can be placed where it belongs: with the appropriate group of Employees and their Supervisors and Managers.

4. Management doesn’t care about what Employees have to say. Command and Control Managers don’t want to hear how they could be doing a better job. There will be no improvement in Employee Performance until that attitude does more than just goes underground.

5. Management is afraid of what Employees will say. Once issues are revealed by a Survey, the expectation is that Management will constructively deal with those issues to improve the company. Failure to enact those improvements will further decrease Employee Performance.

The Bottom Line is Employees have something important to say about how to make the Company better. Companies that are truly interested in Continuous Operational Performance Improvement had better be listening to their Employees either through Surveys, Focus Groups or ongoing Individual Conversations with Core Employees.