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The big annual employee survey was declared dead at IoIC’s annual Insight Seminar in London.


The claim was made by Matt Stephens of Quest agency, who told delegates: “I think in 15 years we’ll look back and say ‘How the hell did all these big survey companies make so much money – and ruin trust for people?’”

He said employees – especially those from Generation Y – couldn’t understand the delay being asked their opinion and any results.

“The big surveys break people’s trust,” said Matt (pictured far left during the panel discussion). “They always remind me of the song, The Grand Old Duke of York, because we say ‘It’s the survey, come on!’ and we march them up to the top of the hill…then we say ‘We’ll wait for three months for the results’ which is like marching them back down again.”

He said this big survey method:

  • Disregards people’s feelings
  • Enables leaders to not listen – he said: “I actually heard a CEO say ‘Don’t tell me about it, put it in the survey’!”
  • Time delay leads to a lack of transparency and no real-time relevance.
  • The lack of action creates broken promises
  • Top-down action plan creates super-hero leaders – “the ones who say ‘I’m telling you the answers’” – rather than having a conversation.

Matt added: “Generation Y expect things immediately, they live in moments. They’re digitally savvy and they’re opinionated so they expect to have a conversation.

“It’s no wonder there’s a real disconnect between young employees and the annual survey.”

He then demonstrated a new app created by Quest, called Heartbeat, which he admitted “isn’t the answer but it’s part of it”.

Heartbeat is run via mobile phones, tablets and desktop computers and offers real-time feedback, whether it’s at a town hall meeting or at the CEO’s presentation of results.

The app asks ‘How are you feeling about this issue?’ and then ‘Why?’ The two answers are restricted to 250 characters so feedback is succinct and themes soon emerge.

Matt said: “It enables leaders and communicators to evaluate in real time and it’s not just Generation Y that want that – I want that!”

He was followed by a further presentation on trust by Dr Katalin Illes of the University of Westminster, who co-authored IoIC’s report on Trust and Leadership.

She offered ideas on how to be trusted as a leader or communicator backed up with research and also declared that too many big organisations get it wrong.

“Everyone says trust is important but too often it is on a to-do list, it’s ticked off,” she explained.

“Trust is a process which is constantly moving and changing. You need to feel it and nurture it for it to be present.”

To create real trust among employees, she urged organisations to go deeper and ask questions like ‘What’s our purpose?’, ‘How do we see the world?’, ‘What kind of leadership do we want?’

“None of this is new,” she concluded. “So, why aren’t we applying the knowledge that is out there?”

The seminar ended with all four speakers – Nick Howard, Anthony Burrows, Matt Stephens and Katalin Illes – answering questions from the floor. Subjects included how much to adjust the conversation for digitally-savvy Gen Y employees and predicting the shape of the classic corporate in the future.

IoIC, Westminster Business School and Top Banana produced a special report exploring the connections between leadership, communication and trust. Institute members can download the full Trust In Leadership report, an e-book summary and an infographic summarising key findings
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