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Learn from employee surveys and prevent inner resignations

Inner resignation is a long-term, silent process occurring among dissatisfied employees. According to a study by Deloitte (2019), in Germany nearly six million employees have already mentally quit their jobs and no longer feel any ties to their companies. Inner resignations are accompanied by reduced initiative, dedication, motivation and job performance, all of which can lead to a negative work atmosphere. Therefore, it is worth to increase employee’s dedication and to discern the signs of inner resignation early enough to take suitable counter-actions.

How can I prevent inner resignation?

Employee surveys will help you identify weaknesses of the company and introduce measures for improvement. In this context employees can express their own opinions and contribute to change. This in turn can strengthen employee loyalty while helping to identify and counteract tendencies to resign at an early stage. Thanks to data on employees’ experiences relative to past and present, possible changes can allow you to discern cases of inner resignation. Employee responses can also be categorized as to whether people are tending towards a negative attitude to the company and their own work.

What actually is an “employee survey”?

In its strict sense, an employee survey is a strategic tool for organizational development. Objectives, which are to be achieved with the collected data, are defined in advance.

Possible objectives include:

  1. Identification of the company’s strengths and weaknesses
  2. Analysis of new programs, strategies and departments
  3. Acquisition of regular feedback in the interest of establishing a feedback culture
  4. Introduction of changes in harmony with employees’ opinions
  5. Improvement of the processes, programs and communication within the company

A significant factor in employee surveys is the change or follow-up process. It’s important to introduce measures for change, rather than making empty promises to the work force. This tool accordingly allows a more sustainable implementation of organizational changes, and the measures will very often be perceived as positive by affected personnel.

Pick the right time for the survey

Overly frequent employee surveys can lead to survey weariness. To avoid this problem, the surveys should be devised based on their objectives and their scope should be carefully defined. Depending on the type of survey and content, surveys can be conducted on a quarterly basis or between one and every three years. In detailed annual surveys, the process will usually take several weeks or months.

In the beginning, so-called items are formulated and the corresponding response scales added. Once prepared, the survey is forwarded to the employees and the data collected. The data are subsequently analyzed and the results provided to the employees in the interest of transparency. These results will form the basis for deciding on joint measures for change.

Source: Own representation

Tips on selecting topics and designing questionnaires

Employee surveys can take up to 5 to 20 minutes to complete, depending on the objectives and scope. As a rule, during this time period 5 to 50 items can be answered. The survey should include both multiple-choice and open-ended questions. To collect data as objectively as possible, we recommend working with a rating scale defined in advance, to be retained through several surveys. At the same time, topics, which cannot be influenced or improved, should not be surveyed to avoid building up unnecessary expectations. This is referring for instance to questions about wage structures or legal matters concerning the work environment.

Usually employee dedication and commitment are forming the points of focus. Furthermore, additional specific indicators, which can very with each interval, are then surveyed. Examples of such indicators are for example satisfaction with work and relationships with colleagues.

It is important to include the employees in the change process, since employee surveys yield only quantitative results. These results can help correctly interpret causes and background factors, and increase employee acceptance of the surveys.

The 10 commandments of item formulation

If you decide to design your employee survey yourself rather than use an external service provider, you should keep in mind the following points, in addition to the choice of topics and scope:

  1. Use simple and unambiguous terminology with the same meanings for everyone.
  2. Avoid lengthy and complex questions.
  3. Avoid asking hypothetical questions.
  4. Avoid using double stimuli and negatives.
  5. Don’t use leading questions.
  6. Take into account employees’ levels of knowledge and don’t formulate any items exceeding those levels.
  7. Use questions with a clear temporal reference.
  8. When selecting response categories, make sure they do not overlap.
  9. Make sure that the context of an item does not affect the response.
  10. Define any unclear terms you may use.

Can the employee survey, as a conventional tool, be adapted to agile time changes?

Rapid developments in times of globalization and continual networking pose the question of whether or not even conventional employee surveys should be modified. One possibility is to combine conventional employee surveys with continual exchanges of experience and opinions. On the one hand, combining employee and pulse surveys broadens the viewpoint of the overall organization. On the other hand, a continual dialog with employees is achieved.

This approach can look like the following: Every 2 years a comprehensive survey is conducted in the company – individual feedback surveys with departments or teams are also a possibility. Feedback platforms can collect continual feedback. They provide support in preparing the questionnaires and in their evaluation and analysis. Often they also allow using dashboards to present the results to the surveyed parties and management in a transparent and clearly arranged way. These new features will bring us much closer to the ideal of a continual improvement process.

All in all, this combination can be said to provide a good cornerstone for effectively implementing measures, for further developing the corporate culture and for dialog-oriented HR work.

Qualtrics as a supportive cloud solution

Qualtrics is the leading experience management platform designed for conducting studies on employee experience. This solution allows preparing, conducting and analyzing surveys with little effort. Here the focus lies on the acquisition of so-called experience data or “X data”. Combining the operational corporate data (“O data”) with X data yields information as to how people are engaged in the organization and why certain things occur in the company.

SAP Experience Management allows you to link O with X data in order to make the best possible strategic decisions for the company and for your employees. You’ll then be able to reduce fluctuations in personnel and improve your employees’ dedication to the company as well as their job performance. In addition, integrating Qualtrics in SAP SuccessFactors combines the administration of HR processes (SAP SuccessFactors) and the acquisition of experience data from employees (Qualtrics). For example, the 360° feedback from SAP Qualtrics yields a comprehensive performance assessment. Through easily configured questions, workflows and reporting, this function affords the advantages of high-quality feedback and its dynamic representation. Should your company be pursuing greater employee motivation and dedication as objectives, SAP Qualtrics Employee Engagement will afford you flexibility in preparing surveys and will enable you to share these results with your employees in a transparent way through role-based dashboards and reports, for the purpose of planning measures in a guided way.

Should you wish to receive feedback from your employees in real time and couple this feedback to result-based triggers, SAP Qualtrics Employee Lifecycle can help. Employees’ work experiences can then be surveyed over the entire employee cycle. The SAP Qualtrics Employee Benefits Optimizer will help you in performing an efficient analysis of the collected data. By means of Conjoint Analysis you can make strategic decisions and on the basis of the gained knowledge you can compile optimal employer benefit packages.

Qualtrics EmployeeXM for IT will help you identify any technical shortcomings. You’ll then be able to ensure that the investments and resources in IT are optimally geared to employees’ requirements.

All in all, the obtained results will enable your HR team to implement measures in an effective way and to introduce improvements.


Should you decide to conduct a conventional employee survey, a pulse survey or a combination of the two, you should keep the following in mind:

Work with the acquired data and findings of the survey. The absence of measures for improvement can have a negative impact on your employees’ attitudes. That’s why the follow-up process is the most important part of the employee survey. Also important is the regular acquisition of feedback, since it will uncover where the potential for improvement lies and how the employer’s image as well as employee loyalty can be enhanced.