Cheating on Surveys: nothing new

May 31, 2006

Trevor Cook at Corporate Engagement reports on staff at the NAB fudging answers in a corporate survey so as to not upset management.

It’s nothing new. I previously worked briefly for a Australian financial services company (I won’t mention their name) that prided itself on being awarded a “Employer of Choice” award based on staff surveys that showed that their staff were all as happy as larry. The truth was quite the opposite. The staff were highly under paid (in market terms), were over worked, and generally, across its various branches, were nearly uniformly unhappy. I asked a number of people how it was that the company could promote itself as an employer of choice. The uniform response: the survey was taken online and they no one believed that it was anonymous. They believed if they didn’t respond positively they could find themselves in serious trouble. As it was, the branches were being asked to meet unrealistic targets (reaching targets resulted in a bonus, and given the pathetic pay rates everyone wanted bonus payments) and they believed they could be punished by their targets being increased, and also by receiving negative staff reviews. I got written some advice from the HR Department that these surveys were really anonymous, however I was pretty much tagged a trouble maker for daring to ask such a thing. I’m not sure to this day whether the staff believed my assurances (I was a manager at the time) that the survey was indeed anonymous, but I did notice the company now only promotes itself as being a previous winner of the award, as opposed to being a current winner, so maybe, eventually, the truth came out.