Employee engagement surveys are not keeping up and I predict are going to go the same way as the dinosaurs, become extinct. They will become extinct for the same reasons that dinosaurs became extinct: they are slow, heavy and not responsive enough to changes in the environment. Employee engagement surveys are being replaced by tools that are real-time, responsive, agile and focused. This means you can implement actions to improve engagement sooner.

The typical engagement surveys are slow moving beasts taking 3 months to be ready to implement actions. First there is 4-6 weeks of designing survey, rolling out to all employees, giving time to respond. Then the results come back after 2-4 weeks, and are analysed by HR, line managers, executive teams over the next month. Then comes the endless action planning workshops, where the focus often goes on more on planning, less on action. After a year, when employees have seen limited impact for having given their opinions, they have a feeling nothing has changed, so can’t be bothered to answer the next survey.

Let’s look the advantages of new generation of engagement tools:

1. Fast and agile

Unlike the dinosaur engagement surveys, these new tools focus on speed of getting results really fast, within minutes or hours. The extreme example is the app Niko Niko where employees rate the answer to questions by swiping a smiley. Niko Niko was originally designed for project teams to get a reading about how the team was feeling at the end of each day. This might seem too simplistic but if you can establish a baseline, implement changes and then see changes in real time then simple is also powerful. Niko Niko might be too extreme for you but many other tools (CultureAmpTinyPulse) also offer quick surveys that can be offered frequently, weekly or monthly, to take the pulse of employee engagement and get feedback quickly.

2. Focused and targeted

With 50-100 questions, the old surveys are like a big, heavy dinosaur. They collect a wide range of information ranging from leadership, team work, tools and processes, customer service. But for the survey to make an impact, there has to be a focus on implementing some improvements in a few selected areas. So why not start focusing before the survey is sent out? Focus on areas where there is willingness to change or where there are known issues. Imagine you’ve just gone through a transition in the organisation. Why not focus the survey on issues around retention. If you could identify and act in teams where there is a danger of losing key staff that could be really powerful and useful for your business.

3. Fit with the environment

Like the dinosaurs a paradigm shift of needs to take place in thinking about engagement to avoid being stuck in an outdated model. Engagement is often looked at through the employer’s lens, as something that only organisations can measure and change. But people are part of engagement equation too. Their moods, emotions, motivation and drives have an impact on their engagement.

Two new tools look at the employee side of engagement. RoundPegg looks at the fit between the organisational culture and person. Used at the hiring stage you can hire people that fit your culture, or once in the organisation, understands what a person’s drives are, then use this knowledge to help to motivate them. Happiness Works looks at what makes people happy at work at an individual level and shares that feedback with the employee.

Both of these tools move beyond the aggregation of everyone’s engagement scores to ensure anonymity to seeing personal scores at the individual level. A high level of trust is needed for this to be effective. If achieved, it could be a very powerful way of finding and motivating people who fit with your organisation’s values and culture.

These new tools will change the face of employee engagement surveys making them faster, agile and targeted. But regardless of the survey tool used, the same applies – a engagement survey without follow up action is a waste of time. What is done after the survey results are reviewed to increase engagement is the most important. Fast, agile and focused actions are needed.

Employee Engagement is emerging as hot topic in 2015 as shown in Deliotte’s recent Human Capital Trends survey. Make sure your organisation is looking for smart, innovative ways to measure, and then act, to improve your engagement.