The market for employee surveys is worth around $4.87bn and is expected to grow by over 16% in the next five years. Still, the value of its data in implementing organisational change is now being questioned.

Unreliable employee surveys – respondents aren’t being honest

Results from the organisational change firm, Untapped AI, found that two-thirds of the workforce underestimated their anxiety levels in organisational surveys.

They also uncovered other findings that suggest employee surveys shouldn’t be considered a reliable indicator of employee sentiment.

One was a 35% disparity between what employees self-report on organisational and pulse surveys and their true feelings. This was found on subjects including hybrid working, mental health, productivity, innovation, and adaptability, all workplace topics employers now seek to tackle effectively.

Lack of trust in the anonymous process of many surveys is a concern too, and some employees fear that negative answers could impact their performance reviews and career progression.

According to a 2020 study on lifestyle patterns, more women (54%) than men (40%) were likely to engage in people-pleasing behaviour generally. If this finding is extended to employee survey results, it suggests that findings, particularly for female employees, won’t be as accurate or applicable to change strategies.

Yet, the most shocking statistic from Untapped AI is that 75% of change initiatives driven by employee surveys don’t work. This highlights that inauthentic employee surveys have no value and actually inhibit the creation of effective workplace transformation and, therefore, inclusion, equity, and belonging (IE&B).

Inaccurate data on the COVID-19 mental health landscape

Another area of employee surveys that Untapped AI calls on businesses to examine is those taken to assess workplace mental health and wellbeing.

Here, they are concerned that employee surveys completed in early 2020 don’t reflect the deteriorating mental health landscape in the workplace due to COVID-19.

Untapped AI’s data reveals an increase in referrals to the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) to assess depression and low mood since the pandemic began, with numbers jumping from 10% to 30%.

Mental health symptoms such as “anxiety and low mood” spiked at the start of the pandemic and increased in regions when lockdowns hit. Because of this, surveys that took place in February 2020 don’t reflect the feelings of employees when the impact of COVID-19 began to be felt, leaving firms with inaccurate data and less likely to be able to devise effective mental health and wellbeing strategies.

Speaking on her firm’s findings, Kendal Parmar, Co-founder and CEO of Untapped AI, said: “Most companies are aware that self-reported employee surveys don’t work, and that employees are more likely to withhold information or their true feelings. However, they simply can’t think of anything better.

“Surveys are boxing in employees to answer multiple-choice questions, and employees aren’t trusting that the process is anonymous and any negative answers won’t be held against them. It’s time to put an end to surveys to give employers real-time, anonymous insights into how their employees are feeling, rather than outdated models that simply don’t work.

“In some regions, individuals don’t feel that they can admit their true feelings to themselves, let alone to their employer. Abolishing surveys and using programmes and technology that helps employees to navigate change is key.”


In this article, you learned that:

  • The market for employee surveys is worth around $4.87bn but the value of its data is being questioned.
  • Untapped AI data reveals that two-thirds of the workforce are underestimating their anxiety levels in organisational surveys.
  • They also found a 35% disparity between what employees self-report on organisational and pulse surveys and their true feelings.