In order to assess levels of engagement in a global organisation, employees must communicate their views, concerns and issues, typically through an online anonymous survey. The main providers such as Towers Watson, Gallop or Effectory, often release white papers and eye catching headlines about varying degrees of employee engagement around the world (Penhale Smith N, 2015.) As an Organisational Development Consultant, increasingly involved in both administering employee surveys, including the communication that precedes their implementation, I became concerned that comparing engagement results between countries was at the very least problematic and potentially unreliable. When I hear that Indian employees are more engaged than Chinese (Dale Carnegie, 2014) and Austrians are the most engaged in Europe (Effectory, 2014) the potential variances within the profiles of respondents would appear at first glance to be significant enough to impact direct comparisons. For instance, do employees in former communist countries see engagement and its typical composites (leadership, benefits, development, welfare, trust, brand loyalty, etc.) in the same way as those from countries with, as Hostede highlighted, lesser degrees of “Power Distance” (Hofstede Centre, 2015.)

Starting with the null hypothesis that “attitudes to employee surveys do not vary by country or gender and age within those countries” I conducted an online survey with employees from one organisation in, the UK, USA, Mexico, Romania, India and China, (n= 286) assessing their attitudes towards factors such as belief in the anonymity of surveys, honesty of response, preferred method of raising concerns and whether they believe employee surveys to be the most effective method of communicating issues related to engagement. In addition, the results of a recent pan European Employee engagement survey and focus groups I had conducted, were examined to see if differences in attitude could be identified.


That in countries with a high level of “Power Distance” such as Romania, India, China and Mexico, employee surveys were the preferred method of communicating upwards, particularly with female employees. (P=

Overall there were many differences in attitude towards communicating upwards using an online anonymous survey and this raises serious concerns for practitioners when asked to compare the results from employees around the world. In light of the strong correlation between attitudes to employee surveys and high levels of Power –Distance, it may be possible to identify countries and minority groups within them, for whom a survey is the most effective method, and in turn recommend other methods to gather feedback, in those with a lower level.