Employee surveys can be a reliable source of insight… as long as you direct them properly and ask the right questions.
When you think of employee engagement, you may envision an office happy hour or a ping pong table. But how do you actually get to know your employees, their needs, desires, and what actually gets them fired up? Your staff is your biggest asset, and in a time of unprecedented resignations, management needs to find creative ways to engage employees now more than ever.
A 2021 McKinsey survey found that engaged employees are eight times more likely to stay with the company than those who have poor experiences at work.
But how does an employee engagement survey fit into all this? Let’s take a look!
What is an employee engagement survey?
Employee engagement surveys gauge the interest teams have in their work. Results can show how motivated employees are, whether they’re investing maximum effort into your company, and even how long they plan on being there. It’s the perfect reflection of how much work leadership has put into making staff feel welcomed not only from a job perspective, but on a personal level as well.
Most people’s first jobs involve uninspired labor. We’ve all experienced a work environment where we didn’t see a future in the company and we feel extremely expendable and/or completely unengaged.
Unfortunately, this can happen in our careers as well—even if it involves a dream job at the perfect company. Without employee engagement, the best, most dedicated employees can get burnt out or feel unmotivated.
Making the people part of your company—not just the sales outcomes—is vital to ensuring retention rates and overall job satisfaction. It can even improve your bottom line!
How do employee surveys work?
If you’re looking for better insight into the real feelings and motivations of your employees, an employee satisfaction survey can be extremely useful.
The reasons to execute an engagement survey could vary, based on any number of factors: Your business may have experienced some shifts in management, internal communications haven’t been at their best lately, or you’ve noticed that the employee experience and expectations may be changing and you want to know more.
An anonymous employee survey can offer incredible insights into the people that keep your business moving forward. It can give employees the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings about changes in the company and what they think could help them personally feel more connected to their work. Use this method as a great first step toward connecting with your teams on more personal levels.
Three types of surveys
There are three types of surveys, and knowing the differences can help your organization keep your engagement survey focused.
The first is probably the most common type. Known as a climate survey, you’ll ask about employee opinions, views, attitudes, and perceptions of the business. These are excellent as yearly or quarterly tools for gauging views toward company-wide developments, such as major policy changes.
You may send out the second during the interview process. It’s known as a cultural survey, where the aim is to match a personality type with the current “vibe” of the business. This helps hire the right cultural fit for a new role.
When you’ve noticed some turnover or an obvious shift in attitudes, you may choose to conduct an engagement survey. This is a type of questionnaire that taps into the mindset of your teams and asks: “What makes you tick?” There is no failing this exam, and feedback can help management find new and interesting ways to keep individuals engaged in their work—or if the role is even right for them based on their goals and motivations.
Three aspects of measuring engagement
In the 1990s, researchers uncovered what was making employees unmotivated and uninterested in their work. Alas the term “engagement” wasn’t used until William Kahn coined it in his 1990 paper, Psychological Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement. Within the piece, Khan outlined three dimensions of engagement to focus on:
- Emotional engagement measures a worker’s relationship with their employer. How much trust does the employee have in their supervisor or in management to set them up for success? Employers need to understand how to encourage buy-in with the company’s values and pillars. Employees should feel safe to voice opinions, ideas, and needs to their supervisors to feel more engaged in their own future, while shaping the future of the organization itself.
- Physical engagement acknowledges the emotional and physical strain an employee puts into their work—whether or not the job itself involves physical labor. Today, this translates to an employee’s view on work/life balance. Do they have the ability to take a mental health day off of work when they feel burnt out? Does the employer offer PTO, but at the same time discourages taking a vacation because of the workload and expectations on their employees? Focusing on mental health opportunities as part of the foundation of your business can ensure your team’s longevity at the company.
- Cognitive engagement considers an employee’s career goals. Few people take a job because they want to work in the same position or at the same pay rate for the rest of their life. How is your organization at creating opportunities for workers to take the next step in their careers? Is that even an option within your business? It’s vital to build confidence for your employees such as reward systems, small but effective acknowledgment programs, and so on. Consider ways to help make your staff feel seen as individuals—not just cogs in an overall money-making machine.
These three dimensions of engagement help employees feel secure and confident within their roles. Imagine a space where your job is on the line for every decision, or mistake, that you make. For some, this is a place where they can thrive. But for most, this level of pressure creates even more mistakes and an enormous loss of self-confidence within the job.
As you consider the goals of your survey, think of what will happen after the survey is completed. Try to employ each aspect of Kahn’s engagement theory within your strategy based on the results.
What to expect from an employee engagement survey
Conducting company surveys is still an important part of any HR strategy. Even though there are artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies that can do this for you (based on activity level), hearing directly from your teams still holds a lot of value.
Imagine you just met someone. They look you up and down, ask your name and age, and then formulate an opinion of you from that information alone. Before you’ve even had a conversation, this random person has filled in all the blanks. Seems unfair to the depth you offer as a friend once someone gets to know you, right?
The same goes for algorithms. You can’t base engagement just on productivity alone, and a machine certainly can’t tell you what passions and interests your employees have either.
Let’s uncover more benefits of conducting an engagement survey from three perspectives:
Polling engagement is like using a flashlight in a dark room or putting on your reading glasses. You can finally see what your employees are interested in and why they choose to show up every day to work. The important part of conducting a survey is to put these results into action.
In addition to interest, you can better understand predictive analysis regarding turnover as well. A common question on engagement surveys is how long an employee plans to stay with the company. Because the survey is anonymous, staff will likely answer honestly. Even if some don’t respond, with enough of these surveys under your belt, you can predict how soon these types of employees will quit.
Sometimes asking a question can create positive change as well. Just asking an employee if they feel like they have opportunities to improve their work experiences, could result in these respondents requesting new reading material or group brainstorming sessions.
Showing interest in employees does more than give you useful information. Just the simple act of conducting a survey and asking meaningful questions can improve the work environment in itself.
Finally, employers can use this type of survey on a bi-annual or yearly basis to set benchmarks for cultural implementation benefits. Comparing survey results can help leadership see not only where they need to improve, but how much they already have from the last time the poll was conducted. In a world of data collection and analytics, this process should fit right in with your regular activities as a successful business.
The company gains a lot from employee surveys, but what does the employee get out of it?
With the right approach and thought-provoking questions, survey participants get the chance to actually voice their opinions without any fear of being exposed or putting their jobs on the line. In a perfect world, we could all be honest about what’s working and not working in our company—but as we know, this is not always the case. Anonymous surveys kick open the door and offer team members a real opportunity to be totally honest.
As long as you commit to taking action following the results, employees can gain more confidence and trust in the business to take care of their needs. Enacting genuine steps to answer the concerns and needs of your employees can benefit every team involved. The survey makes employees an active part of the next steps in a business, rather than merely being passive participants.
Per Kahn’s theory, employees want to feel like the company they are investing time and energy into should be doing the same for them. Furthermore, staff members want to feel like they are making a difference in both the success and future of the business.
Korn Ferry, a global consulting firm, found that businesses that prioritize the employee experience are four times more profitable and productive. Engaged employees are more effective and less stressed, meaning they have more time to put in quality work with their customers and the customer experience.
If an employee feels like their company is taking care of their needs and creating a future, then the staff member is more invested in the success of the business. Naturally, customers help the company’s money flow and thus customer satisfaction thrives when workers are engaged and motivated.
A Gallup poll found that engaged employees improve customer loyalty by 10%.
The key is developing an excellent user experience from start to finish. Your team members are essential in the creation of a seamless customer journey. Think about it like this: Grumpy employees will translate into a difficult customer service experience.
All together now
When your employees are engaged, the entire business benefits. Productivity improves, retention rates are higher, customer satisfaction is better, and every stakeholder in the business wins. The best way to test employee engagement and find out where the weaknesses lie involves some of the following indicators:
- Watching absenteeism and turnover
- Getting direct feedback from current employees
- Monitoring exit surveys
- Checking your employee net promoter scores
Employee engagement is not an incurable problem. With focused, intentional research and action, the business can benefit immensely.
Planning your employee engagement survey questions
To get an idea of how the survey is structured and the cadence of frequency they should be sent out, let’s dig a little deeper.
Structuring the survey should revolve around why you’re issuing a survey in the first place. It’s not enough to just gain insight into employees’ thought processes; you need a plan for what will happen as a result of the survey as well. The best planning offers the chance for favorable outcomes. Consider some of the following questions as you explore your why and how:
- What do we hope to get out of the survey?
- What are we measuring and why?
- Who is responsible for creating the questionnaire?
- Who is responsible for implementing the changes as a result of the survey answers?
- Who will we ask to take part in the survey?
- When should we send out the survey? How often?
Employers should conduct surveys on a regular basis. This way, you can compare changes and improvements, and identify where there is still work to be done. To get this flow going, it’s important to create questions that help isolate problems in such a way that can support a strategy to manage the issues.
Consider these topics to ask about as you develop questions:
- Customer focus
- Business strategies
- Employee retention
- Goal alignment
- Customer satisfaction
- Work-life balance
A formal survey provides insight into these topics, which might otherwise be impossible. Keep in mind that, if your survey questions don’t get to the point and don’t attempt to answer root problems within the company, you’ll get low response rates and results that fail to reveal any actionable insight.
Engagement survey best practices
There are six key principles to follow as you consider the content of your survey:
1. Keep it short and simple to avoid drop-off: A typical survey shouldn’t take more than 30 to 45 minutes to complete.
2. Collaborate with employees: A C-suite employee will have a different approach to the survey than an entry-level team member. Use your resources to create a well-rounded questionnaire.
3. Use neutral language: Use both negative and positive phrasing such as “I am paid a fair wage” or “I am not compensated enough for my work” rather than asking a direct question like “Is the benefits package enough?” The latter could create a people-pleasing result where the survey-taker is considering the inquirer’s feelings about the results.
4. Ask the right types of questions: Avoiding open-ended questions as much as possible can help you quantify the results more clearly. Focused questions that use a numerical scale like “strongly agree” or “strongly disagree” can simplify analysis when comparing one response to another.
5. Ensure autonomy and confidentiality: Employees should hear right away that answers will be tracked by results only, not by identifying the individuals by email addresses or names. Target feedback and those answers that call someone out by name should be filtered out before examining the results.
6. Be specific about your questions: Avoid items that ask about two things at once, like “I believe my work/life balance and my benefits are fair.” This type of question could result in unclear answers as an employee may love their benefits, but doesn’t feel like the work/life balance is fair.
While survey question creation can solve a lot of problems within your company, there is a subtle art to it. Let’s dive into some example questions you can use to formulate your next engagement survey.
20 best employee engagement survey questions
We will break these questions down into types of questions to uncover the results you’re looking for. As a best practice, you could make most responses either “yes” or “no,” or rated on a numerical scale from 1 to 10.
Questions about improving employee productivity
- Do you believe your direct supervisor maintains adequate communication?
- Do you know whom to ask for help when an issue comes up at work?
- Do you feel like you’re working within a collaborative environment?
- Does your team support your career goals?
- Does your team inspire you to do your best at work?
Questions about job satisfaction
- Would you recommend this role to friends or family?
- Would you recommend your friends to this company?
- Are you proud of working for this company?
- Are you satisfied with the benefits package we’ve provided?
- Are you satisfied with the company culture?
Questions about work/employee alignment
- Does this company find your opinions and suggestions valuable?
- Do you feel like your supervisor is supportive of your career goals?
- Do you feel recognized for a job well done?
- Does the organization work hard toward a positive work environment?
- Do the business’ values and vision for the future align with your own?
Questions about employee retention
- Does the organization aid in your career success?
- Do you see yourself in this company for the next year?
- Do you have long-term goals within this company?
- Do you have the tools you need to maximize your potential at the company?
- Have you considered leaving the company within the past six months?
- In your opinion, how can we cultivate a better work environment?
- What issues are there at the company?
- How do you think we can better support your career goals?
- What would you like to see differently that would make you feel more engaged in your work?
- Is there anything you want to share regarding your experience at the company?
Attract and retain incredible talent
At Alida, we can help support your employee experience efforts. With these tips and with the help of our engagement experts, you’ll learn new and effective ways to listen to your team members while creating actionable strategies to meet their expectations.