Employee Engagement Surveys - Definition, best questions and more!

Running a survey is one the best ways to quickly measure the engagement levels of your people and diagnose potential areas for improvement in your employee experience.

If you’re looking for a better understanding of employee engagement, check out our complete guide here.

Employee Survey Types

There are three broad types of surveys which their own question sets and aims. 

Employee Satisfaction Survey

This survey aims to measure the degree to which employees are satisfied with their jobs and that the employer has delivered on its promises in the employment contract.

Culture or Climate Surveys

These surveys measure the staff’s perception of the workplace culture and how well it aligns across the organisation.

Employee Engagement Surveys

These aim to measure employees’ emotional commitment to their jobs, the organisation and its mission. 

It is a broader topic than the other two survey types, as many engagement drivers would need to be measured for a complete picture.

Survey Design

It’s important to clarify early on why you’re running this survey. 

  • Are you trying to measure your employee value proposition? 
  • Are you trying to align your culture? 
  • Are you trying to improve the employee experience? 
  • Are you trying to identify siloes?

Your intentions will inform what questions you choose, who your survey audience will be and who you should pull into the team facilitating the survey.

Anonymity

If you want candid feedback, then you must ensure that employee identity is protected. Suppose you intend to run the survey using an internal tool. In that case, tracking identities using IPs and email addresses will likely be possible. The staff know this and will trust the survey less. You can compensate by having a small team sanitise the data before compiling a report for the rest of the management team and company.

For true anonymity, you would need to use an external survey provider.

Could you keep it simple?

Your people only have a certain amount of mental energy to give your survey between all their other work and deadlines. Don’t let them waste it trying to understand complex questions. You want them to spend it giving you quality feedback.

Keep your questions simple and ensure that everyone in the organisation will understand them easily.

Question format

A common mistake we see is asking too many open-ended questions. Doing so will create a massive amount of data to be summarised by the survey team (which might only be one person!). The data will also be affected by that team’s interpretation when reported.

At Roslin, we structure 90% of our questions as ratings out of 10 with the option to write a comment. Doing so enables easy quantitative data analysis with enough qualitative data to make sense of it.

Machine Learning is making this easier. For example, a sentiment analysis technique can take a text response and convert it into a sentiment rating by reading the text. This technique makes it easier to handle large volumes of text responses.

The ten best questions

If I had to pick ten questions for measuring Employee Engagement, I would select the ones below. Check our employee survey questions guide if you’d like to learn how to craft your own questions.

Start with these, and then add some directly related to your culture. It’s always great to have questions that measure your values to start getting a measure of your culture and how aligned it is.

  1. I would be happy to promote the organisation as an employer to my friends and family.
  2. I like working for my immediate supervisor.
  3. I understand the organisation’s plans for future success.
  4. My job allows me to utilise my strengths every day.
  5. I am coping with my workload emotionally and physically.
  6. If I contribute to the organisation’s success, I know I will be recognised.
  7. My colleagues are committed to doing great work.
  8. I see professional growth and career development opportunities for myself in this organisation.
  9. My immediate supervisor regularly gives me constructive feedback on my job performance.
  10. I foresee myself working here a year from now.

The timing of your surveys

Employee Engagement is a broad topic, so we have 40 questions for it in our library. My default recommendation is to run a monthly survey of 10 questions.

Survey timing will be significantly impacted by the context in your organisation, though. You could go down to quarterly or even annually. However, the less frequent they become, the more susceptible your results are to periods of bias like bonus time or intense work blocks.

Another reason I prefer more frequent surveys is because it creates more opportunities for your staff to raise things anonymously. It might be their only opportunity to be frank without worrying about it coming back to them.

Communication

Your participation rates will be heavily impacted by how you communicate before and after the survey. Staff will want to know why they should spend their time on this rather than other work and whether someone will actually read and then act on their feedback. It would be best if you addressed these concerns upfront AND over time to keep your participation rates high.

I would suggest telling them the survey’s aim (satisfaction, climate or engagement) and then what you intend to do with the data. 

I would generally say that we’re looking to improve the employee experience and engagement levels. I would love feedback from staff on this. We’ll then use the data to inform the management team’s initiatives to improve the employee experience.

Interpreting the Results

Ensure good response rates

Before you make any decisions based on your data, ensure that you have a high enough participation rate. Determining the appropriate participation rates involves a bit of judgement based on the issue at hand and what you intend to do about it. For instance, you’re not going to make any significant changes based on a survey with below 40% participation.

Ensuring reasonable response rates can also apply to your people segments. For example, in Roslin, you can filter your response for a question to female only. You’d want to ensure that at least 40% of females in the company responded to the survey. Do this before you extrapolate your interpretations to all the women in the company.

Look for bias

As I mentioned, if you run the survey during a stressful period, you can expect a more negative response than you usually would. Just factor that into your analysis.

Use comments to ensure the question was understood

When looking at the average score for a question or its trend over time, read some of the comments related to the question to ensure that it was understood correctly. A poorly worded question can lead to some strange-looking charts.

Don’t breach anonymity

From time to time, a manager or someone in the talent team might figure out who someone is based on the nature or wording of a respondent’s feedback. Identifying that person and approaching them for a more direct conversation is very tempting. I can assure you that this person will lose total faith in the anonymity of your survey system, and word of this will spread throughout the organisation like wildfire.

Survey Follow up

Once you’re done interpreting the data and discussing it as a management team. It’s time to decide what initiatives to implement and what to communicate back to the rest of the company.

Changing the employee experience takes time. Don’t underestimate this. You may need to launch management training, change your hiring process rework your values, etc. Don’t overcommit to projects, promise them to staff and then miss the mark. 

While significant steps are sometimes needed, a culture of continual listening and improvements will build a lot of faith in the management team and the organisation. It will also make the organisation more adaptable to societal and market changes.

Employee Survey Tools

Now that you've planned out your survey, you could look at different tools to run it. You could consider a simple survey solution as shown in our Google Forms and Survey Monkey survey guides or you could try our platform, Roslin Engagement. It comes with 40 questions and has a free forever plan to get you started.

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