Any company concerned with retention should pay attention to both of them, equally.
A happy employee doesn’t always equal an engaged employee and vice versa (although the two can be linked).
Deciphering how engaged your employees are — aka, how connected and enthusiastic they feel about their work and their place within the organization — is a key indicator that can hint at how committed your employees are to your company and, thus, how likely it is that they’re going to stick with you rather than head out the door the second another opportunity comes along.
A manager’s job is about much more than just managing the work — competent and effective managers are responsible for their employees’ growth and advancement at their job as well as making the most of their skills in their current role.
When figuring out how engaged your employees are, an employee engagement survey is likely going to be your No. 1 tool.
Employee engagement surveys are still one of the best ways to measure engagement, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review.
Not only do they provide you with valuable feedback on the status of your employees, but it gives them both the opportunity to be heard.
The feeling that an employee is heard — and that their opinions matter — is a crucial component.
Ready to dive in and create your own but aren’t sure where to start? While this list is far from exhaustive (and the key is to always customize, customize, customize!), we’ve compiled questions to include and avoid.
Questions to include in an employee engagement survey
The key across the board is to avoid questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Craft open-ended questions as much as you can, but if something makes the most sense to be framed as a yes or no question, then all you have to do is tack on “why?” after they’ve given their answer.
Here are some questions to consider adding to your employee engagement survey:
1. Do you see yourself working here in the next 5 years?
Engaged employees are committed to their companies for the long-term. If employees are going to stick around, it’s essential that they see a future for themselves at your company as well as a way for them to attain the advancement they hope for in their career.
2. Do you feel seen, heard, and supported by your manager?
One of the more surefire ways to send an employee looking for a new job somewhere else is for them to feel unsupported by and unimportant to their manager. A manager’s job is about much more than just managing the work — competent and effective managers are responsible for their employees’ growth and advancement at their job as well as making the most of their skills in their current role.
3. In what ways could you be more supported in your work?
Even if your employees are already engaged and happy, there is always room for improvement.
4. How does your individual work impact the success of the company overall?
One of the key factors for employee engagement is having a clear and recognizable impact on the success of the company. Younger generations (think Gen Z and Millennials) are especially hungry for meaning in their jobs, and one way to give it to them is to keep the ways that their work has an impact front and center.
5. Do you have regular opportunities for continued education and advancement?
No one wants to stay at a dead-end job — again, especially younger generations who are fresh out of the college gate and are looking to learn and gain experience to kick start their career.
6. Are the goals and objectives of your work clear?
One of the easiest ways to become disengaged is feeling like no matter what you do, it’s always wrong. If your workers don’t have a clear understanding of what their job entails, what it looks like to be successful at that job, and how to arrive there, engagement can drop pretty quickly.
7. How do you describe your work at the company to others?
Hearing how a person describes their job to the people in their life can be a major indicator of how they think of their work. Do they reduce their role to executing menial tasks (“I crunch numbers for a living”) or do they talk about the grander implications their work has (“I stay on top of the business’s finances so that we can move out of the startup phase and into profitability as soon as possible”)?
Questions to avoid in an employee engagement survey
While it might seem obvious, there are certain questions — or, rather, framings of questions — that you’ll want to avoid, mostly because they’ll make your employees feel like they have to go on the defensive rather than give you open and honest feedback about how engaged they are in their role.
1. Are you currently looking for another job?
First, even if an employee is looking for a new job, launching an employee engagement survey in tandem with making tangible improvements to the ways that your company falls short, is a huge step in the direction of keeping that employee — despite them being on the market.
Second, there’s a very low chance that people will be honest with their employers about looking for a new job regardless.
2. Do you like your manager?
Framing the question around “liking” a manager rather than feeling that a manager is effective, supportive, or other job-related functions is a much better way to understand how your employees see their managers.
3. Are you making enough money?
It can seem like a pretty clear way to figure out if your employees are happy, right? I mean, making a fair amount of money is certainly one thing that will keep people around, but this one is something to avoid in an employee engagement survey.
First, it’s the framing — even if you’re making a good amount of money, who wouldn’t want more if they could have it? Second, it’s more of a question to be considered within an employee’s review and promotion processes rather than in an engagement survey.
4. Are you planning to get married or have children?
The central reason for not asking this question or questions like it is that they’re patently illegal.
While this might seem like a way for you to get an indication of how serious they are about their job (hey, everyone needs money to raise kids!), but asking about things like this directly is not the way to go.
Always keep employee engagement survey questions squarely in the professional realm.