How to Ask the Right Employee Survey Questions [A Guide]

An engaged workforce is linked to profit employee retention rates.Here are the best employee survey questions to track employee engagement.

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Nebulous. Impossible to measure. Hard to influence. These are a few ways some employers think about managing employee engagement. But it shouldn’t be this way. An engaged workforce is consistently linked to profit, customer satisfaction and employee retention rates. In fact, Gallup reports that subtle differences in employee engagement can result in 21% greater profitability. Understanding and benchmarking engagement gives you the ability to improve performance, and that starts with asking the best employee survey questions.

This isn’t as hard you might think. In this article, we’ll give tips on how to conduct your survey, sample employee survey questions to ask, and how to follow up. With the information from your survey, you will know what’s going well, what could use attention, and any red flags to head on (we suggest calling these opportunities).

How to Build Your Employee Survey to Track Engagement

Have clear goals in mind

Like any initiative, lacking clear, coherent goals can kill your survey before it’s even deployed. Before crafting employee survey questions, it’s worth asking yourself: what do we really want to know about our engagement status?

Many businesses want to capture how their team feels about compensation, productivity, or whether that workplace wellness program is having an impact. Your goals will guide which questions to ask.

Let employees select from a range of responses

Instead of positioning these as yes or no questions, we recommend giving employees a bar to measure their responses from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” with variables in between. This lets you get a better understanding of gaps between what the employer and the employee perceive about the workplace.

For instance, the Society for Human Resource Management has consistently found that “respectful treatment of all employees at all levels” was the most highly rated factor for job satisfaction. But only 38% of employees were very satisfied when it comes to this factor.

It’s difficult to capture discrepancies like this with just yes-or-no answer options.

Keep the survey responses confidential

In order to collect true, honest feedback, it’s critical to ensure employee confidentiality. Without this guarantee, employees may fear that their responses could work against them, which defeats the purpose of the employee engagement survey. Confidentiality is more important than anonymity in this case as you want to be able to zero in on certain demographic and team trends. Read more about the difference between confidentiality and anonymity here.

employee engagement survey questions

Sample Employee Engagement Questions and Categories

Once you’ve assembled your goals for the survey, you can start drafting the questions. In this section, we unpack specific engagement categories and sample employee survey questions to include. Use these for guidance but customize them based on your company’s needs, size, industry, and other factors that make your employee base unique.  

Questions to gauge engagement within the company

Consider starting your engagement survey with questions that assess an employee’s overall impressions of the company. While these are high-level queries, they’ll ensure you have a benchmark for how the team feels about the company’s direction and general satisfaction. It’s important to keep these simple and allow responses to range from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.”

Sample Questions:

  • I would recommend this company as a great place to work.
  • This company motivates me to go beyond what I would in a similar role elsewhere.
  • I see myself working here in two years time.

Questions on company leadership

Your company’s leadership is one of the most critical factors in business success, employee engagement, and driving performance. Again, these questions tend to be high level, but important in measuring whether the leadership team is adequately communicating the vision and goals for the company.

Sample Questions:

  • The broader leadership team (directors and above) demonstrate that
  • people are important to the company’s success.
  • I have confidence in the senior leaders [company CEO] and her/his direct reports.
  • The senior leaders have communicated a vision that motivates me.

Questions on the employee’s manager

It’s rare to find a successful company that relies solely on a senior leadership team. Individual managers are more likely to have a day-to-day impact on an employee’s job satisfaction and engagement. In fact, a survey by the American Psychological Association found that nearly 80% of employees who felt supported by their supervisor also trusted their employer, while 56% of employees who didn’t feel supported by their supervisor reported a lack of trust in their employer.

Clearly, a good relationship between managers and their direct reports have a huge impact on overall engagement.

Sample Questions:

  • My manager gives me useful feedback on how well I am performing.
  • My manager has shown genuine interest in my career aspirations.
  • My direct manager motivates me to do my best work.

Questions about individual roles

If you don’t understand, enjoy, or have the resources to do a job well, it’s unlikely one will stay engaged with work. You should gauge how well your staff comprehends what their roles entail, how to access tools and resources, and how their roles fit into your business’s larger strategy.

In some cases, you might find gaps among certain teams or functions. Other times, you might find an organizational challenge, or too much overlap between roles. The key is asking the employee to think about his or her specific responsibilities in order to see how the company is engaging overall.

Sample Questions:

  • The information I need to do my job effectively is readily available.
  • I have access to the things I need to do my job well.
  • I have enough autonomy to perform my job effectively.

Questions about the company’s culture

Maybe you’ve heard this adage before: culture eats strategy for breakfast. In other words, you can have the best strategy in the world, but if your culture doesn’t encourage honesty, fairness, innovation, and recognition, success will be hard to achieve.

To determine culture, employee survey questions tend to address whether employees feel supported as a whole, rather than in their specific role or by their direct manager.

Sample Questions:

  • Generally, I believe my workload is reasonable for my role.
  • We act on promising new or innovative ideas.
  • Day-to-day decisions here demonstrate that quality and improvement are top priorities.

Growth and development questions

An organization is a living organism. So it’s important that your employees don’t feel stuck or that they’re driving down a dead end street. The employee survey questions addressing personal growth and development should provide insight into their satisfaction, whether they are learning and adopting new skills, and if they believe performance is fairly evaluated.

Sample Questions:

  • I receive appropriate recognition for good work.
  • I have access to the learning and development I need to do my job well.
  • I am given opportunities to develop skills relevant to my interests.

Ask some open-ended employee survey questions

When you give employees an outlet to voice their concerns, they feel heard. And feeling heard is an undervalued but incredibly crucial aspect of employee satisfaction and retention. One of the best ways to do this is by offering a free response portion to your employee engagement survey. However, do note that free responses are better used to collect input on specific subjects, rather than on quantifiable topics.

For example, by leaving a free-form response for a question that asks about work-life balance, you will get long-form answers that run the gamut about something that could be distilled more easily with a scale. However, if you pose a question such as “what can we do better?” or, “what type of learning and development initiatives would you like access to?” you guide your employees to leave a more directed response.

Sample Questions:

  • What process needs improvement?
  • If you could wave a magic wand, what change would you make to the company?
  • What is the highlight of your work this month?

Remember, conducting an employee engagement survey is a first step, not a final destination. The next phase of the process is ensuring you follow up on concerns and deliver actionable changes that leadership will take to address employee feedback.

employee engagement workplace

How to Turn Survey Results Into Action

Know your goals? Check. Create employee survey questions? Check. Now it’s time to get your survey in front of employees, ensure they actually engage in the survey, and take action based on the results you collect.

There is no one-size-fits-all model. Each company has its own culture, communication styles and channels, and means of implementing changes. But the following three steps are perhaps the most crucial for success:

1. Assemble engagement survey champions to drive participation

Sending one or two emails may feel effective at first, but it’s common for employees to forget an opt-in effort like a survey. Designate “Survey Champions”, or a representative from each department at your company who you can work with to ensure they’re constantly encouraging their teams to participate. Send updates to the entire company with status check-ins on which departments have completed the survey to 100%. You can even gamify the experience by offering a prize to the team who completes it fastest!

2. Address results as a team

If you conduct an employee engagement survey and don’t address the outcomes, then you will only reinforce the idea that employee opinions are not valued. Address the outcomes with leadership first, then require that managers to address the company-wide results with their smaller teams. Guaranteeing complete anonymity as it relates to responses is important to ensure honest and candid answers.

3. Hold post-survey check-ins

Create action items for your team to focus on. Have routine status updates on how implementing change is going, and keep everyone honest. Improvement is a group effort, and it starts with genuine transparency. If your team uses a collaboration tool for different projects or sprints, create a new one that focuses solely on survey feedback and assign owners to each facet. For instance, does your onboarding need improvement? Work with a member of your team to decipher what can be changed, and then encourage them to own that enhancement. When you get together for your team meetings, be sure that survey feedback is a topic on the agenda on a regular basis to demonstrate the importance of delivering change.

There’s no “set it and forget it” approach for employee engagement. Similarly, your employee survey questions might need to be adapted as you dig into initial results and find gaps to fill.

Be sure to keep a regular cadence for deploying the survey, communicating the results, and using the data to make improvements. And don’t stop there– want more helpful tools and tricks for improving your company culture and employee engagement? Download our Employee Handbook guide! In it, you’ll find 20 customizable templates to help you build your culture and onboard new hires faster.

This post was originally published in May 2018 and has since been updated.
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