Employee Satisfaction Surveys Can Measure and Boost Engagement

Letting your employees give honest opinions about your workplace can help you understand where you’re succeeding and failing when it comes to employee satisfaction. Here’s how to create an employee satisfaction survey.

Employee Satisfaction Surveys
What to incorporate in your employee satisfaction survey, and how to use the data to make real change

For small business owners, gauging just how satisfied and engaged employees are at work can be crucial to the bottom line. Engaged employees perform at higher levels, they’re more likely to show up, and they’re more loyal to their company.

A recent Gallup study found highly engaged business units have a 41% drop in absenteeism and 59% less turnover. One way to measure just how engaged your employees are is by sending an employee satisfaction survey.

A recent Gallup study found highly engaged business units have a 41% drop in absenteeism and 59% less turnover.

What is an employee satisfaction survey? 

An employee satisfaction survey is a tool you can use to identify areas you’re succeeding in when it comes to employee satisfaction, plus areas you need to improve.

Surveys often measure how employees feel about their workplace, including factors such as:

  • Work culture
  • Job duties and expectations
  • Support from management
  • Inclusivity
  • Benefits
  • Opportunities for growth and work-life balance

While some surveys might be general employee satisfaction surveys, others can delve deeper into a single theme — such as how employees view communication at work, how staff sees the company’s mission and values, or even how effectively coworkers interact.

In many cases, surveys are anonymous so employees can feel safe giving honest opinions without worrying about retribution. These days, most employee satisfaction surveys are done online so data can be easily analyzed and stored.

How to create an employee satisfaction survey 

Employee Satisfaction Surveys

Business owners can take advantage of free online tools to design and send employee satisfaction surveys. But there are also plenty of paid tools that offer more bells and whistles and the ability to more easily analyze data collected from employees.

Business owners with a Google email, for example, can create free surveys with Google and add their own logo, videos, and photos. Data is collected in Google Forms. Paid tools typically come with a monthly fee. Different packages often offer a set number of surveys you can create each month. Basic plans can fall in the $20-$30 a month range.

Whether you’re using a free tool or you’re paying to create and send out your employee satisfaction surveys, using a survey template can help save you time.
Whether you’re using a free tool or you’re paying to create and send out your employee satisfaction surveys, using a survey template can help save you time. Several sites such as Survey Monkey and QuestionPro offer free templates.

Also, when creating your employee satisfaction survey, always make sure you’re using clear, jargon-free language as you compose questions, avoiding any buzzwords so your survey sounds sincere. Keep wording consistent from survey to survey so you can compare apples to apples when you’re parsing the data.

Many business owners do decide to keep surveys anonymous. However, you might consider adding a box where employees can leave their name if they feel comfortable doing so in case they want someone in management or HR to follow up on any concerns they might have.

What type of questions to include 

What Type of Questions to Include

Successful employee satisfaction surveys have a mix of question types, including yes and no questions, open-ended questions, and scaled questions.

Yes or no questions are often good for broad, overarching employee satisfaction questions including, “Are you happy working at X company?”

Scaled questions ask employees to rate their level of satisfaction or agreement with a statement. For example, you might ask employees how likely they are to recommend working at your company to a friend. The scale would run from 0 to 10, with 0 being not at all likely to recommend, and 10 being extremely likely to recommend.

An open-ended question is one that employees can’t answer with a “yes” or “no.” Instead, they type in their feedback, and you can often limit how much they can say. These types of questions might start with why, how, or what if? Analyzing open-ended questions can be more time consuming, but it often yields valuable insight.

Other question types to consider including in your employee satisfaction surveys are:

  • Dropdown questions: helpful for questions with a lot of answers, such as one’s age
  • Ranking questions: asking employees to put their preferences in order from favorite to least favorite by assigning each option a number from 1 to 5, for example

Sample employee satisfaction survey questions 

If you’re putting together a general employee satisfaction survey rather than one focused on a specific theme, it’s a good idea to include a variety of questions about the work and work environment, engaging with team members, and management’s role.

Possible questions to include in an employee satisfaction survey include:

The work environment and work tasks

  1. How meaningful is your work?
  2. How challenging is your work?
  3. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your work-life balance?
  4. How often do you feel stressed at work in a given week?
  5. Do you have the tools you need to perform your job well?

Engaging with team members

  1. Do you feel your opinions are valued by your coworkers?
  2. How well do you collaborate with your coworkers?
  3. Do you feel connected to your team? Rate this on a scale of 1 to 10.
  4. How do your coworkers support you and how do you support them?
  5. Do you have sufficient opportunities to engage with your coworkers?

Management’s role

  1. How often do the tasks managers assign you help you grow professionally?
  2. On a scale of 1 to 10, do you feel your manager values your work and ideas?
  3. Are you satisfied with how your manager gives feedback? Why or why not?
  4. If you have a problem at work, can you count on your manager to help?
  5. On a scale of 1 to 10, how successful do you think your manager is in creating an inclusive workplace?

How often to survey employees 

How often to survey employees

In the past, many small businesses defaulted to sending out an employee satisfaction survey just once a year or every few years — if at all.

Now, more frequent surveys are the norm. Some small businesses go as far as to poll employees every week, while others choose to do so monthly. Once a quarter is a happy medium. If you do plan to frequently survey your employees, experts suggest using the same 4 to 6 questions so you can compare results.

Then, send out a longer employee satisfaction survey every 6 months, and once a year distribute an even more comprehensive survey. For all surveys, before you send out the actual survey, let employees know that it’s coming so they don’t miss it. This also gives them time to mull over in advance how they’re feeling about work.

When it comes to timing, you may want to send your survey toward the end of the year as you’re starting to work on goals for the following year. Sending out a survey just after the start of the year, however, can also be helpful as many employees return from the holidays relaxed and reenergized for the new year. Make sure not to send surveys during holiday weeks though when responses may be low with employees taking time off to spend with family and friends.

How to read the data and follow up

Once you’ve completed your employee satisfaction survey, it’s time to analyze the data. It’s helpful and often revealing to take the time to parse the data in multiple ways.

For example, overall findings may show that a majority of employees agree that morale is great. But when you dig into the data, most women on staff disagree. You could also break down answers by location or by employee tenure. If you don’t look at cross-sections of responses to see which employees might be experiencing low engagement, you might overlook employees that truly need support.

You should also compare survey results to your last survey, and ones before that, to measure any progress you’ve made and areas where you may have fallen behind. For any red flags, drill into the data. You might find you want to create a follow-up survey with more specific questions after identifying a concerning issue.

If you don’t look at cross-sections of responses to see which employees might be experiencing low engagement, you might overlook employees that truly need support.

Share data and offer solutions

What’s also important is sharing the data you’ve collected with your employees. You want to show them you value their responses, you’re paying attention to the data, and you want to make real change.

Before sharing any information, think about what factors might be behind any troubling results and be ready to offer solutions. Employees will want to know your plans for improvement and next steps.  Some business owners decide to set up a team to act on survey findings. The team should meet often and report on its progress to all employees.

With employee satisfaction surveys, a bulk of the work comes at the beginning of the process — when you’re deciding on what you want to ask your employees and how often. Once you’ve settled on a template and a strategy and you’ve sent out a few surveys, the process becomes less labor intensive each time.

If you commit to regularly sending out employee satisfaction surveys, you’ll find that you can make real change — boosting engagement and helping all of your employees to consistently perform at higher levels.

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