Many companies worldwide utilize employee surveys as a way to solicit feedback and improve the employee experience. But quite a few we speak to don't get the results they'd hoped for.
To help, we'll look at how to approach employee surveys, some powerful questions, and some available tools to help conduct them.
Keep reading to find out:
- What An Employee Survey Is
- Why Companies Use Employee Surveys
- Types Of Employee Surveys
- Tips For Employee Engagement Surveys
- Examples Of Employee Survey Questions
- Tips On Choosing The Right Survey Tool or Template
- What It Costs To Run An Employee Survey, and
- What To Do With Your Survey Responses
Whether you want to improve employee engagement, measure job satisfaction, get feedback on benefits, or do performance evaluations, we’ve got you covered.
What is an employee survey?
An employee survey is a questionnaire used to gather feedback and evaluate employees’ opinions and feelings on a specific aspect of their workplace experience.
When conducted effectively, employee surveys are useful tools that help HR professionals and management to better understand the health of the organization.
Surveys are used to “take the temperature” of employee morale, get a clearer sense of the company culture, measure employees’ degree of engagement, monitor leadership’s performance, and track employee achievements.
Employee surveys can play an important role in helping businesses to understand how employees feel about current policies (and whether these policies are being enforced effectively in the first place).
Armed with this information, the company’s leadership can identify opportunities for improvement.
Why survey anyway?
Surveys are useful tools that allow companies to gather employee feedback to help them identify opportunities to improve various aspects of the employee experience.
This enables them to recruit, develop and retain top talent, ensure that they’re offering competitive benefits, and measure and manage employee performance.
Understanding what motivates and engages employees is vital to improving employee morale and retention, and employee engagement surveys can be an effective way to gain a greater perspective.
Strategic surveys take the pulse of the workforce in terms of engagement, culture, and the employee experience empower businesses to establish a two-way conversation—at scale.
Surveys can also help make employees feel like they have a voice. This is crucial given the fact that a recent Salesforce study found that employees who feel heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to do their best work.
Related Read: Workforce Management Software
Types of employee survey
There are a few different types of employee survey that seek to measure different aspects of the workplace and employee experience.
Below, we’ve briefly outlined 8 of the most common types of surveys that you might consider asking your employees to take.
Onboarding surveys help organizations to understand how effective their recruitment and onboarding processes are.
They can be an invaluable source of insight into new hires’ experience of your recruitment and interview cycle, and how their initial impressions align with the expectations created throughout the hiring process.
This is crucial when you consider that a good onboarding experience is correlated to an 82% improvement in employee retention, according to a study by Glassdoor.
Workplace culture survey
The aim of a culture survey is to gain a better understanding of the social dynamics at play in the workplace, with the intent to minimize toxicity and create a more welcoming and inclusive work culture for everyone.
A workplace culture survey prioritizes questions around topics like team dynamics; leadership styles; fairness and accountability; ways of working; recognition; accessibility and inclusion; workload manageability; company values and policies; transparency; and other areas where work where company identity and social dynamics intersect.
Related Read: Employee Recognition Platforms
Employee satisfaction survey
Employee satisfaction surveys are intended to measure how engaged and satisfied employees feel in their job. Naturally, what “satisfaction” means will vary wildly from one employee to another, and it’s impossible to please everyone at once.
But, with a well-crafted employee satisfaction survey, you should be able to get a pretty good sense of which areas are generally satisfactory and which areas need attention.
For instance, if the majority of your survey respondents report feeling overworked, you can confidently deduce that you have a resourcing or understaffing issue.
Employee benefits and remuneration survey
Surveys are a great way to get insight into how your employees feel about their compensation and benefits packages. Comprehensive benefits and fair compensation make employees feel valued and recognized, which is crucial to employee retention.
Polling your employees can help you identify whether there are specific perks or benefits they want to see implemented or specific employee needs that are going unmet.
Personnel policies survey
Employees increasingly expect their employer’s values and ethics to align with their own, which means that it’s more important than ever to foster an inclusive, fair, and safe workplace.
Surveys that poll employees about a business’s HR policies are a good way to take the temperature and address issues before the pot boils over and the company becomes embroiled in a viral scandal.
Related Read: HR Case Management Software To Manage Issues & Risks
Performance management survey
The goal of a performance management survey is to gain a comprehensive view of an employee’s performance. This allows employees to understand how their work, skills, and behaviors impact their role, their colleagues, and the goals of the organization. These surveys also help management to identify areas for improvement, areas for career growth, and performance deserving of recognition.
One type of survey often used in performance management is a 360 review in which you gather feedback about individual employees’ performance from several different sources to get a holistic review..
These surveys include self-assessments, peer reviews, reviews by managers and/or reports, as well as any additional performance data available (e.g. KPIs, attendance records, timesheets, client feedback, etc).
The idea is to create a consolidated image that provides a more rounded (this 360-degree) understanding of the employee’s performance. If there is a significant discrepancy in the data collected from different respondents, it’s a clear sign to investigate further.
A 2020 Deloitte report found that two of the top reasons employees leave their jobs was
1) lack of career progress (37%) and
2) insufficiently challenging work (27%)
Related Read: Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Software Vendors
Professional development survey
The goal of a professional development survey is to gain a deeper understanding of the types of growth and professional development opportunities and training that could help your employees reach their full potential.
A professional development survey can help you gauge the impact of your current training and development program and identify its shortcomings. It can also give you insight into the types of training and further education your employees would like—even specific courses and training they’re already interested in.
LinkedIn’s 2020 Global Talent Trends Report found that companies that are rated highly on employee training report 53% lower employee attrition.
Exit interviews and offboarding surveys are important opportunities that help companies to understand why departing employees chose to leave. Identifying and addressing the causes of employee turnover may improve employee satisfaction and reduce future turnover.
Related Read: How To Conduct An Effective Exit Interview
Tips For Employee Engagement Surveys
Here are our top tips for employee engagement surveys:
- Anonymity is essential if you want honest answers. If employees believe that their responses will be tracked back to them, they may fear reprisals for giving frank answers.
- Compare departments against one another and track the outcomes over time. This can help you to identify problem areas like bad managers if employee satisfaction differs dramatically between departments.
- Keep it short. The easier it is for your employees to understand and answer the questions, the better. Make sure that your survey can be completed in 20 minutes or less.
- Frequency matters. A lot can change over the course of a year, or even a quarter. Using more regular “pulse surveys” tends to be more effective than annual reviews or sporadic surveys.
- Set goals and establish benchmarks. What are you hoping to measure? What result would constitute success or failure? Knowing what you’re trying to achieve in advance can make it easier to design your survey and questions in a way that will yield the information you need.
- The way you ask the questions matters. Beware of using emotive language or phrasing that could influence or bias the respondent’s answer.
- Consider the type (or types) of question and response you’ll use. Will you ask open-ended questions? Will you use a rating system or sliding scale (strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree)? Will you provide a comment field so employees can give their opinions and/or explain their rating?
- Numbers are better than words. A response scale that uses numbers at regularly spaced intervals allows survey respondents to give a “score” instead of having to consider the implications of selecting “neutral” or “agree slightly” or other words that may impact their response. Plus, this means your data is more quantifiable.
- Ask questions about specific, observable behavior. Asking employees to give their opinion on a peer or manager’s thoughts or motives is asking for trouble.
- Don’t leave an implied answer. If your questions include words that convey a value judgment (e.g. “what do you think of our terrific CTO?”) you’re implying what kind of answer you want to hear, which defeats the purpose of the survey.
- Don’t try to kill two birds with one stone. Avoid referring to two subjects within the same question, as this can lead to confusion and inaccurate answers.
- Don’t try to cover everything at once. Instead of trying to address everything in the same survey, conduct shorter/smaller surveys along topic lines.
- Ask specific questions that are easy to answer. If you would have trouble answering the question yourself, it’s probably a good idea to rephrase it.
- Avoid words and phrases with strong associations. While metaphors play a significant role in the way we describe experiences and people, they can also trigger associations that bias survey responses. For instance, the phrase “has a strong grasp of complex problems” can create a subconscious bias in favor of male managers, whereas “discusses complex problems with precision and clarity” is more neutral.
- Use consistency to your advantage. Try to design survey sections to contain a similar number of items, and design questions to have a similar number of words.
- Vary your questions by desired answers. When every question in a section has a desired positive answer (e.g. “My manager is effective at resolving conflicts”) or desired negative response (e.g. My manager is not effective at resolving conflicts), it’s easy for employees to breeze through the questions without engaging with them. Change it up in roughly one-third of questions.
- Include “not applicable” or “I don’t know” response options. We also advocate including a “don’t know” or “not applicable” answer (preferably made to look different from the other answer options, as illustrated in the exhibit). Without that option, respondents may feel compelled to provide answers that they know are worthless.
- Where you put demographic questions matters. The placement of demographic questions can impact response rates as they can create a negative response. In employee surveys, place such questions right at the end.
- Skip a step with employee survey templates. When done right, employee surveys can be powerful tools for good. However, the types of questions you ask and the way you ask them can actually have a negative impact on employee morale if not performed thoughtfully. There are plenty of excellent survey resources and templates informed by behavioral science methodologies available online.
- Don’t incentivize surveys with money or perks. This can lead respondents to rush through and select random answers. The reward should be intrinsic to the intent of the survey: a better workplace.
- Re-run the same survey after a while. Conducting the same survey at intervals after implementing changes allows you to measure the impact of the changes you’ve made.
For general feedback on the health of the organization, anonymity is essential if you want honest answers.
This means that you shouldn’t mix survey questions intended to understand the individual employee’s goals and motivations with questions about organizational culture.
To illustrate what we mean by this, imagine you have a highly ambitious and effective employee working under an ineffective manager or carrying their entire team.
This particular employee might simultaneously hold strong negative feelings about the company culture and have clear career goals and thoughts on how to achieve them within your company.
However, this employee might fear negative repercussions from sharing honest feedback unless they feel certain that the survey is anonymous, and providing details about their professional development goals would be meaningless in an anonymous survey—and risk identifying them.
Examples of employee survey questions
Asking the right questions is critical to getting meaningful, actionable feedback from your employee surveys.
Whether you’re trying to:
- Get a better understanding of your company culture
- Track employee satisfaction and engagement
- Measure the health of your onboarding program
- Manage employee performance
- Measure the effectiveness of your leadership
- Identify reasons for employee attrition
- Guage whether your benefits packages are attractive, or
- Understand individual employees’ goals and motivations.
— going into detail about questions you ask (and the way you design them) make or break a successful survey. Here are 30 examples of questions you might include in your employee surveys.
Note that each question is phrased as a statement, allowing the respondent to rate the degree to which they agree.
- I feel that my work is valued
- Good work is recognized and celebrated
- I feel that I am given the information I need to perform my role effectively
- I have access to the resources and tools I need to do my best work
- I receive meaningful feedback
- I receive constructive feedback at regular intervals
- I feel challenged by my work
- I feel that my skills are being utilized effectively
- I have received enough training to perform my role effectively
- I feel that I have ownership over my work
- I feel that I am trusted with autonomy
- I feel that I am given the support I need to do my job well
- I understand how my role supports the company’s mission
- I see opportunities for career growth at this company
- I feel that employees are treated fairly at this company
- I feel that performance reviews are clear
- I feel that performance reviews are accurate
- I would recommend this company as a good place to work
- I feel that my current role aligns with my career goals
- I feel that my opinions are valued in the workplace
- When organizational changes are made, I feel that the reasons for these changes are communicated effectively
- I am satisfied with the benefits I am receiving
- My goals and deliverables are clear to me
- My team’s goals and deliverables are clear to the whole team
- My manager makes me feel inspired and motivated
- I feel that all employees are held accountable for their performance
- I feel that I have a healthy work-life balance
- I feel that I am growing professionally in this role
- I feel that I am fairly compensated for my work
- I feel that the company lives up to its values
You may also choose to include space for comments to allow employees to provide more context and information.
How to choose an employee survey tool
Choosing the right employee survey tool or template the first time around can save you a lot of time and effort. Here are some things to consider when deciding which employee survey tool to use include:
- Functionality: What are the tool’s capabilities? Is it a simple template, or does it include features like data analysis, sentiment analysis, data visualization, automation, etc.?
- Ease-of-use: Is it easy to set up and does it offer respondents a simple and intuitive user experience?
- Quality: Do the survey templates follow current best practices to maximize response rates and response quality? What do others who have used this software or template say about the product?
- Cost: Does the product offer a free trial? What is the pricing structure? Are there limits on free use/the number of respondents/number of surveys?
- Security: What does the software provider’s data security look like? Will your sensitive employee data be secure?
- Customizability: Is it easy to customize the survey tool to your use case?
- Cost: What does it cost to use this tool? Are there any pricing details you need to be aware of, such as the number of surveys, number of questions, or number of respondents permitted per survey?
Employee survey tools and templates
There are a variety of tools and templates available to make running employee surveys easier. Here are a few employee survey tools to consider:
Google Forms is a free survey tool by Google. You can use it to create your own surveys for any purpose. With Google Forms, you can create and edit surveys on the go as it’s compatible with any device — mobile, tablet, or desktop. This also means respondents can access your surveys and complete them from wherever they are.
You can customize your survey’s colors, fonts, images, and more to reflect your brand’s look and feel. You can also create custom logic that tailors questions based on previous answers.
Google Forms automatically generates visual reports based on survey responses, and you can also opt to send the data to a Google Sheet to apply your own analysis or automation.
As for security, Forms follows the same privacy commitments and data protections as the rest of Google Cloud’s enterprise services.
Google Forms really is an incredibly powerful and versatile tool, considering it’s completely free. If you’re in the market for a DIY survey tool (you’ll still need to come up with the survey questions), you don’t need to look any further.
SurveyMonkey is another popular survey tool that’s often used for market research, customer experience evaluations, and various employee satisfaction surveys.
It has a specialized tool for employee engagement surveys called SurveyMonkey Engage, which comes with prebuilt surveys and automated deployments to take the admin out of employee feedback. SurveyMonkey’s templated questions are rooted in social science and take a “whole-person approach to understanding your employees’ relationship with the workplace.”
SurveyMonkey boasts high data privacy standards, with security backed by encryption, SSO-, SSAE-16-, and SOC II-compliant data centers. It’s also HIPAA- and GDPR-compliant.
Sparkbay is an employee engagement platform that offers a variety of different pulse survey programs, covering areas including employee engagement, employee retention, change management, diversity and inclusion, and remote teams.
Sparkbay automatically collects employee feedback via pulse surveys conducted at regular intervals (70% of customers reportedly opt for monthly surveys).
Sparkbay’s questions are science-backed, and the platform offers a wide range of customization options, such as targeting specific groups of employees with tailored question-sets, personalized benchmarks, turnover prediction, heat mapping, and other useful analytics and response functions.
Sparkbay’s survey questions are currently available in 9 languages, namely English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Dutch, Hindi, and Thai.
QuestionPro is survey software that caters to everyone from beginners to experts. It offers plans including market research, academic research, customer experience, and workforce modules. Its customers include companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Disney.
QuestionPro users can add multiple question types and access more than 88 features, plus a library of more than 250 customizable professional survey templates which they can personalize surveys with their branding.
Users can apply logic to their online surveys with point-and-click logic to easily create survey branches, skip logic, text piping, survey looping, extractions, and randomization. If you need help designing your survey, QuestionPro also offers a range of custom professional services, as well as robust training and support. You can deploy your survey instantly and view results in real-time.
QuestionPro also supports survey data and analytics integration with tools like Tableau, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, and a number of other leading platforms, and its API gives you absolute control over your data.
QuestionPro is available in more than 100 languages, making it an excellent option for international teams.
How Much Does an Employee Survey Cost?
It doesn’t have to cost anything to run an employee survey, but it all depends on the tool you choose and the amount of work you’re willing to do yourself or choose to outsource.
To give you a sense of the range of what employee surveys can cost, we’ve included the prices of the tools that we just outlined below:
- Google Forms - Free.
- SurveyMonkey - Starts at $25/month. The number of responses per year is dependent on tier.
- SparkBay - Starts from $5 /employee/month.
- QuestionPro - “Essentials” tier is free, “Advanced” tier costs $129/month, “Team” tier pricing is custom.
If you’re already using HR software, take a look around—you might find that the tools you’re already using include some employee survey features.
Related Read: PEO or EOR: Which Is Right For You?
What to do with your survey responses
The whole point of employee surveys is to measure what’s working and what’s not so that you can make changes that improve employee engagement.
Improving the employee experience and raising morale will have a knock-on effect on your organization’s productivity and bottom line.
So how do you achieve this?
- Crunch the numbers and analyze your survey data to identify common areas of concern.
- Interpret text responses to any open-ended questions you included, as well as any comments left by respondents. It’s most beneficial to get an impartial third party to do this and/or employ sentiment analysis software to prevent misinterpretation or bias from skewing the results.
- Follow up with survey respondents and share your findings. This is a good opportunity to ask for additional input and discuss the next steps.
- Apply any changes you make using the information on a trial basis and conduct a follow-up survey to measure their impact after a set period such as three months.
What change implementation looks like will depend on the focus of the survey in question. For instance, if your employee engagement survey found that your team doesn’t feel that it gets enough recognition, you might pilot an employee recognition program.
Or, if your survey focused on management performance and you found that individual managers are getting bad reviews, you might implement additional management training such as sensitivity training.
Similarly, you might adjust your benefits packages or pilot more flexible work hours based on your employees’ feedback.
No two businesses are the same, which means that every business’s survey results—and the action needed in response—will look different.
What is certain is that a well-conducted employee survey can help to bridge the gap between management’s expectations and employees’ experience.
This way, you can get an accurate idea of where your business currently is, how your employment practices align with your company value, and how your company values align with what your employees value.