Many organizations 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 tools to help conduct more useful surveys.
Keep reading to find out:
- What An Employee Survey Is
- Why Companies Use Employee Surveys
- Types Of Employee Surveys
- Tips For Employee Engagement Surveys
- Tips for more effective employee engagement surveys
- Examples Of Employee Survey Questions
- Tips On Choosing The Right Survey Tool or Template
What is an employee survey and why conduct them?
An employee survey is a method of gathering feedback from team members related to a specific aspect of their workplace experience. When conducted effectively, employee surveys are useful tools that help HR professionals and management implement positive changes in the organization.
When combined with metrics like employee turnover, and data from feedback methods such as stay interviews, exit interviews, skip levels, and 1:1 meetings, surveys are a great way to help paint a picture of the different facets of the employee experience.
For example, American Express utilized employee surveys to implement and optimize their successful hybrid work strategy, Amex Flex.
Types of employee surveys
Employee surveys come in many different flavors, each seeking to measure different aspects of the workplace experience. In reality, you can survey someone about pretty much anything, but below we’ve briefly outlined the most common types.
An efficient hiring process is key to landing top talent so many recruitment teams utilize candidate surveys to hone this process by collecting feedback on elements such as outreach methods, application forms, and interviews.
Onboarding is a crucial yet often overlooked step in the employee life cycle. A good onboarding experience is correlated to an 82% improvement in employee retention, according to a study by Glassdoor.
Onboarding surveys capture data around how welcomed and included someone felt, how clear they are about their role and responsibilities, and if they had everything they needed to get productive quickly.
Employee engagement survey
These surveys are designed to assess how engaged someone is i.e. the level of mental and emotional commitment they have for your organization and the work they do.
Some employee engagement survey questions might include:
- I feel excited and motivated to come to work
- I clearly understand my role and responsibilities
- I understand how my work contributes to the overall success of the organization
- I feel included in the organization and am comfortable voicing opinions and making suggestions
- I believe there are good career opportunities for me here
- I feel like my workload is manageable and work rarely impacts on non-work commitments
- I feel supported in my professional development
- I feel like I’m fairly compensated for my work
- I feel strongly aligned to the organization’s vision, mission and values.
- I would recommend [X Company] as a great place to work to relatives and friends.
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 company 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.
Employee benefits and remuneration survey
When combined with data such as utilization rates, surveys are a great way to get insights into how your employees feel about their compensation and benefits packages. They can help you identify whether there are specific perks or benefits they want to see implemented or specific employee needs that are going unmet.
Professional development survey
The goal of a professional development survey is to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of your current training and learning and development programs. 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.
You can survey people about virtually anything, but how do you ensure you’re collecting meaningful data you can actually use?
Tips For More Effective Surveys
Here are our top tips for conducting more effective employee surveys:
- Have a clear objective. When designing a survey, think carefully about what you want to achieve with it. 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.
- 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 ratings?
- Clearly communicate the why behind the survey. People are much more likely to respond, and be more engaged in the process, if they understand the reason behind the survey and how it can benefit them. Perhaps work with someone on your marketing team to help craft the communication strategy around the survey.
- Consider anonymity for more honest feedback. If employees believe that their responses will be tracked back to them, they may fear reprisals for giving frank answers. We know you’ve worked hard to build trust and create an inclusive culture, and knowing who said what makes it easier to follow up, but give them the option.
- 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. A rule of thumb is 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” will give you fresher data than only conducting the customary annual survey.
- The way you ask questions matters. Beware of using emotive language or phrasing that could influence or bias the respondent’s answer.
- Numbers can be 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 new performance management process?”) 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 the 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.
- Acknowledge findings and communicate actions. To improve the efficacy of surveys in the future, be sure to share findings and any actions taken as a result. This will help get buy-in for any changes and demonstrate that surveys are worth the effort on the part of the team member. If nothing can be done about a certain issue that comes up, then still communicate why.
- Use the right tools. There are loads of useful tools to help you design, launch and analyze employee surveys (more on this shortly).
Examples of employee survey questions
Asking the right questions is critical to getting meaningful, actionable feedback from your employee surveys. Here are 30 example questions you might include in an employee survey.
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 and make suggestions, and it’s always good to include a couple of open-ended questions also:
- What should we stop doing as an organization?
- What should we do more of as an organization?
- Do you have any suggestions for improving the onboarding process?
- If you could change one thing about the organization, what would it be?
- How can we improve internal communication?
- Which benefits and perks would you like us to introduce?
- How can we make your working life easier?
How to choose an employee survey tool
Using an employee survey tool can save you a lot of time and effort when designing and launching surveys.
Here are some things to consider when deciding which employee survey tool to use:
- 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
As mentioned, 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.
Further reading: 10 Best Employee Survey Tools for Better Employee Feedback
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.
Feedback is a gift
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 survey can help you to create a healthier, more productive organization and increase employee retention and engagement.
As we talk about a lot in this publication, feedback is gift, so human resources, leadership and individual contributors should always be on the lookout for ways to gather it and give feedback.