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Employee engagement surveys: Best practices for maximum impact

By Gabe Scorgie

9 min read

Employee engagement surveys: Best practices for maximum impact
Illustration by Kevin Yu

Employee engagement is critical to productivity and overall business success. If your employees are disengaged, you may lose them, and that’s never good for morale or the bottom line. Employee engagement surveys help you gauge how satisfied your staff is in their jobs and provide you with opportunities to course-correct when necessary. 

Today, we’ll closely examine employee engagement surveys, what they are, the benefits of doing them, how to structure your surveys, and best practices to maximize engagement so you can continue to improve and evolve your internal culture. 

What are employee engagement surveys? 

Simply put, an employee engagement survey measures how engaged, invested, and motivated your employees are. Survey questions typically cover topics related to the employee experience, overall happiness, and what, if anything, could make the work environment better.

Considering how we work today, with many employees working remotely or keeping asynchronous schedules, it’s not always easy to gauge sentiment. Of course, the proof is often in the output, but waiting until you notice the problem is not always the best strategy. When disengagement settles in, it’s often too late to do anything about it. 

Periodic surveys allow you to understand what’s happening with your employees, even when they’re not in the office. 

When employees are consistently invited to provide feedback, it lets them know that the company cares about their feelings. Over time, you’ll also see whether the engagement strategies you put in place are working, a vital metric in ensuring a strong, dedicated workplace culture.


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Benefits of employee engagement surveys

Employee surveys can be anonymous or attributed. Allowing employees to respond anonymously invites complete honesty and often provides more reliable results. 

Some of the benefits of employee engagement surveys include:

  • Increased employee satisfaction and productivity. Soliciting feedback lets employees know that you genuinely care about how they feel. 
  • Identification of areas for improvement. Acting on insights gained through your surveys further reinforces employee satisfaction. 
  • Enhanced employee-manager communication. Promoting a feedback culture invites open communication, leading to stronger, more productive working relationships. 

Companies with a highly engaged workforce are 21% more profitable than their disengaged counterparts. Engaged employees are likelier to stay in their jobs, be more productive, and recommend your company to potential employees. Your best employees may become your future executives, so nurturing that relationship should be among your top priorities.

How to design an employee engagement survey

Implementing a survey program requires careful consideration. Here are a few preliminary steps to take before you get started.

  1. Define your goals. Every organization is unique. Think about what you are measuring—is it department-specific, or is it organization-wide? Are you looking for details or to take a quick pulse? 
  2. Choose the right questions. Consider your goals (see point #1) and create questions that will deliver answers relevant to those objectives. They can be yes or no questions, multiple choice, or on a scale of one to five. Open-ended questions may take more time to decipher and inhibit the speed at which you can collect your insights. 
  3. Let your employees know. Your teams must know you will be issuing a survey, why you are doing it, and what is expected of them. For example, you might tell them that you’re starting a program where surveys will be sent out periodically, their answers will be anonymous, and it’s their chance to weigh in on what’s great and not-so-great about their jobs. 

Components of an effective employee engagement survey

Here are some key aspects of an effective employee engagement survey.

  • Clear and relevant survey questions. Questions should be relevant to the recipients and not specific to any one role or department (unless you’re sending the survey only to that department or team). 
  • Consider segmenting surveys to gain more detailed insights. For example, one segment may be limited to newly acquired employees, while another could be middle management. 
  • Confidentiality and anonymity. Let employees know their responses can’t be attributed to them to encourage transparency. 
  • Regular survey administration. Keep your surveys up-to-date and relevant to company policies. 

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4 steps to conducting an employee engagement survey

It's not uncommon for organizations to conduct multiple employee engagement surveys throughout the year. This approach allows for a more comprehensive understanding of employee sentiment over time and enables the identification of trends and patterns.

However, simply issuing surveys without a well-defined strategy can lead to ineffective results. That's why establishing a clear critical path is vital for success.

Step #1: pre-survey planning and goal setting: This involves preparing the survey and reviewing the questions with all relevant stakeholders. It's important to involve managers, HR personnel, and even employees themselves in the development of the survey to ensure its relevance and effectiveness.

Additionally, setting a timeframe for when the surveys will be sent out and when you expect responses helps create a sense of urgency and encourages timely participation.

Step #2: Survey administration: Once the survey is designed, it's recommended to use survey software to streamline the administration process. Survey software allows for easy distribution, tracking of responses, and analysis of results. It also reduces the time and complexity associated with manual data collection and analysis.

Step #3:  Analyze the survey insights. Discuss what they mean for the organization. Look for patterns, trends, and areas of concern that may require attention. By examining the responses over time, you can track changes and identify any sudden spikes in disengagement or other issues. This allows for a proactive approach in addressing employee concerns and taking appropriate action.

Step #4: Take action based on the survey results. It's not enough to collect data; you must implement plans and take immediate action to correct areas of concern. This may involve implementing new policies, providing additional training or resources, or addressing specific issues raised by employees.

By demonstrating a commitment to addressing employee feedback, you can foster a culture of trust and engagement within the organization.

Questions to ask on an engagement survey

The questions on your survey will always depend on the insights you are trying to gain. Here are some ideas for questions to include. You may choose shorter, more frequent pulse surveys and save the longer surveys and open-ended questions for quarterly or annual reviews. 

  1. How do you feel about your work today? 
  2. Do you love coming to work?
  3. Do you feel your work contributes to the success of our company? 
  4. Do you find your work to be meaningful?
  5. Does the organization’s mission and values inspire you? 
  6. Are you satisfied with your compensation and benefits?
  7. Do you have the necessary tools and training to excel at your job? 
  8. Do you enjoy working with your team?
  9. Do you feel supported in the company culture? 
  10. Do you feel valued by your teammates? 
  11. Do you feel valued by your manager? 
  12. Has your manager provided you with constructive feedback lately? 
  13. Do you feel your manager is invested in your success?
  14. Have you received recognition for your work recently? 
  15. Would you recommend our company to a friend seeking employment? 
  16. Are you interested in skills enhancement or additional training? 
  17. Do you see a future for yourself at the company?
  18. Can you envision a career path within this company?
  19. Have you recently considered leaving the company? 

Examples of open-ended questions:

  • Are there any problems with our company culture? 
  • What practices do we need to change? 
  • How can we make your employee experience better? 
  • Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

Common challenges in employee engagement surveys

Low survey response is a common barrier to a successful employee survey program. Often, this is due to survey fatigue, but there could also be language or accessibility barriers, which must be addressed.

It's important to understand that employees may feel overwhelmed if they are constantly bombarded with surveys that seem to have no clear benefits or purpose. They may start to view these surveys as a burden rather than an opportunity to provide valuable feedback.

To overcome this challenge, it is crucial to communicate the value and importance of employee feedback. Let your employees know that you genuinely care about their opinions and that their input is crucial in shaping the company's future.

By emphasizing that their feedback will be taken seriously and that action will be taken based on their responses, you can create a sense of purpose and motivation for completing the surveys.

Additionally, it's essential to address any language or accessibility barriers that may exist. Ensure that the survey is available in multiple languages if needed, and provide alternative options for employees with disabilities to participate.

By making the survey accessible to all employees, you can increase participation and gather a more diverse range of perspectives.

Remember, the goal is not just to collect data but to create a culture of engagement and open communication.

By addressing low survey response rates and actively involving employees in the process, you can foster a sense of ownership and empowerment within your workforce. This, in turn, will contribute to a more engaged and productive workforce, ultimately benefiting the overall success of your business.

Final Thoughts

Engaged employees are energized, enthused, and empowered and will take your company to new heights of success. Implementing employee engagement surveys is a way to gauge sentiment and identify areas of concern before they hinder company culture or the bottom line.

Jostle integrates with SurveyMonkey, a user-friendly platform to help you create surveys and collect insights to support continued improvement, while our internal communication module helps to keep employees up to speed on how their opinions are making a difference


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Gabe Scorgie

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