Surveys have a clear role in business performance by capturing and acting upon the authentic voice of the customer, but organizations don’t always place the same value on listening to their employees.

In this post we explore what it takes to get employees to answer your surveys and what kinds of questions you need to uncover really valuable insights.

Asking employee survey questions the right way

Many will have HR processes for regular staff appraisals and pay reviews. Others may also have ‘whistleblower’ policies and good, old-fashioned suggestion boxes.

Increasingly, we see the use of workplace collaboration platforms like Slack facilitating knowledge management and sharing of best practice, as well as social activities and light-hearted repartee.

All of this goes some way toward understanding employees and enabling so-called ‘workplace engagement’. But it can’t give you a point-in-time status check on employee satisfaction.

Employee survey questions in pulse surveys versus long-form questionnaires

If you mandate the completion of a long-form employee survey as part of an annual HR review, then, congratulations, you guarantee a 100% response rate with lots of valuable data. But this approach also has many drawbacks:

  • Taking the temperature of staff wellbeing once or twice a year is no way to keep track of hot risks that could thwart your business or take advantage of pressing opportunities to improve team performance.
  • The other issue with infrequent surveys is ‘the bad day effect’. Today, Nancy hates pretty much everything including her job and everyone she deals with. Next week, she has a far more positive perspective. The long-form survey can’t account for these fluctuations.
  • Across an organization, staff reviews typically happen throughout the year to even out the impact on the HR department and line managers. This means you never get a complete picture of everyone.
  • Even if you do undertake a one-time mass survey, the resource implication is huge both in terms of planning and overall distraction value.
  • Long-form surveys are time-consuming to complete, and you’re footing the bill for staff to fill them out instead of doing work.
  • Long-form surveys are even more time-consuming to analyze and draw conclusions from. By the time you do get a clear view of the results, the findings could already be way out of date.

Faster, shorter pulse surveys are becoming the norm in customer-facing scenarios, and it’s right to assume that adopting them in an employee setting will net similar advantages and avoid that dreaded survey fatigue. For example:

  • Injecting quick, one-question virtual surveys into emails and applications as part of logical employee workflows cuts distraction time down to 3–4 seconds and assures a high response rate.
  • The approach also works in onsite settings, giving employees the opportunity to engage with quick tablet-based surveys to give feedback on – for example – their physical working environment.
  • Employee survey questions don’t fatigue staff so they can be asked at relatively frequent intervals.
  • Results and analysis can be tracked in real-time, allowing managers to understand tracking trends across the cohort, and target specific improvements.
  • Any extreme responses can be set to alert an escalation process so that individual employees in crisis can receive the support they need.
  • Quick pulse surveys can also be supplemented by long-form research, focus groups, etc., to provide a best-of-both-worlds approach.

covid distancing measures feedback survey

Employee survey questions that reveal what your teams are thinking

The trick with pulse questions is keeping them concise and simple. These surveys are so fast and easy to deploy that you can always drill down into more specific questions later.

You also need to make the answers measurable. Ideally, you’ll have a sliding scale of responses that everyone understands. It doesn’t have to be 0-10. Instead, something far more visual such as a color chart or choice of facial expressions.

This is important to interpreting the data quickly and unambiguously. Sometimes, a closed yes/no question may be applicable.

Here are 15 employee survey questions you can apply right away:

How happy are you at work?

Straight to the point. This is a crucial top-line metric to track across all staff to show the prevailing level of employee satisfaction. This score may be driven by various factors, from pay and recognition to social relationships and variety of work.

How confident are you that you have everything you need to do your job?

Understanding what your employees feel they do or do not have is vital in plugging any gaps in solutions, equipment or skills, and may help you uncover areas that you need to improve upon in the recruitment or training process in future. This is a great employee survey question to ask to start that process.

How much freedom do you have to complete your work?

There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to completing tasks and one employee’s methods might not suit another. Gauging their freedom helps you understand how your individual employees work best and what you can do to empower them. Doing so may help your staff perform better than you could have ever imagined. Everybody is a genius, as they say, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree you won’t like the results.

How able are you to work effectively both at home and in the workplace?

With the office as we knew it forever changing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses must now consider their employees’ home working conditions as well as their workplace conditions, and how much time they spend between the two. 

In today’s climate, this is a deciding factor for employee satisfaction and their likelihood to switch jobs. It’s important to find out what remote working privileges they want from an employer and consider what you can do to appease them.

back to office survey safety

How valued do you feel?

Another good macro-level metric, but also worth setting alerts for poor scores. This will enable line managers to take action where necessary.

How often do you receive recognition at work?

Elaborating on the last question, value is likely directly linked to recognition and that much sought-after pat on the back for a job well done. If an employee feels undervalued and is not receiving recognition for their efforts, you may have to evaluate how you are recognizing your employees. If they are receiving recognition but still feel undervalued, perhaps it’s time to have a conversation with the individual to see what can be done.

How much are you enjoying your work?

This employee survey question looks similar to the ‘happy’ one but is in fact a more reliable indicator of productivity. Successive studies have shown that people who enjoy their work get more stuff done, as well as being more innovative, committed and nurturing to team members.

How engaging do you find your work?

Enjoyment and engagement are two different things, and perhaps an employee responds positively to the ‘enjoyment’ question above because they aren’t engaged and therefore have plenty of time for office enjoyment on their hands. This is a great example of a direct employee survey question that will garner a direct response. 

How much are you enjoying life at <<company>>?

Again, similar to the employee survey question above but this is less about work and more about the nature of the whole working environment/experience. This may be a more reliable indicator of how positive the organization is for new employees.

On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you with your work-life balance?

Work-life balance is important for employees and employers alike. Too much one way may leave staff burned out, frustrated, and looking elsewhere. Too far the other way and it suggests your business and your employee’s role within it isn’t a priority to them. Either option indicates your employee is on their way out the door, so it’s good to catch how they’re feeling in due course.

Would you refer someone to work here?

This question asks it all; if they say yes, they hold your organization in a positive light and are likely happy themselves. If they say no, you can guarantee that they are unhappy and unlikely to stay with you for long.

How well is your team performing?

As well as a useful insight this is a potential jumping off point for more detailed employee survey questions targeted at members of particular teams. Generally speaking, people like to think their team should be performing well (that, after all, is what it is for).

How confident are you that your team’s values are aligned?

Expanding on the above ‘team’ question, this employee survey question lets you dig a little deeper into your employee’s opinion of their team and can open up further conversations on the team and its members. This is a great way to understand the dynamics, communications and cohesion of your teams.

How clearly do you understand your career progression opportunities at <<company>>?

Employees want to develop and grow, and if they can’t do that with you, they will do it elsewhere. It’s important to clearly present their promotion and career progression opportunities and what specific steps they must take to seize them. 

This is a great employee survey question for better understanding the goals of your employees, looking at your current development opportunities from a new perspective, and improving employee retention.

How eager are you to take on new responsibilities?

According to SHRM, only about 29% of employees are happy with the career advancement opportunities available to them. To ensure that your employees are getting ample growth opportunities, ask them if they’d like to take on any new responsibilities and, if so, which ones.

Taking career progression one step further, this employee survey question indicates who among your staff is ready and waiting to take that next step or help out on that big project. This can lead to conversations about workloads, current goals and future responsibilities, and could be the first step in getting even more out of your staff – all while rewarding them with a clear development path.

Start getting employee feedback today

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