15 Questions to Ask in Every Employee Engagement Survey

/ 11 min read
Natalie Tseung

A disengaged employee’s work is like a salad with limp iceberg lettuce—it gets the job done, but no one’s lining up for seconds. On the other hand, an engaged employee’s work is like your mum’s famous apple pie—made with love, and delicious because of it.

According to a 2021 study by Mindshare Partners, more than 1 in 2 employees feel emotionally exhausted. Another third reported lowered productivity due to the pandemic. That’s not great news.

Luckily, that doesn't have to be the final word. A good employee engagement survey ensures you can best support your employees and turn those stats around. This article is the ultimate guide on how to create an employee engagement survey to boost employee satisfaction and workplace productivity.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement refers to how your employees think, feel and act towards their employers and company. It looks at how an individual feels about their team relationships, work-life balance and their career development.

Employee engagement goes beyond just happiness at work. Engagement covers how your employees interact with their work. It’s the difference between someone clocking in and counting down to Friday, and being genuinely proud of what they do.

Measuring employee engagement allows you to check in with your employees about how they're feeling, and gives you the information you need to boost productivity and staff retention. Conducting a good employee engagement survey is a vital step towards better understanding your team and improving their experience.

5 drivers of employee engagement

Because it’s so subjective, measuring how someone feels can be tricky. But, by breaking down general welfare into more specific subcategories, you can get clearer results.

Employee engagement is driven by five main factors in the work environment. By looking at these areas, you can determine how best to support your employees.

1. Goal support and recognition

Everyone wants to be recognised for their work. Recognition ensures employees feel valued and empowered to continue doing their best.

The SHRM Globoforce Employee Recognition Report found that fostering employee recognition is one of the most powerful tools to improve employee relationships, organisational culture and better represent company values.

Part of this recognition is feeling supported in career goals and professional development. This could mean providing mentoring or learning opportunities, or making sure your employees have the right resources, tools and work environment for the job.

Targeted employee survey questions can help assess whether employees are receiving the much-needed support and recognition they deserve to continue feeling valued and motivated.

2. Work purpose and fulfilment

There’s nothing less motivating than working on something you don’t believe in. It's hard to feel excited about something you don't care about. An employee’s sense of pride and fulfilment in their work is crucial in maintaining employee satisfaction and productivity.

Sure, not every job is going to change the world. But every good organisation has a mission statement that shows how it strives to make people’s lives a little better. Communicating the value of your company to your employees can help them find reasons to connect to the work they do every day.

Whether it’s by delivering coffee with a smile or by taking just a little longer to craft a perfect chair, it’s possible to take pride in any job. The secret is in finding a way to make the work truly matter to your employees.

3. Company Culture and relationships

It’s hard to define what a good company culture looks like. It's different for every company. Because there isn't one specific way to foster great company culture, it's important to clarify how you want your employees to engage and interact with each other.

Ideally, your workplace is welcoming and supportive, and your employees reflect your organisation’s core values.

A study by MIT investigated factors that contributed to employee attrition, relative to compensation. Incredibly, company culture was reported as 10 times more important than pay. When coworkers lift each other up, it makes a big difference.

4. Fairness and transparency

Employees need to trust that they are fairly treated. Having positive diversity and inclusion policies is vital, but it goes beyond that. Transparent communication is key to setting employees’ expectations and allows for mutual understanding and respect.

When an employee feels that their workplace is fair, it makes it much easier for them to give and receive feedback to improve their performance. This, in turn, can help the effectiveness of your employee satisfaction surveys.

5. Good leadership

Behind every successful team is a great leader. An empathetic, supportive, and respectful leader can transform an organisation. Employees should feel like their leaders are available to listen to their concerns, voice feedback, and demonstrate integrity and trust in their everyday actions.

Gallup found that over 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores can be attributed to managers. A good leader makes a world of difference when it comes to supporting employees and keeping them aligned with company goals.

Targeted engagement questions can assess if employee disengagement stems from leadership issues, which provides options for an engagement strategy. Examples of strategies include leadership training for management, offering greater mentoring opportunities and ensuring managers are adequately equipped to offer support to their teams.

6 steps before writing an employee engagement survey

A good employee engagement survey measures your team's engagement levels and collects valuable feedback. It also provides actionable insights and metrics for human resources to improve employee satisfaction. In order to make the best one you can, consider the following factors.

1. Determine the frequency and purpose of your survey

Having a clear objective will keep you focused on relevant themes and questions. It is also important to consider the type of your survey you'll send, which dictates its length, purpose and frequency.

Pulse surveys are a shorter type of questionnaire, typically completed in under 5 minutes. They’re a nifty tool to quickly compare results and sentiments across a shorter time period without survey fatigue.

On the other hand, a more comprehensive survey may take up to 15 minutes to complete. These longer surveys are great and can help you explore feedback in greater depth, but they should be used sparingly. Nobody wants to fill out 100 questions every few weeks.

2. Choose your questions and answers wisely

There are two main types of survey questions: open-ended and closed-ended. Closed-ended questions provide respondents with a set of all the possible answers to choose from (such as a yes/no or multiple-choice question), while open-ended questions allow respondents to write their own answers (such as “Describe your favourite food”).

Even though you might think you would get more detail by including more open-ended questions, they take more effort and can lead to survey fatigue for your reader. This means you might have lower response rates and higher incompletion rates. They’re also harder to compile objectively, which can make it harder to draw strong conclusions from them.

It’s much better to use closed-ended questions to explore the key themes for the bulk of your survey. That way, you can save longer, open-ended questions for the end of the questionnaire, if respondents want to add further feedback and detail.

3. Get as many responses as possible to avoid sampling bias

Many common survey errors come down to sampling bias, rather than the questionnaire itself.

Imagine sending out an extensive employee engagement survey and receiving amazing, positive feedback from a few employees. Yet many employees still seem dissatisfied and employee attrition is at an all-time high. How could this be?

Well, it's probably because employees that are eager and willing to dedicate time to complete the survey are the most satisfied and happy workers. Disgruntled employees might be less likely to answer optional surveys, as they may already feel neglected or like their opinion wouldn’t matter. In these circumstances, valuable feedback would be missed and unrepresented in the final results.

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The best way to avoid sampling bias is to get as many results from as many different individuals, teams and departments as possible. When possible, provide incentives for employees to complete the survey. Keeping the results anonymous and confidential can also increase the chances of receiving more accurate feedback.

4. Use simple and easily understandable questions.

This is particularly important when it comes to scales, which are designed to keep respondents’ answers objective and quantifiable.

Let's say you asked the question: “How many cups of coffee do you drink?” You could receive a range of answers from 0-365. Does the question refer to cups of coffee drunk in a single day, week, month or year? Who knows.

Choosing an appropriate and relevant scale helps you avoid ambiguity. It means you won’t have to worry about getting inconsistent answers, since you’re specifying a specific timeframe and scale for reference.

You should also be on guard against double-barreled questions. These ask two distinct questions, but only allow for one answer, like “how satisfied are you with your office space and your coworkers?” These questions are confusing and give misleading results.

5. Avoid leading questions

Leading questions direct your respondent to answer in a certain way, biassing your results. When asked, “do you think you are a hardworking and above-average employee?”, many would be inclined to rate their performance positively.

This means you could end up with 95% of employees rating themselves as ‘above average.' After all, who would want to oust themselves as a subpar employee?

Ensure your questions are objective, and avoid making a particular answer seem more desirable (or correct) than another.

6. Consider survey confidentiality to avoid social desirability bias.

As social creatures, humans tend to want to fit in and avoid conflict. However, when it comes to giving honest feedback, this tends to pose a problem as opt for the seemingly ‘safest’ option.

A good way to guard against this is by making your surveys anonymous, so employees feel safe providing honest opinions. This assures them that their opinions are recognised, but won’t lead to personal repercussions.

However, this may not work if you only have a small number of employees, or if anonymity could get in the way of making improvements for specific individuals or teams. If anonymity isn't an option, be sure to communicate your expectations and address any concerns your employees may have before they complete the survey.

Employee engagement survey questions

It can be hard to know where to start when writing a survey. When choosing your questions, consider what you want to get out of them.

Keep it relevant and tailor it to your staff; there’s no point asking hospital staff about working remotely or Christmas casuals about their long-term goals within the organisation.

Try to keep the majority of your questions closed-ended. A mixture of Likert scale questions and ‘yes/no’ questions can help highlight any key issues employees are faced with. You can include open-ended questions to tease out any details or concerns they don’t cover.

Satisfaction and happiness questions

These questions are simple measures of employee happiness. They’re straightforward and should be easy to answer without too much thought.

Satisfaction and happiness questions not only reflect on the individual who answered them, they also provide insight into how the organisation is moving, and a baseline to compare with previous cohorts or work environments.

Key questions:

Peer and management relationship questions

The people around us shape the experience we have, which is why it’s important to assess your employees’ relationships in their workplace. Asking employees about their coworkers and managers is an important part of understanding their experience as a whole.

Key questions:

Company alignment and future orientation questions

Understanding employee values and future goals will allow you to better understand and support their role in the broader picture. They may need more learning opportunities, professional development or a change in leadership style. There’s no way to know without asking.

Key questions:

Open-ended questions

It would be nearly impossible for a single survey to cover every potential concern an employee has. This is where open-ended questions come in handy. These questions allow employees to voice previously unnoticed issues or elaborate more on their concerns.

Key questions:

How to make your employee engagement survey actionable

Once you've made your employee engagement survey and received responses, you're ready for the next (and arguably the most important) step: implementing the insights gained from it. This is your chance to take this data and use it to improve your employees’ experience.

First, thank your employees for completing the survey. Be sure to emphasise the value of employee feedback and ensure they feel like they are heard. Not only is this just plain nice, but it can also encourage participation in future surveys.

Once you've said thank you, you can summarise and analyse the survey results in a clear, digestible format. This means making the data from the survey responses accessible and understandable to everyone involved, from busy executives to new interns.

This will allow management and the rest of your team to discuss which issues can be addressed for the most impact, so you can start addressing the actionable feedback you received in the surveys.

While you want to address every issue you hear about in your employee engagement surveys, try not to drive yourself crazy fixing everything. A great rule of thumb is the 80/20 principle, where you attempt to fix 80% of your issues by only changing 20% of the causal factors. Consider which issues are affecting the most employees, and which issues could be fixed with a one-on-one conversation, or a personnel change.

For example, it’s probably not necessary to buy a 2nd coffee machine if only one employee has complained about waiting. However, if you notice that many employees are complaining about distracting construction work outside the office, it might be time to invest in noise-cancelling headphones.

After strategising with the team, your final step is implementing change on every level of the organisation. Agile methodology—breaking a project up into several collaborative phases—is a great strategy to tackle changes in the workplace.

This might look like:

  • Delegating key tasks to include employees in making the change.
  • Establishing realistic and SMART goals (goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound).
  • Anticipating and planning against potential obstacles.
  • Ensuring everyone is appropriately equipped for the change.
  • Considering any potential policy changes or health and safety risks.
  • Monitoring employee feedback to refine and reshape strategies.

Over to You

Engaged employees are happier, and do better work for your company. By using surveys to monitor how your employees are feeling and making improvements based on the data you receive, you’re setting yourself up for success.

With Paperform, you can create a stunning employee engagement survey in minutes. Our forms allow you to connect meaningfully with your employees and gather real insights that will improve your business. You can try Paperform for free for 14 days, with no credit card required.


About the author
Natalie Tseung
Marketing Intern

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