Understanding employee feedback is the first step to high employee engagement. Learn how to leverage employee engagement surveys to get a pulse on metrics that matter.
Creating, achieving, and maintaining employee engagement begins with understanding employee feedback. Identifying levels of engagement in your organization helps leaders and managers impact the performance of your employees.
Improving engagement has been known to have a direct effect on business metrics including productivity, turnover, and sales. But before you can start achieving business success you’ll need to know how to improve it.
This is where employee engagement surveys come into play.
An employee engagement survey is implemented organization-wide, includes all employees, and occurs annually.
The annual engagement survey is a traditional approach to measuring employee engagement across the organization. This type of survey is especially helpful in identifying overall engagement trends and creating benchmarks to track nuances over time.
With some employee surveys, it makes sense to gather attributed feedback. But comprehensive employee engagement surveys should protect the identity of individual employees and aggregate data for a full, company-wide view. When these surveys are confidential your employees are more likely to respond openly and honestly—and your response rate will be higher.
It’s not always easy to uncover issues within your organization, let alone be able to correct them. Engagement surveys give employers insight into what is engaging (and disengaging) employees so they can make informed decisions about how to move forward.
Employee engagement surveys should accurately measure all elements of employee engagement including work, team, and organizational engagement.
Giving employees a voice is an important part of improving employee engagement. Surveying allows every employee the opportunity to share their opinions and be heard by managers and leaders.
When possible, employee engagement surveys should be customized to include questions that fit the unique needs of your organization. An example might be including questions about change management if you’re a fast-growing organization. Doing so ensures your data is valuable and relevant.
Surveys are a much easier way to distribute, complete, collect, and analyze employee feedback. Add in a user-friendly survey technology and your feedback efforts will be much easier.
One of the most important parts of surveying employees is taking action on their feedback. Engagement surveys provide the information needed to understand what areas need to be addressed to improve engagement over time.
Employee engagement surveys help hold organizations accountable for their employees’ overall engagement and success. Everyone plays an important part in improving engagement and employees at all levels can help you achieve success.
Creating a point of reference for organizations to measure success can help improve engagement year over year and against competitors in the space.
Everyone inside an organization plays a role in engagement. But not everyone is engaged or motivated in the same way.
Measuring employee engagement helps you gain insight into employee opinions about organizational successes and opportunities for improvement. Leveraging key drivers of engagement allow HR leaders to simplify where they should focus.
One philosophy of measurement is the e9 model, which measures the strength of employee engagement at three different structural levels:
Traditional employee engagement surveys may only occur once a year, but this shouldn’t be the only way you collect employee feedback. The most common types of employee surveys include:
An organization-wide survey that measures and benchmarks levels of employee engagement across the organization.
Frequent and lightweight, pulse surveys can be about any topic, launched at any time, to any audience.
These include onboarding, new hire, and exit surveys that measure an employee’s engagement throughout their tenure.
Engagement surveys provide a comprehensive view of an organization’s strengths, opportunities, and an understanding of what drives engagement. While the purpose of these surveys has shifted over the years, annual engagement surveys are an important first step to designing a continuous listening strategy.
Beyond giving employees a voice, surveying employees about critical topics in the workplace can make them feel like they are an important part of the larger organizational makeup and mission.
Employee engagement surveys help organizations measure employee engagement across the organization. But why do employee engagement surveys matter?
An engagement survey is a crucial part of your overall employee listening strategy. It’s nearly impossible for every employer to sit down and have an intimate conversation with each employee. Your engagement survey is a simple medium in which employees can converse with leaders and voice their thoughts and feelings about their work experience.
Employee engagement surveys (and the insights and strategies that come from them) have a huge impact on business success too. With trending data, market benchmarks, and robust reporting, an engagement survey helps you:
Organizations that are new to employee engagement surveys often wonder exactly who they should ask for feedback. The answer is simple: every employee voice matters.
Every employee—regardless of age, tenure, position, or any other demographic—makes up your unified workforce, and their engagement level directly impacts the overall success of your organization. If you don’t survey everyone, you risk:
Surveying only part of your employee population will lead to partial insight into what’s driving employee engagement. You’ll waste time and resources collecting incomplete data and developing less-than-stellar engagement strategies.
If you don’t give everyone the opportunity to give their feedback, you might actually decrease engagement. You’re sending the message that not everyone’s feedback is valued—and, as a result of the feedback, you might implement new strategies that are only of interest to the few and not the whole.
The exception to the rule: New hires. We recommend excluding employees hired within the last 30 days from your survey. These employees often don't have enough experience in the workplace to honestly share feedback on the topics you’re asking about—but they should be involved in post-survey action.
Employee opinions change, which is why it’s important to ask for feedback regularly. Leveraging your employee engagement survey, paired with frequent pulses and lifecycle surveys, will help you keep a pulse on your organization. But before you determine your strategy for collecting feedback, you’ll want to establish the frequency of your organization-wide engagement survey.
By now you know how important it is to survey your employees, but how frequently should employee engagement surveys be conducted? Survey fatigue can occur when you’re sending surveys to the same audience too frequently. To prevent this, we’ve developed some best practices.
Organizations that conduct an annual engagement survey experience greater year-over-year increases in engagement than those surveying less frequently. Surveying annually gives you a baseline of engagement levels across your organization that you can track year-over-year.
If you can’t take action, don’t ask about it. And if you do ask your employees for feedback, be prepared to act. Your focus between surveys should shift to what actions you can take based on the data.
To follow up on the steps or actions you’ve taken to improve engagement, more frequent pulse surveys may be valuable. If you’ve committed to improving manager-employee communication, a pulse survey could be used to follow-up six months after the initial survey.
Once you’ve decided that an engagement survey is the right tool for your organization, you’ll want to build a survey that asks the right questions, to the right people, at the right time.
If you’re looking for a best practice engagement survey or a custom solution that fits your organization’s needs—we want to help you understand the ins and outs of an engagement survey so you can design your survey effectively.
In this section, we’ll cover our expert recommendations for designing and building an effective and valuable survey.
Understanding what you want to measure and who you’re measuring from is key to getting the right questions asked. It may be helpful to think about this element in terms of the answers you are hoping to collect. You might want to better understand feedback to:
Either way, determining the goal and objectives of this survey will help you gather more valuable employee data rather than focusing on achieving a better engagement score.
It’s clear that engagement surveys can be robust and comprehensive tools for gathering a range of feedback across a variety of employee demographics. To avoid overwhelming respondents, follow these guidelines:
Keep it simple. Select specific, valuable, and measurable topics and simplify the language so that it’s easy for employees to understand and complete.
Take it for a test run. Have an internal group take the survey to look for errors or inconsistencies before rolling out to all employees.
Use consistent and inclusive questions. Use scaled items when possible and provide options that anyone could respond to.
Communicate. Share the purpose or reason why respondents should participate and describe how you’ll follow up once the survey period is closed.
The overall purpose of an employee engagement survey is to measure the connection employees have toward their organization and examine the factors that influence it. While it might be tempting to use the opportunity to combine multiple employee surveys or questions or dive deep into a particular topic, this can confuse employees about the purpose and make it more difficult to take action on employee feedback.
The length of your survey usually determines the time it will take your employees to complete it, as well as the amount of valuable survey feedback you’ll have to take action on. The most effective employee engagement surveys include 30-40 questions. This length allows you to cover all of the necessary topics without taking up too much of your employees’ time.
Your employee engagement survey questions should include a mix of engagement outcomes and potential impact questions.
Engagement outcomes provide you with a robust measure of an organizational, team, and work engagement. Examples of engagement outcomes include:
Impact questions should cover important topics that help you assess which areas have the biggest impact on engagement at your organization. Topics should include:
Assess the current health of your organization.
Assess which areas have the biggest impact on engagement.
A robust measure of organization, team, and work engagement.
A specific look at where you should focus your efforts to improve.
Check out these blog posts for more employee survey question inspiration:
Communication can make or break the success of your engagement efforts. In order to be effective it should be concise, repetitive, and diverse. Keep reading to understand how to:
Communication is perhaps one of the most overlooked and under-executed elements of the survey process. Done well, your employee engagement survey communication can:
Poor communication, on the other hand, can result in damaging and costly consequences, such as low response rates, distrust, confusion, decreased morale, and disengagement.
When communication spikes around your survey, it turns it into an event instead of a year-round, continuous listening strategy. Use these tips to communicate before, during, and after the survey—but avoid making it the only time employees hear about engagement.
Engagement surveys, like any other organizational initiative, take up precious time, energy, and resources. They’re an investment—one that you can’t afford to take lightly.
Naturally, you’ll want your survey response rate to be high. But also be realistic. A good response rate is usually somewhere between:
If your response rate is low, you might be wondering how to increase employee engagement survey participation.
Here’s how to get people to take a survey:
Announce the engagement survey, its purpose, and details about timeline and confidentiality. But don’t stop there. Communicate about the survey in all-company meetings, invitation emails, reminder memos, staff meetings, 1-on-1 meetings, and in your work environment.
Let employees know you value their voices and opinions. Even before the survey launch, provide real examples of feedback that led to your decision to choose an engagement survey.
Carve out time specifically for your employees to take the survey. Give them 15-30 minutes to complete the survey without cutting into lunch or personal hours.
Make sure managers can clearly and confidently communicate about the survey and its purpose—and hold them accountable for getting their teams to participate.
Let employees know that a high response rate means that:
Explain what you will do with the data once the survey is complete. Ensure that you make changes from the results and that you communicate decisions, priorities, and plans broadly and clearly. If employees see their feedback matters, they'll be more likely to share it (and participate in your surveys) again.
Effectively communicating your intentions, schedule, and expectations for the survey is vital to ensuring the maximum impact of your efforts. We recommend a 3x3x3 model for survey communication, including:
Make a formal announcement about the survey. This announcement should ideally come from your CEO. Remind employees what you did with last year’s results and tell them how you plan to use them this year. Let them know how and when the survey will be launched, including any details about your survey partner.
Get your leaders and managers on board. You’ll need their help driving survey participation and encouraging honest responses. Show them how they will benefit from the survey and the positive impact it will have on their teams.
Send a quick reminder email to get employees excited for the survey, and to reinforce your intentions.
Once the survey opens, you’ll want to make sure all employees know how to access the survey. But don’t overdo it with your communications here. You don’t want employees to feel like the survey is mandatory—but you do want to keep the enthusiasm going. We recommend:
Once your employee engagement survey results are in, thank your employees for their participation and let them know what to expect next. Send out a high-level overview as soon as possible with a summary of key findings. Some results to share might include:
Once you’ve shared your survey results, managers can share detailed results back to their teams. Managers should use this time to openly and transparently discuss strengths and areas of opportunities with their teams. They should ask questions to dig deeper, encourage the team to own the challenges and solutions, and align on the next steps as a team.
Guilt trip employees for their responses
Debate who’s right and who’s wrong
Try to change employee opinions
Plead the organization’s case
Ask for questions
Play “who said what”
Your employee engagement survey results are in. Now what? Where do you start? It’s time for your employee engagement survey analysis. We’ve got tips!
A good survey response rate is anywhere between 70-80% or larger organizations (500+ employees) and 80-90% for smaller organizations (<500 employees).
If your organization’s survey response rate is at or above average, that’s great. If it’s below average or has declined since your last engagement survey, make sure employees understand how their feedback is being used to make your organization better. This can inspire more employees to participate in the future.
Understanding favorability gives you a high-level view of your organization’s engagement. Overall favorability is the combination of responses that are either “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” across all survey questions. An overall favorability of 70% or higher is healthy.
Your drivers of engagement are your organization’s custom recipe for improving engagement. These are the survey questions that have the biggest impact on your organization’s engagement levels. Understand which drivers are most favorable. Have any improved since the last survey? Keep the momentum going on these drivers. Identify drivers that are least favorable or that have decreased since the last survey. These are areas of opportunity.
By adding a comparison, you can easily see which survey question results stayed the same or changed since your last survey. Do the questions that improved align with recent engagement efforts? Are the questions that declined related to any organizational changes or challenges that might have impacted employee perceptions? For a deeper understanding, read through the comments and listen to your employees further in focus groups and results meetings.
If you’re working with a survey provider, find one that allows you to compare employee feedback to external benchmarks. If feedback on a particular survey question is more favorable than the benchmark, you may have a strength that your competitors do not. If feedback on a question is below average, you may have a unique challenge to tackle.
Slice and dice your data to compare different demographics within your organization. This can help you understand where perceptions overlap or differ. You may find some groups are very favorable on certain questions—learn their best practices and share them with other teams inside your organization. On the flip side, you may find other groups who are lagging behind—understand their challenges to get them better set up for success.
Open-ended survey questions give employees an opportunity to share examples and context. These comments can help you better understand the numeric data trends.
In some organizations, the closing of their survey represents the conclusion of employee engagement efforts until next year. Survey results are delivered but no action is taken and employee engagement remains stagnant or declines. Bottom line—if results aren’t acted on, there’s little reason to survey.
When thinking about how to improve engagement in your organization, it can be helpful to address areas of improvement at the organizational, team, or individual levels. Choose one or two areas that you want to improve and take action.
Here’s a roadmap you can follow to determine your employee engagement action plan.
Encourage planning within individual teams or departments. With a local action planning approach, most employees will see the impact their voice has on driving change within their teams and shaping their day to day work.
Equip managers to support your initiatives by giving them access to their teams’ survey results. This puts them in a better position to understand team dynamics, create action plans for problem areas, and retain high-performing employees.
Teams should gather to discuss which questions were rated lowest and highest with their managers. Collaborate to identify two or three areas on which to focus. The more invested employees feel in a plan, the more likely they are to follow through. Encourage employees to share ideas about how to make improvements.
Taking action can seem overwhelming, especially if the long-term goal involves major changes. To make the process more manageable, break up larger initiatives into smaller steps for multiple individuals, ensuring all stakeholders are involved and accountable. The best action plans are those that shift the way you do things to be more sustainable rather than add new things to your plate. Ask yourself:
Have managers schedule team meetings to revisit strategies and determine whether the team’s initial goals are attainable and the agreed-upon actions are working. Ask your employees if they’re seeing change. If the adjustments don’t seem to be working, discuss alternative actions.
Hold all stakeholders accountable by publicly posting team goals and routinely updating progress. Check-in with each employee to ensure they’re making adequate strides. Celebrate small wins to motivate the team and keep things moving forward.
To really reap the benefits of an employee engagement survey you need to have a tool that helps you ask the right questions, at the right time. Employee engagement survey software can help you start making a difference by making sense of your complex employee needs.
Finding the right employee engagement survey software involves extensive research, leadership buy-in, and a true understanding of your organization’s wants and needs. For such a big decision it's important to not just shop for software, but a solution.
Take the time to examine your organization’s strategic objectives and choose a partner that brings you closer to achieving those goals—now and in the future. Consider these elements when choosing your employee engagement survey vendor:
An employee engagement survey is just one of many items on your checklist—so your survey partner should be respectful of your time and reduce the amount of time you spend launching your survey.
Your survey partner should provide you with best practices, tips, and templates for effectively communicating about your survey, monitoring progress in real-time, and following up on survey results.
Your partner should be clear and responsive about progress on your launch, timeline, and questions or concerns along the way.
Here are a few questions to use to evaluate your partner:
Archaic and inefficient reporting will hold your organization back from responding and acting on employee feedback in a timely fashion. Your survey partner should provide an online system that makes it easy for your leaders to:
Your survey vendor should offer training and resources to identify where to focus your efforts and create action plans. The better equipped your team is when it comes to using the tools, interpreting data, and taking action, the faster you can create an engaged workplace.
Your survey partner should provide a variety of listening opportunities to support your organization’s unique engagement strategy, including:
Employer brand and organizational growth are driven by a high-performance culture. Your survey partner should allow you to benchmark your survey results against the best places to work nationwide to understand how your organization measures up.
All administrative information about your employees should be able to link up with their engagement data. An HRIS integration helps maintain accurate data in real-time for the rest of your internal applications, organizational structure shifts, and more.
Your survey partner should provide best practice templates, expert advice, and triggered alerts to coach managers to follow-up on survey results. Look for a partner that provides training, resources, and a simple manager dashboard that includes features like:
Your survey partner should have a critical vision for what’s next in employee engagement and continuously share those ideas and resources with you. They should be just as invested in helping your employees, teams, and organization be successful as you are.
Employee engagement surveys are a great first step to measure, understand, and drive employee success. Continually and consistently listening to your employees will not only help guide your engagement initiatives, but help you build employee trust, empower managers, and improve your workplace culture.
To hit the ground running with your continuous employee listening strategy, download our ebook, The Complete Guide to Conducting an Employee Engagement Survey.