Keeping your team members engaged and happy at work is critical to the success of your business. Engaged employees are connected to their work environment and colleagues, motivated to do a great job, and invested in the growth of the company — all of which lead to higher business performance.

Despite the importance of improving employee engagement, studies show that a significant amount of employees feel disengaged on the job. A recent Gallup survey found that 85% of employees aren't fully engaged at work and are indifferent to their team's success as a result.

The same survey revealed that employees are 87% less likely to look for another job if they're engaged in their work, meaning it's important to measure employee engagement levels and take action if needed to improve team retention.

The best way to receive feedback is to conduct an employee engagement survey. By asking your team important questions around management effectiveness, communication, and individual growth needs, you can better understand current obstacles and identify opportunities to boost company culture.

In order to get survey results that lead to worthwhile employee feedback, it's important to put a little thought behind the process. Our employee engagement survey guide will help you understand the advantages of a survey, important factors to consider, and how to write one that works best for you and your team.

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Benefits of an employee engagement survey

Conducting an employee engagement survey gives you a chance to take a pulse check on the general health of your business, which can spark improvements in multiple areas. In today's world of increased remote/hybrid work and autonomous jobs, the survey is an easy way to boost your  listening strategy and give your team the opportunity to express their thoughts on the overall employee experience.

These valuable insights will ultimately help you:

  • Understand areas of success
  • Highlight opportunities for improvement
  • Provide a voice for every team member
  • Build trust among employees
  • Cultivate a more engaging company culture

You may find that the results shed light on a problem you didn't previously know about, making it easy to address it before the issue leads to increased turnover or unnecessary costs. Additionally, your team could also highlight opportunities to increase efficiencies in certain tasks, which helps save everyone time, money, and stress.

Different types of employee engagement surveys

There are several types of employee feedback strategies that can be mixed and matched, depending on your business needs.

Annual employee engagement surveys

Conducted once a year with a broader range of questions, these surveys typically take longer than 10 minutes to complete. The questions gauge satisfaction around topics like:

  • Company culture
  • Duties and expectations
  • Management support and effectiveness
  • Inclusivity
  • Benefits
  • Growth opportunities
  • Work-life balance
  • Communication

Formats for this type of feedback include yes or no questions for broad answers, scaled questions for rating satisfaction or agreement, and open-ended questions for in-depth insights.

Pulse surveys

Conversely, pulse surveys are conducted more often and typically take less time to complete than annual surveys. The questions focus on more specific areas like:

  • Thoughts around company changes
  • Current training, growth, or emotion needs of the team member
  • Feelings around changes due to world/environment occurrences (like returning to the office after a period of remote work because of COVID-19).

The same types of formats can be used in a pulse survey as in an annual survey, but you should include fewer questions — a good rule of thumb is to have 1-10.

Employee lifecycle surveys

Employee lifecycle surveys are used to gather feedback during different, targeted moments during an employee's time with your company. The most popular types include onboarding, exit surveys, and employee performance reviews, but conducting anniversary surveys and other scheduled check-ins is growing in popularity among organizations.

The topics your questions touch on will depend on what level of tenure your employee has and what you want to measure.

Top considerations for employee engagement surveys

In order to gain the most actionable insights from your team, it's important to put a little thought behind it before executing on the plan. Here are a few things to consider.

Ask questions with purpose

Make sure the questions you include are tailored to your business's unique context. Focus on the goal you're trying to achieve and target your questions toward the needs of your staff.

For example, if you use a tool like Harvest that provides insights into how your team spends their time, you might notice an increased rate of burnout risk during a certain project. To help maintain or boost engagement rates, you could conduct a survey around current workload management strategies to better prevent burnout before it becomes an issue.

Aim for high participation

According to experts, a response rate above 70% is considered successful, with 60-70% considered good. Anything less than that probably won't result in effective insights that represent how your team is feeling overall.

Put energy into encouraging your team to take part in the survey. Ways you can do this include:

  • Stressing the importance: Highlight how your team can benefit from the survey to motivate them to be more enthusiastic about taking it.
  • Respecting their time: Provide a reasonable window of time for your team to complete it, allow them to use company time, and include clear, concise questions.
  • Sending reminders: Your team likely has a lot on their plate and could simply forget to take the survey, so sending a couple of gentle nudges could boost participation. 
  • Making it anonymous: No one wants to feel awkward about bringing personal feelings to light — providing an anonymous platform will encourage employees to answer openly and honestly. 
  • Offering incentives: Especially when conducting your first team survey, providing incentives like a small gift card or free lunch could help spark participation.

Be mindful about your format

As mentioned above, it's important to keep your goal top of mind when crafting the survey, or you could end up finding it difficult to turn the responses into action. If you're looking to identify trends and patterns over time, you'll likely need multiple choice or numbers-based answers so you can analyze results on a continual basis.

On the other hand, you might want specific feedback around certain situations, in which case more open-ended questions with added detail would work best. This way you'll have the necessary information to support your team.

How to build an employee engagement survey

By following the below steps to build your employee engagement survey, you'll have a better chance of receiving quality results.

1. Define the goal

Before you begin writing questions for the survey, establish an objective. This way you'll get the necessary insights to actually improve engagement among your team. Establish expectations and define the purpose — maybe you're looking to improve communication, or increase collaboration. Regardless of your goal, defining it will drive your decision making process about which questions to include.

2. Be realistic

The general purpose of an employee engagement survey is to ultimately use the insights to implement improvement initiatives. But if your business isn't equipped to change certain areas, the feedback will be unproductive — and could actually damage team morale.

For example, if you ask your team whether or not they're satisfied with their pay but aren't actually prepared to provide raises, the question could accidentally set unrealistic expectations. As a result, your team could grow frustrated with the lack of action. 

3. Choose the question formats

Different question types result in different types of responses from your team. The main categories of questions include:

  • Closed vs. open-ended questions: Do you want to provide a series of response options for the question, or would you rather have respondents answer in their own words? Closed questions are better for quantifiable responses you can analyze, and open questions prompt more specific, and sometimes unpredictable, information.
  • Rated statements: A common survey tactic is to present a statement instead of a question followed by rating scales of 1-5 or categories (like agree or disagree). If you pose your question as an opinion in this way and ask respondents to provide their agreement level, it can make the questions easier to answer and reduce the mental effort of your employees.

4. Pick your questions and survey length

The questions you choose will depend on the goal you set in the first step, but a few common topics include:

  • Work environment
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Employee recognition
  • Professional development

When it comes to the number of questions you should include, there's no right or wrong answer. However, keep in mind that the longer your survey is, the less likely your team might be to finish it. A good rule of thumb is to include 30-35 questions in your general engagement and lifecycle surveys, and limit pulse surveys to 10-15 questions.

How to turn employee engagement survey results into action

It's vital that you not only take action on the survey results, but communicate your response plan to your team — doing so will motivate them to respond openly and honestly. Here are a few steps you can follow to create an action plan and communicate the progress.

  1. Review results: Look at the data and ask yourself: How does the feedback compare with your expectations? Are you surprised by any of the trends?
  2. Build an action plan: Highlight a few key themes and prioritize what can and should be done first (and what can wait) before sharing concrete action items with your team. Identify quick wins, set goals for the next month or so, and determine what long-term action should be taken.
  3. Follow up where needed: If you feel like some areas need a little more insight, just ask for it. You can dive deeper with shorter follow-up questions in a quick pulse survey, or even hold a team meeting encouraging everyone to discuss the issues in more depth.
  4. Put the plan into action: Communicate to your team the steps you plan on taking to implement the changes — and why you're doing so — so they know what to expect. This also gives them a chance to provide more feedback.
  5. Repeat the process: After the changes are put into play, you can re-run the survey to get an idea of how impactful they were over time. Just be sure to avoid running another survey until the changes were actually made and communicated, or your team could be unwilling to answer the same questions over again.

Overall, employee engagement surveys are a great tool for improving long-term job satisfaction. With the valuable feedback, you can build trust by proving to your team that you're willing to take the necessary steps to improve your work environment and keep everyone engaged.