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15 essential employee engagement survey questions

Crafting survey questions that uncover employee engagement issues is challenging. Here are some key questions and a guide to how HR teams can become better test creators.

Listening to your employees can uncover which HR policies, processes and technologies you need to change, which in turn can lead to increased retention and productivity.

Numerous software packages are available to help you gather and analyze feedback. Yet asking the right employee engagement questions is key. You can write these survey questions with the help of someone who specializes in a domain such as organizational psychology or data science.

Here are some things to consider as you think of your engagement survey strategy.

Prepare survey questions

The right structure is critical to getting the most informative results. For an employee engagement survey, you should group questions into two sets, followed by a set that lets respondents write open-ended answers. The first set of questions should focus on measuring respondents' engagement and experience, while the second set of questions should focus on measuring the overall employee experience and discovering what drives engagement. Typically, surveys should be no longer than 40 questions or respondents may get fatigued.

Make sure to construct the surveys so that each question focuses on just one topic or subject and then phrase the questions so they mean the same thing to all respondents. If your questions are vague, it may create responses that are not accurate and therefore unusable.

For example, a question might be "Do you find your work interesting?" Since "interesting" may mean something different to various employees, this may elicit a "no" response. An alternative question could be, "What aspects of your work do you find the most fulfilling?"

Figure out question themes

Questions can cover a variety of themes, and for an engagement survey these questions would typically be part of one of the following themes:

  • Collaboration. Can employees work together easily? Can they access and share information with each other and with other teams?
  • Career development. What are the career growth and development opportunities?
  • Communication. Is corporate communication sufficient, meaningful and regular enough?
  • Diversity and inclusion. Do employees feel included and accepted in the company?
  • Leadership. Do employees have confidence and trust in company leadership and senior management?
  • Performance and accountability. Do people understand their personal goals and understand where they fit into corporate goals? Are there clear expectations of what is required of them in their role?
  • Strategic alignment. Do employees understand the goals and direction of the company? Do they understand how their work contributes to the success of the company?

This list is not exhaustive and there may be other themes that are specific to your company.

If your questions are vague, it may create responses that are not accurate and therefore unusable.

Create the format

There are a multitude of different questions that you can ask employees to understand their overall experience. It's not just the question that's important, but also what you allow for a response. In some instances, you might want a yes or no answer, while a scale rating items from 1 to 10 might be more suitable in others. Try to avoid too many open-ended or free-text questions, as these can be hard to collate for a large pool of respondents.

Begin the survey

Here are a few questions that you should use to get the most helpful feedback.

  1. How happy are you at work?
  2. How valued do you feel?
  3. Do you feel your goals and objectives are clear?
  4. Do you feel your work makes a meaningful contribution?
  5. Do you have a clearly defined career path?
  6. Do you feel you receive adequate training?
  7. Do you see yourself working here in one year's time?
  8. Would you apply for this job again?
  9. Would you recommend the company to friends or family?
  10. Do you receive adequate and meaningful recognition of your achievements?
  11. How suitable are the software applications that you use for your work?
  12. Do you have everything you need to complete your work tasks?
  13. Do you feel able to give feedback?
  14. Do you feel the feedback you provide is acted upon?
  15. How do you feel about your work-life balance?

All of these questions -- except the last one -- are closed questions, meaning the response would be either yes/no or rated on some type of scale (e.g., 1 to 5 or 0 to 10). You can also modify these questions to include the rating scale. For example, "How happy are you at work?" could also be "On a scale of 1 to 5, how happy are you at work?"

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