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How to create amazing employee engagement surveys to gain real insights

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an employee engagement survey (EES)? Most people automatically think of the Annual Survey at their company. Yes, this is a type of EES that traditionally occurs once a year and is all-encompassing, meaning it attempts to cover all the bases that a survey should - culture, leadership, your role & manager, career development, DEIB (or DEIJ), benefits & perks assessment, etc.

However, that is just one (and arguably the most common) type of engagement survey! There are many other types that people often forget about, and they can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. This post will provide

What is an employee engagement survey?

Employee Engagement Surveys, or EES, is a term that is all-encompassing of any type of structured questionnaire or assessment tool designed to measure and evaluate various aspects of employee engagement within an organization. They can range from 1-100 questions, be completely anonymous or not, and can be sent electronically or physically through a variety of paid or free platforms.

Employee on tablet doing an employee engagement survey

Why employee engagement surveys matter:

So why should companies incorporate Engagement Surveys as part of their internal strategic engagement plan? It’s simple! EESs are a quick and easy way to solicit feedback and measure engagement from your team, especially in a fully remote or hybrid environment and/or a distributed workforce. Further, EESs can help companies measure and track specific metrics, such as drivers of engagement and retention, compare benchmarks, empower employees, and simply find out what is important to their team. They allow you to be strategic in your engagement planning by getting ahead of small problems before they become big problems, and they are a tool to further build and maintain trust and transparency as part of your culture.

Types of Employee Engagement Surveys

How do you know when the timing is right for an EES? Depending on the type of survey, you can create a strategic plan to administer and deploy them on a semi-regular basis. The Annual Survey, as mentioned above and as its name suggests, should be done annually and serve as the foundation of your Engagement strategy. 

In addition to the Annual Survey, you can administer Stay Surveys (aka “Stay Interviews”) for tenure employees, Exit Surveys (aka “Exit interviews”) for departing employees, and Pulse Surveys to gauge the team’s thoughts on a variety of topics, including a new health benefits plan you're exploring to feedback regarding a new process implementation.

Best Questions to Ask:

Not sure what questions to ask? See below for my top 5 favorite questions that I ask on an Annual Engagement Survey and why I think they deserve a spot on your company’s as well.

  1. "On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend [Company] as a great workplace?"

  • The infamous eNPS (or Employee Net Promoter Score) question. This is the big one and should be at the beginning or end of every Annual Engagement Survey you send out. The “why” behind this question is long enough to be its own blog post, but just know that it can act as an EES in a single question and give you an immediate idea of your team’s satisfaction and happiness.

  1. “How does [Company] embody our Core Values.”

  • Values questions are my favorite. If you have company Values (which you should), you need to be asking employees about them. Talking about your Values often keeps them top of mind for employees, and asking specific questions regarding Values helps to hold everyone accountable to what the foundation of your culture is. You can also ask employees how they think their Manager or the Leadership Team embodies the Values as well.

  1. “I have a clear understanding of [Company]’s company strategy.”

  • I love this question because it gives Leadership insight into how much the employees understand the big picture where the company is heading, and why. So many times, Leadership teams I work with just assume that employees know the 1-2 or even 3-5 year company vision or strategy simply because they know it. This question is great because if it scores high then congratulations, you’re doing great with broader company communication! And if it scores low, you know that it’s probably time for an All Hands meeting where you can bring everyone into the loop on how the Leadership team sees the company moving in the direction it is, and why.

  1. “[Company] celebrates me in meaningful ways.

  2. “What are meaningful ways we can celebrate you?”

  • These two questions together are my favorite questions to ask on an Annual Engagement Survey. Something I learned from my tenure in the People space as well as many years as a manager is that you have no idea how people like to be celebrated unless you ask them. The first question gives insight into whether you’re doing it right, but the second question truly is the star of the show. By asking these two questions together you are not only showing employees that you care about who they are as individuals, but you are also challenging them to think about something that potentially they’ve never been asked by another employer.

Best Practices:

There are a lot of ways to make an EES successful, but here are my top 5:

  1. Make it easy - Make sure the Survey is easy to complete. Asking employees to take time out of their already busy schedules to complete your survey is one thing, but adding barriers (creating accounts, navigating a difficult platform, etc.) will only decrease the volume of participation.

  2. Mix it up – Ask a variety of questions. Although I recommend starting with a scale (1-5 or 1-10), I always encourage my clients to also incorporate binary (yes/no) questions and open-ended or follow-up questions so they can learn more.

  • An example of this would be if you ask a question regarding company events. Your question for scale could be “[Company] events are inclusive of all employees”, but then your follow-up could be something like “Are there any holidays and/or cultural celebrations you think [Company] should celebrate on behalf of its employees?” Adding this open-ended follow-up after your original question gives your employees a voice to tell you what is important to them.

  1. Timing is everything – Want to ask your employees how they like their health benefits offerings? Make sure to do that before you start exploring new plans and definitely before open enrollment. Use the survey to your advantage, not to your detriment.

  2. Make it anonymous – I’m not saying every pulse you send out must be anonymous. For instance, Slack has a great option for polls where you can see who chose what option. But for the most part, your surveys should remain anonymous. Why? Because as open and transparent as your culture may be, anonymity provides employees with a layer of comfort. And comfort begets honestly. And the only way your data is accurate is if your employees are giving open and honest feedback and responses.

  3. Act on the responses – So you’ve administered the survey, and you have the results. Now what? Do something about it! The biggest mistake I see with companies is when they do nothing with the results. No meeting, no follow-up, nothing. Even if 75% of your employees want pet insurance and that just isn’t in the budget for the next year, it’s still important to address this with the team. It can be as simple as “Hey everyone, we heard that many of you would like pet insurance. While this isn’t in the budget for this year, we hear you, and will consider it for next year.” It’s that easy! Too many companies think that if their employees want something they can’t deliver on, then they should just ignore it. I’m telling you that is the exact opposite of what your employees want. They want to know their voices are heard.

How can T2T help?

Here at Talent to Team, Engagement Surveys are just another thing that we know and love. Our clients appreciate our insight and experience with various types of surveys as well as our team’s extensive knowledge of how to best solicit feedback as well as gather and synthesize the data. Employees also like that we are an extension of their company, ensuring anonymity and objectivity when analyzing data. We have a clear and proven strategy that includes presenting the findings and creating a clear action plan for our clients with a timeline to hold ourselves and our clients accountable.

Interested in an EES or overall Engagement Strategy for your company? Let’s chat!  Here is my Hubspot link:


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