The anatomy of an effective employee engagement survey

Pritama Sarkar
September 30, 2019
The anatomy of an effective employee engagement survey

On a scale of 1 to 10, how effective do you think annual employee surveys are?

You might respond with a four if you think there should be a better option, or an eight if you believe these surveys are somewhat effective. However, if we simply ask for a number to gauge how receptive you are towards employee engagement surveys, the only intelligence we will gain from the results is just quantitative. How can we use this data to improve the surveys?

The concept of standard employee surveys is problematic due to this reason. The questions are close-ended, un-inspired, and can only measure what your staff thinks, not why they feel that way. The chances are, you are already aware of the major grievances if you are working with your co-workers in close quarters. You are not getting any new information or insights into their behavioural changes and what has triggered these changes. You can’t be proactive in your approach to reduce employee turnover if you only measure job satisfaction and staff engagement levels once a year. The engagement levels may vary with their current mood or emotional state that can reflect in the survey results and make the entire exercise futile.

The new workforce deserves a better employee experience

The new and evolved workforce is influential, dynamic, ambitious. They need quick solutions, fast responses, and real-time information. They want to work smart, engage with the team, and make an impact. Now, imagine the management team reaching out to them with the age-old one-dimensional employee surveys asking for their feedback. Your employees’ values, work ethics, and goals are linked to the company image you portray, the benefits that you provide for them, and the culture you promote. They want to be heard, influence their work conditions, feel confident knowing that they have a say in how the company is growing. Leaders should provide them with the channels to do so. By not allowing them to have a voice, you are running the risk of alienating your employees, and ultimately, you are pushing them away to a business competitor who’s more than willing to appreciate their enthusiasm.

Studies have shown that “the cost of losing an employee can cost anywhere from 16% of their salary for hourly, unsalaried employees, to 213% of the salary for a highly trained position.”

What are the factors that should be considered while drafting an employee engagement survey? In this article, we’ll focus on the most significant ones below.

The power of anonymity

This is arguably the most crucial factor that contributes to the response rate of these surveys. Every employee isn’t built the same way, and every company culture doesn’t offer a high level of transparency. To avoid unnecessary frictions, or to spare the feelings of the co-workers, employees prefer to be anonymous in their feedback. This offers them the freedom to speak their minds and drive the change that they want to see.

Frequency of employee surveys

Relevant surveys at regular intervals are effective in getting a real response from the target group. This practice allows you to analyse the effect over time and identify behaviour patterns that can prove to be harmful in the future. You can dig into the inputs to get a clear understanding of their emotional conditions and stress levels.

Research-based questions

There are several factors that drive employee engagement – mutual respect, compensation and benefits, professional growth, skills training, team morale, recognition and rewards, work-life balance, meaningfulness, leadership style, and so on.

Leaders must ensure that the questions in the survey focus on each of these categories to get a clear understanding of the overall health and well-being of the organisation. The questions should be direct, to-the-point, and emotive. Bear in mind that you are not just asking these questions to understand your employees better, but you are also allowing them to dive deeper and think about what’s affecting their mental state – if they are working on an auto-pilot mode or if they feel that they are a part of the organisation. The surveys should force them to think, study themselves, and respond with their original thoughts.

Closed-loop feedbacks

Engaged employees want to share their thoughts if you give them a chance and show them that you’re willing to work on their suggestions. Delve deeper to get the required insights by triggering follow-up questions based on the mood/response of the employees. The process can be automated with AI-powered tools that study employee reactions and send more follow-up questions to get to the bottom of the problem.

The main purpose of these surveys is to enable the management to react to the feedback or to follow-up (as required) in time, not after the disheartened employee has already left the organisation.

The ability to personalise

The same issues don’t plague every department of an organisation. To ensure that the surveys are relevant and are focused on specific areas of concern, send customised questionnaires to particular subsets or groups to get an accurate measurement. This way, each manager can identify red alerts and take actions faster before the situation deteriorates. You should be able to customise these surveys based on specific tasks, events, or company-wide transitions that may affect team spirit and morale.

Wrapping it up,

Employee engagement surveys are beneficial only when you can leverage the insights gleaned from the results and use that in a productive way. If done right, systematic surveys allow you to visualise the entire employee experience over time so that you can identify opportunities to make the employee journey smoother and provide value in every step of the way.


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