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Updated Oct 23, 2023

How to Develop and Conduct Employee Surveys

Learn how to create surveys that can improve your employees' satisfaction, engagement and performance.

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Skye Schooley, Business Operations Insider and Senior Lead Analyst
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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To better understand employee satisfaction, company culture and organizational culture, businesses should consistently implement employee surveys to gather feedback. These surveys offer a transparent lens into the perceptions of employees, delivering essential data that can help employers to improve the workplace environment. In this guide, we’ll delve into how to develop and announce employee surveys, as well as interpret their results to extract maximum insights, pinpoint influential leaders and derive actionable strategies.

Employee surveys and their objectives

Depending on the specific objectives you aim to achieve, there are different types of employee surveys you can use. Are you keen on gauging employee engagement levels? Or perhaps you’re interested in understanding employees’ perspectives on the prevailing company culture? These considerations will impact how you develop your survey.

Here’s a breakdown of common employee surveys that can illuminate various facets of your organization:

  • Annual Review Survey: Conducted yearly, this employee survey assesses the holistic performance of an employee. An effective performance review aims to offer constructive performance feedback, highlight strengths and professional development opportunities, maintain a performance record and chart a career growth trajectory.
  • Company Culture Survey: This employee survey evaluates the alignment between the company’s core values and its actual practices. The insights from a company culture survey can be used to refine leadership approaches, organizational tactics and future resource allocation.
  • Employee Engagement Survey: Central to retaining talent, this employee survey gauges the extent to which employees feel supported and acknowledged by the company and its leadership.
  • Employee Satisfaction Survey: This survey captures the degree of contentment and empowerment among employees, encompassing areas like company regulations, job contentment, remuneration, employee benefits and workplace challenges.
  • Exit Interview Survey: Administered when an employee departs, exit interview surveys findings can enhance the company’s operations and refine the job role being vacated. The results can also be used to help reduce employee turnover by identifying friction points that led the employee to depart the company.
  • Management Performance Survey: Tailored for leadership evaluation, this employee survey is taken by staff to assess managerial efficacy. Its primary objective is to bolster internal communication and elevate leadership standards.
  • Onboarding Survey: Presented to fresh recruits after their onboarding, these new hire surveys assess the efficacy of the recruitment and integration processes.
  • Pulse Survey: A concise employee survey, the pulse survey offers rapid insights into subjects like job roles, contentment, communication and the workplace environment.
  • Training Survey: Post-training sessions, this employee survey evaluates the training’s impact, aiding in the formulation of effective employee training strategies.
  • 360 Survey: Offering a holistic evaluation, this employee survey is taken by the concerned employee and their team members, providing a 360-degree appraisal of the individual’s performance.

By embracing employee surveys, businesses can foster a culture of continuous feedback, ensuring that the workplace remains conducive to growth, innovation, and mutual respect.

Did You Know?Did you know
Other business survey types to help guide your organization include market research surveys, lead generation surveys and brand awareness surveys.

Create employee surveys that work

Creating an employee survey that offers actionable insights requires meticulous planning. Factors like the survey’s topic, timing, length, format and the nature of questions play a pivotal role. Moreover, determining the frequency of these surveys, especially if they’re recurrent, is crucial to track progress effectively.

Here’s a structured five-step approach to craft your employee survey:

1. Determine the focus of your employee survey

Every employee survey should be anchored around a specific theme and objective. While it might seem tempting to add tangential questions into a single survey, this could muddle its primary purpose, leading to ambiguous results. Ensure that the survey topics resonate with the current organizational climate to make them relevant for the respondents.

2. Strategize the timing for your employee survey

Timing can make or break the effectiveness of a survey. Aim to capture feedback when employees can reflect on recent experiences with them fresh in their minds. Align your surveys with significant organizational events or milestones to gather pertinent insights.

Eric Stites, CEO of Franchise Business Review, emphasized the importance of timing. He suggests that immediate feedback post an event might be overly positive. However, allowing some time for reflection can yield more genuine and constructive feedback.

“For example, if you have a day of employee training followed immediately by a training effectiveness survey, you will probably receive much higher ratings than you would if you conducted the survey several weeks or months after the training event, when employees can better reflect on what they did and did not learn and how the training session could be improved,” Stites said.

3. Decide on the length and frequency of employee surveys

While surveys can offer a goldmine of information, it’s essential to prioritize the most relevant ones based on your organizational goals. Overwhelming employees with frequent surveys can lead to fatigue, whereas rare surveys might not capture the evolving organizational dynamics.

Sarah Skerik, director of marketing at the employee engagement platform Engagement Multiplier, recommends quarterly surveys that don’t exceed 10 minutes. This strikes a balance between garnering feedback and avoiding survey burnout, she said. 

According to Stites, striking the right balance between frequent surveys and not overwhelming employees by asking for feedback is key to getting the most out of the results.

“Shorter pulse surveys on [a] weekly, biweekly, monthly and quarterly basis can help small businesses better understand the ebbs and flows of the employee experience and help companies be much more nimble in addressing key opportunities and challenges to growth,” said Stites. “And keep in mind that employee surveys are critically important for managers and business owners, as well as providing a voice for your employees.”

4. Curate actionable employee survey questions

The crux of any successful employee survey lies in its questions. While some surveys might have a consistent set of questions for longitudinal analysis, others might be tailored based on current events or challenges.

Ensure clarity in your questions by avoiding compound structures. The goal is to elicit feedback that can be acted upon. For a head start, consider exploring resources like “20 survey questions to gauge employee engagement.”

5. Finalize the employee survey format

The format of your survey can significantly influence the kind of insights you gather. While multiple-choice questions are popular due to their ease of analysis, open-ended questions can offer deeper insights, albeit being harder to quantify.

Skerik suggests a hybrid approach, blending scores with open-ended feedback. This amalgamation allows for both quantitative analysis and qualitative insights, ensuring a holistic understanding of employee sentiments.

“We find this approach particularly useful for charting organizational progress over time while also ensuring timely ideas and specific feedback can be captured,” said Skerik. “While we use AI to measure sentiment and highlight key themes in the written feedback, we also emphasize the importance for leaders to personally review the survey data related to their team.”

In essence, employee surveys are more than just tools for feedback; they’re a bridge fostering open communication between the organization and its employees. Crafted thoughtfully, they can be instrumental in driving positive change and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

Did You Know?Did you know
Surveys can help employees feel heard and valued, leading to high employee morale and decreased turnover.

Conducting employee surveys: A step-by-step guide

Conducting an employee survey is a strategic endeavor, and its success hinges on meticulous planning and execution. Here’s a structured approach to ensure your employee survey yields meaningful insights:

  • Clarify the Survey’s Objective: Before rolling out the survey, ensure your team understands its purpose. Ask yourself what the primary goals of the survey are, what actionable steps you’ll take after analyzing the results, and what your anticipated timeline is for the survey process.
  • Boost Participation: The efficacy of an employee survey is directly proportional to the participation rate. Highlight the significance of the survey, emphasizing its role in shaping the organization’s future. By underscoring its objectives, you can motivate employees to actively partake in the exercise.
  • Guarantee Anonymity: For genuine, unfiltered feedback, it’s imperative that employees feel safe while sharing their views. Assure them that their responses will remain anonymous, fostering an environment of trust. Leveraging third-party platforms like SurveyMonkey, SurveySparrow, or QuestionPro can further cement this assurance, as these platforms are designed to protect respondent anonymity.
  • Disseminate Key Insights: The true value of an employee survey is unlocked when its findings are acted upon. Sharing the findings not only validates the exercise but also reinforces trust within the team.

Moreover, involving employees in the subsequent action-planning phase can be transformative. When employees feel they’re part of the solution-building process, it not only enhances engagement but also streamlines change management.

An employee survey is not a mere data collection tool but a catalyst for organizational growth. By following these best practices, you can ensure that your survey not only captures the pulse of your organization but also paves the way for actionable change.

Maximizing employee survey effectiveness

Employee surveys are invaluable tools for gauging employee sentiment and driving organizational improvement. Engagement Multiplier, a leader in the domain, has devised a structured six-step approach to ensure that these surveys translate into actionable insights and tangible results:

  • Demystify Survey Outcomes: Begin by transparently sharing the survey results with your team. Highlight the dominant themes and patterns that emerge from the data. This step not only validates the survey process but also fosters a culture of openness.
  • Prioritize Actionable Insights: From the myriad insights that the survey might yield, zero in on three pivotal areas that can be tangibly improved within a realistic timeframe. Clearly communicate these chosen areas to the team, ensuring everyone is aligned on the focus points. Establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can further quantify the improvement goals.
  • Drive Targeted Improvements: With the focus areas identified, channel your efforts towards enhancing these specific aspects. Regularly update the team on the progress, ensuring everyone is in the loop and can witness the positive changes in real-time.
  • Evaluate the Efficacy of Changes: Before diving into another survey, assess the impact of the improvements made. An end-of-quarter report, for example, offers a comprehensive view of the changes and their repercussions.
  • Re-engage with Another Survey: With the improvements in place and their impact assessed, it’s time to re-survey the team. This new survey will capture fresh perspectives, gauging the effectiveness of the changes implemented.
  • Iterate for Continuous Enhancement: Employee engagement and organizational improvement are ongoing endeavors. Hence, once the cycle completes, start again. By continually iterating this process, you ensure that your organization is always on an upward trajectory, adapting, and evolving based on employee feedback.

Engagement Multiplier’s approach transforms employee surveys from mere feedback tools into powerful catalysts for continuous organizational growth. By following this structured process, businesses can ensure they’re always attuned to their employees’ needs and are agile enough to adapt and thrive.

Employee surveys and their importance to business growth

Employee surveys are pivotal instruments that can unveil deep insights about an organization’s health and its operational dynamics. These surveys, when designed and executed effectively, can lead to actionable strategies that can significantly enhance business outcomes.

  • Empower Employees Through Anonymity: Employee surveys, especially anonymous ones, offer a safe space for employees to express their genuine feelings about the organizational environment. This candid feedback can improve workplace culture, bring transparency to management practices, strengthen peer relationships and establish avenues for career advancement.
  • Cultivate Critical Thinking Among Employees: Employee surveys can serve as a reflective tool, prompting employees to think beyond their daily tasks. Well-framed survey questions can stimulate broader thinking, leading to the identification of pivotal challenges and potential solutions.
  • Enhance Employee Performance and Retention: According to Skerik, a meticulously designed employee survey can act as a radar, detecting early signs of organizational challenges or growing disengagement. By addressing these concerns promptly, organizations can foster a positive work environment, leading to improved employee performance and reduced attrition.
  • Spotlight Organizational Leaders: Employee surveys can be instrumental in recognizing the strengths within the organization. Positive feedback can highlight effective leadership in teams, and high scores in management performance surveys can spotlight exemplary managers. This recognition can also shed light on the most effective leadership approaches.
  • Chart the Way Forward: Employee surveys are not just about gathering feedback; they’re about translating that feedback into actionable strategies. Skerik suggests that these surveys should offer a multi-dimensional view tailored to different managerial tiers. With this granular feedback, leaders can formulate action plans to address challenges and amplify successful strategies. Periodic surveys can then track the progress and recalibrate the organizational direction.
Bottom LineBottom line
Employee surveys allow you to keep employees engaged, combat workplace burnout, and ultimately attract and retain the best employees.

Employee feedback helps businesses build and grow

While customer satisfaction is undeniably a cornerstone for business success, it’s only a part of the larger narrative. A content and engaged workforce can significantly elevate the quality of work, acting as a bridge to enhanced customer satisfaction. Employee surveys, therefore, are not just feedback tools but catalysts that can propel an organization towards holistic growth.

Max Freedman contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Skye Schooley, Business Operations Insider and Senior Lead Analyst
Skye Schooley is a business expert with a passion for all things human resources and digital marketing. She's spent 10 years working with clients on employee recruitment and customer acquisition, ensuring companies and small business owners are equipped with the information they need to find the right talent and market their services. In recent years, Schooley has largely focused on analyzing HR software products and other human resources solutions to lead businesses to the right tools for managing personnel responsibilities and maintaining strong company cultures. Schooley, who holds a degree in business communications, excels at breaking down complex topics into reader-friendly guides and enjoys interviewing business consultants for new insights. Her work has appeared in a variety of formats, including long-form videos, YouTube Shorts and newsletter segments.
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