Companies report talent acquisition, retention and reducing job-related stress are among their top business concerns. Many are looking to understand and improve their corporate culture to attract and engage employees. Surveys that collect employee feedback are a part of this process. But what questions should you ask? Here are a few tips for creating surveys that will generate valuable, actionable information.
Borrow Good Ideas
A good first step is to see how others have done it. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has done extensive research and created an excellent survey program. SHRM’s survey focuses on these broad areas of questioning:
- Engagement opinions
- Engagement behaviors
- Conditions for engagement
- Career development
- Relationships with management
- Benefits and salary
- Work environment
SurveyMonkey, a consumer survey service, has partnered with SHRM to create templates (free to view), with pre-set questions. This is an excellent resource if you want to learn from a professional survey without having to pay vendor fees. Look at what questions are asked and how they are asked to generate the best responses.
Get the Most Out of Every Question
Be Strategic – Each question in a survey should generate an actionable response. Asking “Do you like your manager?” does not unveil as much as asking “Does management recognize strong job performance?” and “Do you think communication between senior leaders and employees is good?” The latter offers opportunities for negative feedback.
Avoid Yes/No Questions – Angela Sinickas, an authority on measuring engagement, suggests using survey questions crafted as a statement with a five-point scale to provide more insight by measuring sentiment strength. An example is: “My coworkers and I have a good working relationship,” with a scale from “Strongly agree” to “Strongly disagree.” A disengaged employee may answer “yes” out of loyalty or fear of reprisal. They also might give themselves more permission for honesty if a “neutral” or even “disagree” answer is available.
Be Specific – Questions that are not specific can generate misunderstandings when management when interpreting the responses. Asking “I trust the information I receive from management” might put a manager on the hot seat when the employee was instead conveying frustration with corporate level communication. Instead, use “I trust information I receive from my immediate manager” to clarify the question and results.
Know When to Say When
The best way to lower employee engagement is to confront employees with a huge survey that takes them away from doing the work you want them to love. So while it might be tempting to try to gather as much information as possible into one massive epic survey, the results will be better with a shorter, more focused version.
In fact, Gallup – the organization probably best known for polling – claims to have come up with the perfect employee engagement survey. This survey asks participants to rank their responses and consists of only 12 Questions:
- My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
- I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
- I know what is expected of me at work.
- At work, my opinions seem to count.
- I have a best friend at work.
- My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
- At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
- There is someone at work who encourages my development.
- In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
- The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
- This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.
- In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
No matter the format, the primary goal of any survey should be to generate results. Ultimately, this means having to do the hard work of addressing any concerns the survey brings up.