The Best Questions for Your Employee Engagement Survey

October 17, 2016 Pete Jansons

Computer key showing the word Feedback. Message on keyboard key.

As a small business owner with many things going on at any given time, it can be easy to miss signs of dissatisfaction among your employees. But the last thing you need is low morale and high turnover, so it pays to get a pulse on your team. Thoughtful, regular employee engagement surveys can help you do just that.

Instead of asking any old questions, however, select ones that will provide insight on how to make your small business a better place to work. Your aim should be to gather usable information, not a pat on the back. What should you include? Consider questions that get to the heart of these small business concerns, such as:

Stress: A smaller staff means employees often must juggle multiple tasks and venture into areas outside of their comfort zones. Wearing many hats can be exciting, but it can also potentially be exhausting. Likewise, long hours and pressure to do more with less can take a toll on morale. To gauge how individuals are handling such demands, ask questions such as:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your work-life balance?
  • What word(s) would you use to describe your feelings or mood at the end of most workdays?
  • When something unexpected or confusing comes up in your work, do you usually know where to turn for help?
  • Which of the following (if any) would you consider helpful for performing your job: time-management training, more consistent feedback, clarification of priorities, flexible work schedule?
  • The majority of the time, do you feel you have enough information to make good decisions about your work?
  • What is the number one source of stress for you at the office, and what might lessen it?


Opportunity for growth: Employees who cannot envision career advancement at your small business become likely candidates to leave. Judge how much optimism workers have for their future at your company with questions such as:

  • Where do you see yourself in one year?
  • What types of training or development interest you most?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rank the long-term career opportunities at this company?
  • How challenged do you feel in your current role?


Knowledge of your brand: Studies have shown that employees become more engaged when they understand how what they do fits into the overall purpose of the company. Similarly, workers with a clear understanding of your brand can be your small business’s best ambassadors in terms of generating excitement among both potential customers and prospective hires. Ensure team members do indeed have a firm grasp of operations through questions like:

  • Do you feel you have a solid picture of the company’s future direction?
  • If someone asked you about our brand, how much confidence do you have that your response would be accurate?
  • How important do you feel your work is to the success of the company?
  • Has your role in meeting company objectives been effectively explained?


Company culture: When you work in close quarters and depend heavily on co-workers, maintaining good relationships is a necessity. Bad morale can spread quickly throughout the whole place and take a toll on the company culture. Feedback generated from these questions provides insight on feelings about the workplace and how well everyone gets along:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how prominent is office politics in this workplace?
  • What two words would you use to describe our workplace’s vibe?
  • How well does leadership respond to internal issues?
  • How comfortable are you speaking up about problems?
  • Would you recommend working here to a friend? Why or why not?


Whichever questions you ultimately select, be prepared to act on what you learn. Asking people how they feel about something and then failing to address problems can create hard feelings — and good luck getting them to take future surveys seriously.

Want more advice and resources for building your small business? Learn about the essential elements of a standout recruitment strategy. You can also sign up to get the Small Business Recruitment-in-a-Box toolkit, compliments of CareerBuilder.


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