How to Create an Effective Employee Engagement Survey

February 15, 2018 Sarah Sipek

Developing an effective employee engagement survey can be a daunting task. Though some may assume it’s as easy as putting together a few questions and sending them out to your employees to answer, the truth is that creating an employee engagement survey that will bring value to your organization requires a detailed project plan—just like any other business initiative. And that takes time and effort.

As with any other project, you should begin with the end-goal in mind. The goal of a good employee engagement survey should be to help your company identify and build upon its strengths so that you can ultimately find a competitive edge within your respective industry. Engaged employees are proven to perform better and deliver better results, so you want to measure their current engagement levels and gather employee input on what would help boost engagement at your organization.

Arriving at this valuable data takes time. Below is a step-by-step process you can follow to create an employee engagement survey that adds value to your organization:

1. Measure your starting point. Begin by creating a baseline to help track progress and the success of your future employee engagement strategies. This means asking employees for their honest feedback on how things are currently going. While it may seem uncomfortable to solicit potential criticism, doing so will create an open line of communication and ultimately help you change your company culture for the better.

2. Get leadership buy-in. In order for any real change to occur in your company, you’ll need the support of your senior leaders. Involve them in the process during the planning phase so you can identify survey objectives together. This way they will have a vested interest in taking action based on the results your survey will gather.

Start the conversation by asking questions such as “What should the role of senior leadership be in the survey and the following engagement process?” and “What does success look like?” so they understand—and invest in—the value the survey will bring.

3. Set objectives. You can’t measure everything. And you can’t fix everything at once. So this is the time to be discerning. Identify high priority objectives, focusing especially on areas where productivity is currently dropping. Hear everyone out, but in the end, try and keep the survey short-and-sweet so your employees aren’t overwhelmed.

4. Communicate all details clearly. Being open and honest with your employees from the get-go will help you gather better data in the end. Make sure they understand the what, why when and how of the survey process. A lack of details could lead to mistrust, and that’s not the environment you want to create before you ask your employees for their honest opinion of how your company is currently operating.

So be clear about survey plans and objectives and emphasize that the results will be anonymous, so there is no fear of retribution.

5. Design the survey. Keep the KISS principle—Keep it simple, stupid—in mind when creating your survey. An overly complex, or lengthy, survey will be daunting to employees, and they either wont’ complete it or will rush through to finish. Aim to design a survey that takes 15 minutes or less to complete. And include a collection of open-ended and close-ended questions so you can collect both qualitative and quantitative data.

6. Be mindful of cultural differences. If your organization spans multiple countries, it’s important to make sure your survey is understood by all your employees. So check for cultural accuracy and sensitivity. Have a native speaker conduct translations so the messaging stays unified across different global offices.

7. Share the results. As we said before, transparency is key when conducting an employee engagement survey. Once the results have been tabulated and interpreted, share them with your employees. The best way to do so is in smaller meetings where the leaders in your organization discuss the results with their direct reports so they feel included in the process.

8. Take action. Now that you have your data, it’s time to start making changes. Compare your results to your objectives and set goals for how you want to improve in terms of engagement and business success. From there, you’ll strategize and begin putting programs in place to reach those goals.

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