The 6 Things Every Employee Engagement Survey Should Include


Please, do us all a favor and stop surveying your employees.  

But if you do, read this first.  

Most organizations survey their employees at least once a year. They send out a long list of questions to magically measure how engaged their employees are. They collect information about salaries and benefits, feedback and internal communications.  

But here's the problem. They don't work.  

"We actually see a spike in turnover after engagement surveys."

Not only are they really time consuming (it takes an average of 20 hours to produce and analyze one of these surveys) - they aren't proven to work.  

Should you collect feedback from your employees? Absolutely. In fact, every healthy organization that I work with does them. But they do them differently.  

So what makes the difference between doing an employee engagement survey that is "so-so", and one that is "OH YEAH!"?  

Here are my 6 big tips:

1. Make it as short as possible.

No one likes spending 15 minutes on a survey we’re not sure will make a difference. It takes less than 5 minutes to vote for the President – don’t take much longer than that! 

2. Be careful to not make everything multiple choice.

A big mistake surveyors make is helpful for them in the short term but dangerous for their retention. They want quick information and opt for multiple choice on nearly every question. That limits your participant's ability to share their real feelings.  

3. Be intentional to collect the terms and phrases your employees are using.

That information will then inform your actions, your programs, and your campaigns. Make sure you use the words they use. You may think “communication” is the key problem your employees want to see a fix. But they may say “my boss doesn’t trust me.” How you phrase your solutions should mirror how they phrase their problem.  

4. Empower them to come up with a solution.

Get them on board with a solution, rather than helplessly responding to a survey. Ask your participants how they would fix it (giving at least two ideas). You will be amazed at the ideas that your team members have.  

5. End positive rather than negative.

Many of these surveys I am asked to analyze get even me depressed by the end. They pull out all of the negative things about work and then you have to go back to work. Yuk! Restructure your surveys so your team is excited about being a part of the solution by the end. Use the survey to collect information, but also use it to soft-sell how great it is to work at your company.  

6. Tell them what you plan on using the information for – and be honest.

If this is just part of a random engagement survey, then share why you want to regularly check in on them. If this is to help inform a new program, set their expectations and ask their feedback for a particular purpose. You will get more honest feedback and higher participation rates.  

And before you do ANYTHING, start by discovering how much your turnover is actually costing.  

If you have no idea, you can click here to use the calculator we use to measure turnover costs (hint: it's usually MUCH higher than you think). You can use that same calculator to measure the return on investment of developing a better program for listening and acting on the feedback your employees give.  

More on that later.

"Everyone knows the problems, but very few ask those individuals who complain if they want to help make it better."  

Next, conduct surveys with focus groups. Most organizations survey their employees to death. We ask questions about their benefits, their managers, the snacks in the breakroom - everything! But do we spend as much time inviting our employees to be a part of the solution?  

Engagement surveys without follow up focus groups are dangerous. We actually see a spike in turnover after engagement surveys.  

Employees are more aware of makes them unhappy at work and when nothing happens weeks later, they seek other opportunities. What gets most leaders is it is often for less money or doesn’t bump their career.  

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