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How to Create Employee Engagement Surveys That Get Honest Answers

Laurah MwirichiaLast updated on September 18, 2023
6 min

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Team morale can be hard to gauge. However, knowing how well your team is doing is key to making informed decisions that benefit both your team and your organization. Although there are many ways to measure engagement and morale in the workplace, the most accurate way to know is to ask people directly. Employee engagement surveys let you get the information straight from your team, while maintaining the honesty and privacy of each team member.

What is an employee engagement survey designed to do?

An employee survey is a tool that is used to get feedback from staff, leadership and other people in the company to measure engagement, morale, and performance. They can also be used to measure employee views, attitudes, and commitment to the team or organization.

When they are thoughtfully designed and implemented, employee engagement surveys can raise the level of engagement in the workplace by bringing up important topics and inspiring necessary change. However, a poorly designed employee survey may not only cost you wasted time, but lost trust as well.

What are you trying to measure?

Before you start designing an employee survey, consider what you want to measure. Are you more interested in business performance or personal morale? Are you concerned about declining productivity or increasing turnover? Knowing what you want to ask before selecting your employee engagement survey questions will help you format it in a way that benefits both sides.

Here are some tips to help you get started on making an effective employee engagement survey.

1. Clear Questions

There is nothing that will make someone not want to voluntarily give you information, than making it hard for them to do so. When it comes to creating a survey, make sure the questions you’re asking are clear and understandable. You will not get very useful responses if people are too busy trying to figure out what your question is asking.

Also keep in mind that clarity also comes with familiarity. Asking the right questions, is key. Don’t fall into the trap of re-appropriating an old sales survey or general company survey for a customer success team. Ask meaningful questions that are specific, and that relate to them, their work, and the tools they use.

Make the questions concise

Many people think that making a survey long means that you’ll get better, more comprehensive answers. This isn’t always the case. Studies show that the more questions that are asked in a survey, the less time that people will spend responding to each question. This can seriously degrade the quality of your data, especially towards the end of your survey.

It might be hard, but try to limit your survey questions to the most important ones to keep your team for getting “survey fatigue.”

2. User Friendly

Beyond looking at just the survey questions, take a good look at the employee survey as a whole. How does the entire thing look? Something as simple as the type of font you choose can set the tone of the survey. Is it authoritative, or whimsical, or something in between?

Make sure your visuals are also in line with what you’re trying to achieve. Putting a survey on an incredibly bright or hard to read on background will make it very hard for people to focus. Keep in mind that not all colors translate the same way. You may have some people in the organization who are color blind- so using something like red and green can not only be distracting, but may make it impossible for an employee to read.

3. Sensible Scoring

Pay attention to how you want your answers to look. Are you planning on having people respond on a ranking scale (1-4) or having open-ended questions? They both have positives as well as drawbacks. On one hand, open-ended questions take more time which can exhaust people and make them less likely to respond meaningfully as the survey goes on. On the other hand, you’re also more likely to get more nuanced answers.

The ranking method also has its pros and cons. It’s quicker, and has higher response rates because people are generally willing to do the work. It’s also easier to sift through the survey data and compile a report. However, the feedback you get will be less nuanced than when using the open-ended questions format.

Both methods are great and have their pros and cons depending on what you’re looking to find. However if you’re interested in a ranking method, try to have an even number and remove the ‘neutral’ option. This makes people really think about how they feel. Be sure to add a N/A option, so that if it truly does not apply, then the team member can have that available to them, without having to guess and possibly skew your results.

4. Good Work Environment

Where someone takes a survey makes a huge difference in how they respond. When team members are in a comfortable work environment, they are more likely to be engaged and to think about their answers- giving you useful employee feedback. However, if people are uncomfortable, their responses may very well mirror their current situation than their actual thoughts on your questions.

Privacy and anonymity are key. While giving a survey, you want to be sure that employees have a chance to be as honest as possible. For that to happen, you need to give them room to breathe. Make sure that the survey can be taken in a private space and that the responses are anonymous. This may mean making sure that the survey is mobile-friendly so they can take it on their phone or somewhere private, especially in offices with an open floor plan. Thankfully, there are many online resources, like SurveyMonkey or Typeform, that you can use to make and conduct anonymous employee surveys.

5. Relay Feedback

There is nothing more demoralizing than putting energy and effort into something and never seeing the results. That includes surveys. When someone participates in an employee engagement survey, it shows that they are willing to to be open and honest about the questions. In return they expect to know the results.

Showing the results of an employee engagement survey can be difficult for the person administering it. However, there are lot of great reasons why it’s important to show survey results at the end of the day. For one, it means the answers were not just relegated to a trash heap in the back of your company ‘to do’ list. It shows that you take employee feedback seriously, care about their opinions, and value their insights.

Secondly, it builds trust. Transparency is one of the best ways to build trust between you and your employees. We know it can be hard to be transparent, especially if the survey results did not out as great as you expected. However, keeping the results to yourself only makes people feel isolated and not listened to and that can start to affect the work environment. Remember that your team is on your side, and you all have the same goals. Focus on the truly exceptional scores (1’s and 4’s) as indicators of things that are going really well, or that need immediate improvement. You can’t do this without engaged employees, so having your team on board from the start will help you get the results you need in the workplace

Employee engagement surveys don’t have to be complicated. If used correctly, they can be a great way to get much needed insight to the team’s mindset and level of morale, helping you help your team!

Published on January 28, 2019.

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