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How to Develop and Conduct Employee Surveys

Learn how to create employee surveys that can improve your employees’ satisfaction, engagement and performance.

  • Employee surveys should have clear objectives and actionable questions.
  • Share survey results with your team and take action on the key findings.
  • Lengthy employee surveys can be conducted annually, with short pulse surveys conducted more frequently.
  • This article is for employers and company leaders who want to improve their business through employee surveys.

To take the pulse on important topics like employee satisfaction and company culture, businesses should routinely conduct employee surveys. Surveys give employers a better understanding of how their employees view what is happening within the organization and provide insight on what can be improved. To get the most out of your surveys, it is important to understand how they should be developed, conducted and analyzed, as well as how each type can benefit your business.

Types of employee surveys

There are several types of employee surveys you can give depending on what information you are trying to learn about your team. For example, do you want to find out how engaged your employees are? Do you want to learn their views on your company culture?

Here are some of the most common employee surveys:

  • Annual review survey: This survey is conducted once a year to evaluate an employee’s overall performance. The goal is to provide employees with useful feedback about their job performance, create a historical record of their performance and facilitate a path for professional development.
  • Company culture survey: This survey is designed to measure how well a company’s behavior matches its intended values. Results can be used to improve leadership strategies, organizational strategies and future investments.
  • Employee engagement survey: This survey measures how valued employees feel by your organization and leadership. This is especially important for reducing employee turnover.
  • Employee satisfaction survey: This survey measures how content and empowered employees feel. It can cover topics like company policies, job satisfaction, compensation, employee benefits and work-related issues.
  • Exit interview survey: This survey is used when an employee leaves your company and should remain separate from their personnel file. The results can be used to improve your organization and the specific job description/responsibilities for the role that is being vacated.
  • Management performance survey: This survey is similar to the annual review survey, but for management. Employees will take this survey to evaluate how they feel their leadership is performing. The goal is to improve internal communication and increase leadership quality.
  • Onboarding survey: This is given to a new hire after being onboarded. The employee evaluates their overall experience with the recruiting and onboarding process.
  • Pulse survey: This is a short (five minutes to complete) and frequent (conducted weekly, every few weeks or monthly) survey that measures the health of an organization. Employees provide quick insight on topics like job responsibilities, satisfaction, communication and work environment.
  • Training survey: When some form of training is done, you can conduct a training survey to see how effective the process was. This will help establish the best ways to teach your employees.
  • 360 survey: This survey provides a comprehensive look at how well an employee is performing. The employee, as well as a variety of their team members (e.g., managers, colleagues, subordinates), take the survey to compile a 360-degree look at the employee’s performance.

Key takeaway: There are a wide range of surveys you can give employees. The most common surveys measure employee engagement, satisfaction and culture.

How to develop your employee survey

Developing an employee survey that yields actionable results takes careful planning. There are a few elements to each survey that must be considered: the topic, timing, length, format and questions. You also want to determine a frequency schedule – especially for repeat surveys – to ensure you are getting an adequate gauge on your progress.

1. Choose the topic.

Each survey should have a specific focus and goal. It can be tempting to combine various questions about different aspects of your business into one survey. However, this can confuse employees about the true purpose of the survey and leave you with unactionable results. To be relevant to employees, survey topics should acknowledge the current state of what is happening within the company.

2. Consider the timing.

Timing is everything. The key to effective survey development is getting employees to think about their recent experiences from a broader perspective. Consider what events are occurring in your organization that you want to learn more about and prepare corresponding surveys.

Eric Stites, CEO of Franchise Business Review (FBR), an organization that researches employee engagement and satisfaction, said surveys should be concise and timely, but also allow employees time for reflection on certain events or experiences.

“For example, if you have a day of employee training followed immediately by a training effectiveness survey, you will probably receive much higher ratings than you would if you conducted the survey several weeks or months after the training event, when employees can better reflect on what they did and did not learn and how the training session could be improved,” Stites told Business News Daily.

3. Establish a length and frequency.

A survey can provide important details about your company. But, it’s important to only choose a few survey types that are most relevant to your business and goals. For example, while only conducting an annual review likely won’t tell you enough about your company, conducting weekly pulse surveys can lead to survey fatigue. There is a delicate balance of how often to administer surveys, as well as how long each survey should be.

Sarah Skerik, the head of marketing at the employee engagement platform Engagement Multiplier, said that a quarterly cadence of surveys requiring no more than 10 minutes of employees’ time can be optimal for encouraging participation, preventing survey fatigue, and providing leadership with timely and actionable information.

However, the frequency of your employee surveys should also take into account the current climate – like the recent global pandemic. Stites said it is important to survey employees more frequently than the traditional annual employee satisfaction survey of years past.

“Shorter pulse surveys on weekly, biweekly, monthly, and quarterly basis can help small businesses better understand the ebbs and flows of the employee experience, and help companies be much more nimble in addressing key opportunities and challenges to growth,” said Stites. “And keep in mind that employee surveys are critically important for managers and business owners, as well as providing a voice for your employees.”

4. Choose questions that will yield actionable results.

Perhaps one of the most important parts of developing a successful employee survey is determining what questions to ask. Some surveys include a core set of questions to enable a direct comparison of progress over time, and some include customized questions based on timely topics or events. To avoid confusion, each question should only have one variable (e.g., don’t use the word “and”). Additionally, it’s important to ask questions that will result in feedback that can be acted upon.

READ MORE: How to Develop and Conduct Employee Surveys


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