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A Beginner’s Guide to Conducting Effective Employee Surveys

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Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can't measure something, you can't understand it. If you can't understand it, you can't control it. If you can't control it, you can't improve it. ― H. James Harrington

No matter what you do or how far you've come, there is always room for improvement. It's the 21st century, and unless you're living under a rock, you understand that employee engagement is imperative for the growth of any business. It is the only definite way to take your business to its heights and sustain it.

It's a no-brainer that every company must keep working towards improving the policies and procedures. Making the organization more and more employee-focused is a prime agenda. But the question is how to do it?

Based on every new set of data emerging around employee experience, the only definitive thing is that employee engagement is complex. Employee satisfaction, employee motivation, and employee morale are all driven by different factors across different organizations.

In this case, the only way to understand your workforce is to identify the key concerns within the organization. And that can only be done through measurement or quantification of various aspects of the organization.

Here comes the role of Employee Surveys.

Why are employee surveys still the best way to quantify the attitude of employees?

Conducting employee surveys is not a new concept. For decades, employee opinion surveys have been a part of organizational culture. It's normal to skeptical about their effectiveness in today's dynamic work environment. But the truth is, they are still uber-effective!

Employee surveys can pave the way towards success and fulfillment of goals when they are effectively curated. When you use the right tools, the right metrics, ask the right questions at the right time, an employee survey can be the most powerful tool to reveal employee insights.

Benefits of Conducting Employee Surveys:

1. Empower your employees:

Foster a conducive work environment where your employees feel empowered. Simply filling out the survey questionnaire gives your employees a channel to express their views, concerns, and thoughts.

It gives them assurance that you hear their voices and their opinions matter to the organization.

2. Facilitates Communication:

Listening is the secret weapon of good leaders. And employee surveys are most efficient in serving the purpose of conveying messages. When regular surveys become part of the company culture, they become a communication channel between the employees and the management. It enhances internal communication and bridges the gap.

Also, when the organization's size is large, surveys become the easiest way of communicating with the upper management or the higher authorities.

3. The only way to gain an understanding of your workforce:

You won't get answers until and unless you ask the questions. Various factors such as employee turnover rates, engagement levels, employee absenteeism, participation in events, etc., can indicate the organization's concerns.

But only by asking the right questions and analyzing the results can you correctly identify the ongoing issues. Surveys reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the organization. It can be the catalyst for organizational change.

4. The Best predictor of your employees' behavior:

To run a business smoothly, you need to understand and predict your employees' future actions.
Questions like:

How long they see themselves in the organization?
Do they have an emotional connection with the company?
Is the workplace facilitating the professional growth of the employees?

The results of such questions can give HR managers valuable insights.

They can help management in planning their employee engagement and employee retention efforts. It becomes easier to identify ways to motivate employees, increase job satisfaction and improve the bottom line.

5. Identify lesser-known/ unreported issues:

Managing people is a humongous task. Many things go on in the organization that might often go unnoticed by the management. When these underlying or unreported issues go on for a more extended period, they have repercussions on the productivity and performance of employees. Employee surveys can help you identify these issues and take necessary measures.

6. Setting benchmarks

Surveys are an excellent way to set the benchmark for companies. It is the only way organizations can keep track of their employee engagement levels, scientifically and objectively.

You can also set benchmarks within the company. You can keep asking the same survey questions to your employee population after fixed intervals. Tracking the answer will help you analyze the progress of your efforts.

A step-by-step approach to conducting successful employee surveys

Setting Goals for the Survey:

The first step to conducting employee surveys is to brainstorm what the company wants to uncover from the survey.

You might want to have multiple discussions with the decision-makers and different levels of management before defining the purpose of the survey. Make a note to discuss the expectations and predict outcomes from the survey. The entire survey should have one primary theme, and the questions shouldn't be too ambiguous.

You can follow the SMART Goals setting technique. Paul J. Meyer described the SMART Goal setting methodology in his 2003 book, "Attitude Is Everything: If You Want to Succeed Above and Beyond."

SMART stands for:

Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
Achievable (agreed, attainable).
Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, timely, time-sensitive).

Having this strategy in mind will help you in curating a compelling set of questionnaires.


There are various categories of employee surveys, each one dealing with a distinct broad area. Here are the most common and must-have employee survey types:

Employee Engagement Surveys

Employee Satisfaction Surveys

Organizational Culture Surveys

Business Process Feedback Surveys

360-Degree Feedback Surveys

Onboarding Surveys

Exit Surveys

Another critical factor to consider is the mode of the survey. Let's take a quick look at the most popular Employee Survey types:

Pulse Surveys:

Pulse Survey is gaining much popularity lately, and it is also arguably the most effective employee survey type. These surveys typically have a smaller scale of rating and a fewer number of questions in the survey. They often focus on key themes and are conducted monthly or quarterly, or even weekly. They give a quick snapshot of the company's health, hence the name "pulse". They offer an analysis of improvement and are pretty effective in tracking employee engagement levels.

Recommended Article: A Brief Guide On Employee Pulse Surveys

Kiosk Survey:

Employee Kiosk Survey is a quick survey where the kiosk (a device: tablet, iPad, or dedicated Survey kiosk in standalone mode) is placed in high traffic areas of the office. Employees can provide your company or department quick feedback by completing a survey. They can tap a range of smiley faces to respond to the corresponding survey question displayed. These are particularly effective in big-size organizations to get real-time trends and insights.

Annual Survey:

Conducting Annual surveys is the oldest form of measurement of employee satisfaction. Traditionally they are used by leaders to gain feedback, measure performance, and track engagement. Typically these are long-form of surveys with at least 50 questions. These forms of surveys are slowly becoming non-existent. However, they are still helpful in creating a baseline, setting benchmarks, and finding areas for improvement.

Likert Scale:

Another popular employee survey tool is the Likert 5-point Likert Scale. It measures attitudes and opinions by posing a series of questions. The respondents have to answer a scale ranging from "completely agree" to "completely disagree".

How Google does it?

Google has been the flagbearer for implementing best employee engagement practices in the past decade. Let's take a quick look at how they run their employee surveys.

So, Google developed an amazing software to track employee attitudes in the workplace. The software allowed members to do a 10-minute pulse check on the following five elements:

  • Psychological safety: Team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other.

  • Dependability: Team members get things done on time and meet Google's high bar for excellence.

  • Structure & clarity: Team members have clear roles, plans, and goals.

  • Meaning: Work is personally important to team members.

  • Impact: Team members think their work matters and create change.

After that, they hold a live in-person chat to talk about the test results. In addition to that, Google provides resources to help teams improve across these five areas.

Designing the Questionnaire:

Here are some additional points for designing the questionnaire:

1. Keep your questions short and simple:

Your employees will probably be answering the questions during work hours. Therefore, making the survey too long is a bad idea. They might get irritated or distracted. Keep the questions simple and avoid using jargon. Also, try to arrange the question in the most logical manner so that the transition from one question to the next is smooth. Find some ideas here.

2. Maintaining Anonymity:

If the purpose of your employee survey is to garner honest and reliable data, maintaining confidentiality and anonymity is a top requirement. Online survey responses must be kept confidential and within the parameters of The Data Protection Act. When the respondents are aware that their answers are confidential, it has a psychological impact on their minds, and response rates improve.

3. The frequency of the survey:

Surveys are not only means of uncovering answers but are also strong drivers of organizational change. To track the progress of various procedures and policies of the company, make surveys frequent and regular. Conducting regular surveys helps you in building a culture of continuous evaluation and improvement.

Boosting Participation Rates:

Another primary concern for management is increasing participation rates in Employee surveys. You spend a significant amount of time and money building the survey questionnaire. To reap maximum benefit, you must ensure that the participation rates are high.

Here are a few tips to boost your survey participation rates:

  • Convey the purpose of the survey. Let them know that their responses are precious.

  • Don't waste their time. Keep the survey simple, short, and relevant. Also, give them the option to skip a particular question if they don't feel like answering.

  • Notify your employees about the survey via emails or announcements.

  • Be flexible and considerate in terms of the time taken to complete the survey.

  • Make them feel appreciated for participation in the survey. Add a personalized thank you note at the end of the survey.

  • Offer incentivization. Offering even small incentives can boost participation rates.

  • Optimize the survey for multiple channels like mobiles, computers, etc.

  • Provide an open-ended option where they can type in their comments.

After the Survey:

Curating the questionnaire and running the survey is not even half the battle won. The actual job begins only after gathering the survey responses. Once the survey is completed, you must review it in great detail. You might first want to look for common areas of company strengths and weaknesses. It is vital to categorize the data and organize it accordingly. You can classify them into behavior patterns, psychographics, and demographics. Additionally, it is advisable to summarize the entire survey and make a report out of it.

Many organizations choose to share the results with the respondents, while others keep the results only to the management. Sharing the data with employees builds transparency. Everybody gets a clearer snapshot of the current status of the company.

The real success of the employee survey comes down to taking the required actions. After all, the whole purpose of surveys is the improvement and not just unearthing issues. There cannot be a more significant failure for a survey than doing nothing about the results. So, even before running the survey, be prepared for implementing changes in the organization.

This article is written by Darshana Dutta. She works as a Content Creator and Digital Marketer at Vantage Circle. She writes extensively on trends around employee engagement and transforming company culture. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com

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