Employee Engagement Surveys, Part 2: Best Practices

May 24, 2023 | Business Development, Government

As discussed last week, an employee engagement survey goes beyond mere employee satisfaction to learn how committed your team is to your company and those you serve. Today, I’ll discuss best practices to ensure that your survey captures the right information and gets the desired response from your employees.

First, let’s look at how the survey should be structured. You can create your survey in-house or hire a vendor to conduct it for you. My experience has been that outsourcing is the better choice, since vendors will guide you through the process, ask the right questions, and provide you with scientifically-significant data. Most vendors will also provide visually interesting charts, such as heat maps, trendlines, and rankings. The primary downside, of course, is that there is a cost for these services.

Whether you outsource or develop the survey in-house, you will need to develop a questionnaire. This includes demographic information, including age, gender, department, region, and years of service. The key is to provide ranges for each answer (for example, age ranges like 18-25, 26-35, 36-50, etc., or, for years of service, less than 1 year, 1-5 years, 6-10 years, etc.). Be careful not to stratify the information so precisely that you can identify a particular respondent’s answers. It is extremely important to ensure anonymity through the process to make it more likely employees will provide answers that reflect their true experience.

Also, we recommend using a Likert scale for relevant questions, which asks respondents to choose a number between 1-5, with each number representing Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neither Agree or Disagree, Agree, and Strongly Agree. This makes it easy to obtain an average score for each question.

Once you’re ready to launch, you will need to inform potential respondents when and why you are conducting the survey. The CEO should send an email announcing the start date and how long the survey will be open. In my experience, 10-12 days is a good range, in case employees are on vacation or ill. It is also prudent to send a reminder in the middle and toward the end to solicit additional responses. We were very aggressive, striving for an 80 percent response rate, which we were able to achieve. 

Now, let’s consider what questions you should ask. A good place to start is with the questions recommended by Gallup, an organization with 75 years of experience in conducting polls, including employee engagement studies that have reached more than over 2.7 million workers in 50 different industries. The following questions developed by Gallup have been identified as the best indicators of employee engagement. Because these specific questions are the property of Gallup, it’s important to modify them. However, they provide a good starting point. 

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work my opinion seems to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months someone has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Asking the right questions, in the right way, is critical to an effective employee engagement survey. But nothing is more important than what we’ll discuss next week: sharing the results and acting on them.

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