What to Ask on an Employee Engagement Survey - dummies

What to Ask on an Employee Engagement Survey

By Bob Kelleher

The best surveys about employee engagement contain a blend of closed-ended questions and open-ended questions. Here are a few examples of both types, which you can use yourself or build upon to create your survey.

Don’t ask too many questions, or you run the risk of survey fatigue. As a general rule, 10 questions is not enough, and 100 is too many. Shoot for something in between.

If you’re bootstrapping an employee engagement survey (as opposed to working with a consultant), try writing survey items that measure traits of engaged employees.

Closed-ended employee survey questions

A closed-ended question typically gives people a list of responses to choose from. The answer choices could be as simple as Yes or No, or they may offer more options, such as Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Somewhat Disagree, Somewhat Agree, Agree, Strongly Agree, and Don’t Know.

Following are some examples.

These examples are framed as statements to which respondents would choose from options such as Strongly Disagree, Disagree, and so on, but you could reframe these statements as questions, with a Yes or No response if you prefer.

  • Management gets the best out of everybody at all our work locations.

  • People within the company always treat others with respect.

  • Management shows by their actions that employee training and development are important.

  • Your manager respects your work–life balance.

  • The communication between the company’s management and people at your level is good.

  • Promotions at the company are based on capability rather than tenure.

  • You would like to be working for this organization one year from today.

  • There are real opportunities at the company for meaningful career and professional advancement.

  • Your opinions seem to count.

  • Considering your contribution, you think you are fairly paid compared to others in the company.

  • Someone has talked to you about your progress in the past six months.

  • The company routinely hires the best people.

  • The company tolerates poor performance.

  • Enthusiasm and morale have never been higher.

Close-ended questions enable you to systematically tally up the results of your survey by leveraging technology, saving both time and money. Closed-ended questions also provide a consistent framework for collecting normative data, which is necessary if you’re looking to benchmark against other firms (think “apples-to-apples” comparisons).

Open-ended employee survey questions

Open-ended questions, by their very nature, can’t be answered in just one or two words. For this reason, they’re sometimes known as narrative questions.

Here are some examples of open-ended questions:

  • If you could change just one thing about working for this company, what would it be?

  • What would make you consider changing jobs?

  • Why do you love working for this company?

Your survey should contain only a few open-ended questions to minimize the time required not only to complete the survey but also to evaluate the survey results.

Complementing your closed-ended questionnaire with several open-ended questions (between two and four, max) allows you to seek more specific input on particular item — for example, “What’s the one thing you would change about working here if you could?”

Too many open-ended questions, however, will make it nearly impossible (from an administrative standpoint) to capture and assimilate the results. Also, surveys that include only open-ended questions can’t be quantitatively compared with internal or external benchmark norms.