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The 9 Questions that Should Be in Every Employee Engagement Survey

High employee engagement survey scores shouldn’t be the ultimate goal of the survey; better business performance should

The employee engagement survey is probably the most common way for managers to understand what their teams think of their jobs and the firm that employs them.

In fact, 92% of companies run employee engagement surveys and, despite their ubiquity, they remain an important measure: 80% of senior leaders believe good employee engagement is a critical part of achieving their business objectives, according to CEB data.

The problem is that managers from all parts of a company (from a senior IT exec to a regional product manager) have grown so accustomed to counting on the employee engagement survey for data and to chart their own contributions to the firm that they rarely pause to think about the business outcomes that the coveted increase in engagement should lead to. Although teams work hard to produce the right survey, they rarely think about how it should be doing the same for them.

From the Wrong Questions…

Traditional employee engagement survey questions are designed to assess employees’ happiness and contentment with their role and the firm. Surveys often ask, “Do you receive enough recognition?”, “Does your manager care about you as a person?”, “Do you have a best friend at work?” Moreover, companies will often provide flashy offices and perks to keep workers happy.

This all makes sense. In the face of near constant change and growing uncertainty, businesses are scrambling to keep their workers feeling positive about the company and change itself, especially given the troubling data that change can seriously harm performance.

But, while a positive attitude and commitment do help, CEB research shows that the top three drivers of employee performance have many times the power of mere sentiment. These are “an understanding and connection to company goals,” “a commitment to co-workers,” and “having the right capabilities”.

…To the Right Questions

When coming up with employee engagement survey questions, managers should keep three elements in mind above all else. This will help them frame the employee engagement survey questions to accomplish their ultimate objective – improving employee performance.

  1. Understanding and connection to company goals: To succeed in their job, employees need to understand how they fit within the rest of the organization. The successful implementation of a meticulously formulated strategy depends upon employees’ alignment to corporate goals, yet 61% of senior executives admit that they’re struggling to bridge the gap between their ideas and day-to-day implementation.

    So it is crucial that the engagement survey shows whether employees understand the firm’s goals and the link between their own work and these objectives.

    Ask yourself: Do your questions reveal whether employees try to get their job done “despite the strategy,” or in a way that intentionally contributes to strategic goals?

  2. A commitment to co-workers: One of the attributes that marks out high-performing employees is that they learn from and teach each other. A changing and ever more global working environment means that all employees must be as comfortable working with someone on another continent as they are with the person in the cube or office next to them.

    The importance of complementary competencies, values, and working styles requires a shift from glorifying superstars to encouraging strong network performance as well as individual task performance.

    Ask yourself: Will your questions help you understand whether employees are part of a multidisciplinary, collaborative team that helps them complete their best work?

  3. The right capabilitiesCapability – which consists of an employee’s comprehension, agility, network they work in, direction, and their expectations – is the most impactful contributor to high performance during periods of significant change.

    It alone has over three times the impact of commitment to change itself, and CEB analysis shows that employees who have high commitment and low capability are actually 18% more likely to suffer from change-related stress, which leads to poor performance.

    Ask yourself: Do your questions check whether employees are aware of and confident enough to make use of the tools, information, and people that can help them navigate change?

The Top 9 Employee Engagement Survey Questions

Distilling down all of the above, here are the top nine survey questions that will help managers look for the kind of meaningful engagement that can improve employee performance.

  1. Do you understand the strategic goals of the broader organization?

  2. Do you know what you should do to help the company meet its goals and objectives?

  3. Can you see a clear link between your work and the company’s goals and objectives?

  4. Are you proud to be a member of your team?

  5. Does your team inspire you to do your best work?

  6. Does your team help you to complete your work?

  7. Do you have the appropriate amount of information to make correct decisions about your work?

  8. Do you have a good understanding of informal structures and processes at the organization?

  9. When something unexpected comes up in your work, do you usually know who to ask for help?

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7 Responses

  • Himanshu says:

    What does this question really mean?
    “Does your team help you to effectively complete my work?”
    Moreover, the questions look more like some assessment test than engagement survey.

  • Nash Rich says:

    I think surveys are a great way to collect data, but as long as the questions are good. I feel like it would be hard to find the questions that are just right. I think it’s really important for employees to feel and understand how they fit into the puzzle. I think when employees understand their purpose, they perform better.

  • Martin says:

    I think these questions would benefit from being opened up instead of asking for yes/no answers. Partly to get better understanding, and partly to reduce the social pressures to carelessly answer ‘correctly’ to each one.

    So (1) could be “Which strategic goals do you strongly identify/agree with, and which less so?”.

    This should, ideally, not just be used as a measure of how much more the company strategies should be ‘messaged’, but also how they might be modified.

    • Victoria Evans says:

      Hi Martin,
      I agree that opening up the questions would give participants a chance to expand. However, it is more difficult to measure. Typically, I would have a statement, rather than a question.
      ie. Instead of ‘Are you proud to be a member of your team?’, you would have ‘I am proud to be a member of my team’ and then a multiple choice for Strongly Agree, Agree, (Neutral), Disagree, Strongly Disagree.
      You can always leave a comment box as well, however the core ability to measure responses comes from having uniform answers, with the option to expand further.
      I’m personally not a fan of a ‘neutral’ option, as I would prefer for people to swing one way or the other! You can also use a 7 point scale.

  • Great article – I see these surveys guiding overall company strategy. They don’t really give the day-to-day insights though, which is something pulse surveys are much better at.

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