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5 Employee Engagement Survey Best Practices

November 30, 2022 | by SumTotal Blog | 3 min read

As companies strive to retain employees and attract new talent, engagement surveys are useful tools to assess where your organization excels and where it can improve.

No matter what tools you use to deploy a survey, it’s imperative that the questions are clear, structured, and conducive to quality insights.

This blog will give you tips on how to select and phrase questions, along with how to ultimately orchestrate your survey.

What Is an Employee Engagement Survey?

An employee engagement survey is a questionnaire you send out to your workforce to assess how connected each team member feels to their role, their manager, and the overall company.

Why Should Organizations Focus on Employee Engagement?

There’s no doubt about it: Engaged employees are good for business.

According to Gallup, companies that score higher in employee engagement experience 23% higher profitability, while employees who are not engaged cost $7.8 trillion in lost productivity across the globe.

Survey Question Best Practices

Employee engagement isn’t something that happens automatically — rather, it must be earned and cultivated year after year. Deploying a survey is a way to get specific data on areas of improvement that you can then target to bolster future engagement.

To ensure your survey efforts are effective for both your organization and your employees, follow these steps:

1. Include questions on trust, teamwork, and capability

According to Gartner, the markers of employee engagement don’t change — even amid economic downturns and technological shifts. To accurately gauge engagement, Gartner recommends including questions that measure organizational trust, commitment to colleagues, and individual capabilities by asking, “Does your employee feel supported by the organization, their co-workers, and available resources?”

2. Limit each question to one specific topic

With this approach, you set up employees to confidently interpret each question correctly, thereby ensuring that data analysis doesn’t get muddied. A good rule of thumb is to check if a question contains the words “and” or “or,” then to simplify the phrasing as needed. Asking straightforward, specific questions makes it easier to quantify the data — especially when participants are responding on a scale.

3. Keep open-ended

While open-ended or longform response questions provide the opportunity to gather in-depth insight, they also leave room for employees to go on tangents or even rants. You can minimize the likelihood of receiving verbose or unproductive responses by instituting a character limit and asking guided questions like “What steps can the organization take to improve diversity initiatives?” If you want space for open feedback, including an “Additional comments” section separate from the individual survey questions is a good way to capture general thoughts.

4. Supplement annual surveys with pulse surveys

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, pulse surveys are questionnaires composed of fewer questions and sent out more often than annual surveys. Forrester employee experience leaders recommend focusing these surveys on specific areas such as innovation or parental leave, keeping in mind that the frequency with which they should be sent out may vary from company to company. It might take some trial and error to determine the best cadence is for your organization, as you’ll want to send the surveys frequently enough to be useful but not so often that they become a nuisance to your employees.

5. Emphasize anonymity

When you clearly articulate that the survey is anonymous, you’ll be able to garner a higher response rate, more truthful answers, and employee trust. To preserve anonymity, the Society for Human Resource Management doesn’t recommend analyzing teams of fewer than 10 or certain demographics with small sample sizes.

Once you collect responses to your employee engagement survey, you’ll be able to pinpoint areas of long-term improvement along with ways to make an immediate impact. For other ideas on how to keep employees engaged, click here.

To learn how SumTotal can help your organization engage employees through learning and talent development, connect with us today.

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