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Guide to Running Better Employee Engagement Surveys in 2024

Table of Contents

Picture this: it’s about 11:30 a.m. Lunch is still a little way off, and your employees’ energy is flagging. Rather than getting work done, you look up from your office. The first thing you notice? Employees aren’t working. They’re sleeping.

That would obviously be a bad thing. But lack of employee engagement isn’t always as obvious as that. Maybe your employees aren’t bold enough to take naps at the office, but if they’re not engaged, the effect is the same. If they’re not invested in the work, they’re not energized. And if they’re not energized, they’re not devoting their full skills to the work.

Multiply that by an entire company of 500—or 5,000—and see how this can affect the bottom line.

According to Gallup, only 32% of surveyed employees felt engaged in their work in 2022. If not even one out of three employees is interested in the work they’re doing, everything else suffers:

  • Poor accountability
  • Lackluster communication
  • Poor employee retention
  • Company morale problems, especially when lack of engagement spreads to others
Smiling Employee Sitting at Desk with Glasses On

You can’t build an effective company if your employees don’t feel invested in the work you do. But here’s the trick: to manage employee engagement, you have to measure it. And that’s a problem. How exactly do you put a number on something as vague and hard-to-define as “feeling disengaged at work”?

The answer is the employee engagement survey. A well-constructed survey can assess your current engagement levels. You can then use those insights to improve your company culture by improving accountability, communication, and morale. 

Here’s how to use an employee engagement survey to reinvigorate those employees before they nod off at their desks.

What is an employee engagement survey?

Defining the employee engagement survey

An employee engagement survey is a questionnaire businesses use to gather anonymous feedback from their employees. With this survey, you’re trying to evaluate a few things: their engagement level, current job satisfaction, and overall company experience.

The goal? You’re taking an indefinable quality (how engaging the work is) and turning it into something you can measure, track, and improve.

These surveys typically include questions about how employees feel connected to not only their work, but their colleagues and their leadership. Ideally, the answers will give you actionable insights for steps you can take to improve.

Purpose and objectives of conducting engagement surveys

It’s simple: the goal is to engage. But if you don’t get more specific in addressing employee concerns, “engagement” becomes too nebulous a term. So get specific. These surveys should have key goals, including:

  • Assessing subjective engagement levels. Your first goal? Learn how engaged employees feel. You’ll typically use 1-10 scales to help track and measure these feelings so you have some hard data.
  • Looking for key areas of improvement. Your survey won’t be useful if you can’t find the next steps to address the engagement. Is communication bad at your company? Are management practices and leadership to blame? Surveys should include questions like these to assess where your focus should be.
  • Creating baselines to assess changes over time. An employee engagement survey is not a one-and-done thing. They’re there to assess your success in boosting engagement, too. To accomplish that, you’ll have to take multiple surveys to watch your progress over time. You can always adjust strategies as necessary.
  • Boosting employee retention. Hopefully, your surveys won’t just tell you about engagement. They’ll tell you about the core reasons employees who leave are leaving—and what you can do to prevent turnover. According to Gallup, something as simple as employee turnover costs companies trillions of dollars annually.
  • Improving productivity. The more engaged your employees are, the more work they’ll tend to do. This basic bottom-line boost in productivity will impact every project and employee initiative.
  • Improving overall company performance. More morale? More retention? Better productivity? If employees are engaged at work, it seeps into everything they do. It also fosters a much better work environment, which boosts your bottom line.

Employees sitting at a table in an office working on a project

What’s the difference between employee engagement and employee satisfaction?

You might be wondering: “I already ran a basic satisfaction survey and things seem okay. Why do I need this new survey when I already know what my employees care about?”

It’s because there’s a distinct difference between engagement and satisfaction. Though there’s plenty of overlap, knowing this difference helps.

  • Employee engagement is all about the employee’s commitment. Are they communicating? Are they coming into work energized? Do they feel like they’re invested in the company’s success? And does that investment show up in the way they approach every project? If they’re enthusiastic about the work they do, they’re happier to throw more of their work behind your company’s well-being.
  • Employee satisfaction is more about how employees feel about current working conditions. Salary can lead to high satisfaction even if they’re not particularly engaged, for example. Other elements—like benefits and job security—also keep employees satisfied. The problem? Employee satisfaction ends and the employee. Their engagement with the work might be unaffected, which doesn’t help your company get the most out of their satisfaction. 

Employee engagement is about satisfaction, true. But it’s also about the conversation between your business and the employee. Satisfaction is the employee’s happiness. But engagement is more about the mutual benefit when an employee enjoys their work and helps improve your company.

What makes an employee engagement survey valuable?

  • Finding key insights. Job satisfaction is one key insight. But an employee engagement survey goes deeper than that. It also highlights key reasons for employee morale issues.
  • Identifying areas of improvement. An engagement survey done right won’t just give you an assessment of your employees’ morale. It will help you identify areas to improve. Is leadership not communicative enough? Do employees fail to see the connection between their hard work and the incentives you provide? If so, these surveys will highlight those disconnects so you can improve them.
  • Understanding employees’ attitudes. It’s easy to blame employees for lack of engagement. But when you understand why they’re disengaged, it helps inform leadership about your company culture and what’s going wrong.
  • Fueling decision-makers with key data. HR and management can’t “boost employee engagement” without any clear direction on what to do. If you’re going to launch a new engagement initiative, you need to approach it strategically. Employee engagement surveys offer you the data that help make these decisions more accurate.
  • Building a culture of open communication. Employees who get an opportunity to tell you what they think often appreciate the fact that they get a say. This is especially true if they can draw a connection between the feedback they offer and the initiatives you launch. They might not feel like management, but they know you take their feedback seriously. That alone can foster more engagement at work because they feel like they have some control.

What are the key benefits of an employee engagement survey?

Let’s get specific. What is “engagement”? It’s more than simply not nodding off at work. It’s about what employees bring to the table. 

According to Gallup, engaged employees are “involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.” An engaged employee is giving you more of their effort and attention. That doesn’t only feed into the quality of the work they produce, but has a noticeable impact on morale. If team members see other employees engaged, it sets a new standard for the kind of work that goes on at your company.

But let’s get more specific. What are the quantifiable benefits to running an employee engagement survey? Use those surveys to improve engagement and here’s what you can expect:

Improved productivity

Engaged employees put more into their work. This is something we can measure on the bottom line. For example, did you know that companies with high employee engagement tend to be 21% more profitable? And that’s on average. Clearly, there’s a direct connection between the engagement of your employees and the quality of their work.

Higher employee retention rates

We’ve previously highlighted how employee turnover is a trillion-dollar problem for businesses. Every time you lose an employee due to low engagement, you have to create new investments for recruiting, training, and onboarding new employees. Employee engagement surveys help you track the specific reasons your employees are leaving. 

Let’s say, for example, your survey points out that employees want more opportunities to advance their careers. You then launch a new initiative designed to help. According to a Better Buys study, employees who get those opportunities are 15% more engaged at work—and stay at their companies 34% more often.

Better workplace culture

Surveys can highlight if there are any holes in your company culture. And since company culture can affect everything at your company—from engagement to morale—any improvements you make can have wide-reaching effects.

Good company culture creates a positive feedback loop on employee engagement. In one study, 75% of companies with “very successful” company cultures had extremely positive outlooks on their business success. Without a successful culture, that number dropped to 21%.

Enhanced communication

One reason companies sometimes suffer from poor engagement is that they don’t know what engages employees. That comes down to poor communication. Maybe employees aren’t speaking up because they don’t feel like their voices are heard, or maybe leadership turns a blind eye to what employees are saying. But whatever the cause might be, an engagement survey can help highlight the blocks in communication.

Innovation and growth

Employees work most directly with what your company does for its customers or clients. They’re the ones in the trenches. They see customer feedback. They see the results of new company initiatives. And if you don’t pay attention to what they say about what leadership is doing, your company can stagnate.

That shows up in the numbers, too. 47% of organizations with successful company cultures saw “significant” revenue increases over a year. If you don’t have quite as successful a company culture? That number shrinks to 9%.

The “vibe” effect

Imagine a company full of engaged employees. How are those employees likely to behave? They’re probably more likely to come in to work on time. They’re probably more likely to take a goal-oriented approach to each project. They’re probably more likely to keep themselves accountable.

The more employees feel engaged, the more likely their attitude will spread to every facet of your organization. You’ll see benefits in innovation, satisfaction, morale—the works. This creates a difficult-to-measure “vibe” effect.

3 employee standing in an office together

Addressing concerns with employee engagement surveys

It sounds simple: ask employees what engages and doesn’t engage them. Boom. What’s next?

But a good employee engagement survey needs to be more than a list of questions. Let’s address some concerns many employees frequently have about these:

  • Confidentiality. Simply put, are employees going to get in trouble if they complain about something. Make it clear from the outset that all answers are 100% confidential—and that no one from management can see who said what. This ensures you get the most accurate possible responses. 
  • Action. Employees want to know: will these surveys lead to any action plans? If so, tell employees that. Give them specific action plans you’re already putting into place to process their feedback. Build transparency into how you’ll measure their answers and give them a timeline for new engagement initiatives. The more specific you are, the more real the promises will feel.
  • Management buy-in. Employees need to know that management is listening. Are you supporting employees? Or are you simply initiating a survey to go through the motions? Once again, any specifics you can offer about how bought-in your management is, the better employees will feel about giving you specific, accurate feedback.
  • Survey fatigue. Watch out for “survey fatigue.” When employees have a new survey to fill out every day, it’s easy to lose track of what feedback is impacting which part of the business. So once you run a survey, let it be for a while. Process it, put in an action plan, and don’t send out a new engagement survey until you’ve had some time to implement new improvements.

How to plan and strategize your employee engagement survey

First, set clear objectives. What do you want to achieve? How often will you run your surveys? Once every quarter? Get these answers down on paper so you can communicate them to stakeholders, leadership, and employees alike.

Next, explain the purpose of the surveys. Employees need to know how and why their answers will matter. If they sense you truly value their opinions, they’re more likely to give you frank, accurate thoughts.

Third, design your survey. Refer to the best practices below to uncover insights into how your employees think. You’ll also find interesting ways to quantify data that seems mostly qualitative in nature.

Fourth, collect the data. You’ll need a platform to make sense of all the answers and data coming in—which is where our next section comes in.

Last, prepare for follow-up communications. What should happen monthly? Quarterly? Bi-annually? Set clear steps to ensure you hit your milestones, such as “full review” and “recommendations moving forward.” This will break down the steps you need before launching a full employee engagement initiative based on the results of your surveys.

Tools for running an employee engagement survey

Peoplelytics

  • Main Features: Peoplelytics makes it easy to use employee feedback surveys, including AI recommendations based on results to help you plan initiatives after your survey.
  • Pros and Cons: You’ll get clear dashboards and effective, quantitative data to discover employee sentiment at a glance. Peoplelytics offers employee engagement surveys, eNPS surveys, and pulse surveys – but you can’t create your own questions so you can only pick from templated options (but you can edit them).
  • Overall Assessment: Peoplelytics is a perfect way to use prebuilt, smart surveys to immediately get on top of your employee engagement—as well as find the insights that turn survey results into practical steps.

SurveyMonkey

  • Main Features: Free online surveys, including everything from employee engagement to customer satisfaction.
  • Pros and Cons: Free to use and simple to implement, it’s a great way to dip your toes int the water of employee surveys. But it may lack the engagement-specific insights that you might get from a platform from Peoplelytics. 
  • Overall Assessment: Worth checking out if you want a quick way to experiment with surveys—but for more impressive results, go with a dedicated employee engagement platform.

Google Forms

  • Main Features: Create your own online forms with ease and for free, building customized and anonymous surveys to arm you with quick, actionable feedback.
  • Pros and Cons: Free to use, Google Forms is one of the easiest ways to get set up—you probably already have a Google account. However, it will lack basic guidance and prebuilt templates for employee feedback.
  • Overall Assessment: Great for one-off forms, Google Forms may not have the robust features you want from something more dedicated to big-company concerns.

Qualtrics

  • Main Features: As experience management software, Qualtrics uses AI to help you get data from feedback from everyone including customers and employees.
  • Pros and Cons: Qualtrics is robust with plenty of options for understanding the employee experience—as well as driving new strategies. However, you may find the pricing and learning curve to be a bit overwhelming at first.
  • Overall Assessment: Qualtrics offers high-quality, data-driven software for fueling your future decisions and driving more engagement.

Culture Amp

  • Main Features: Evaluate the culture vibes at your business by using pulse surveys and Culture Amp onboarding for a complete employee experience.
  • Pros and Cons: Great for managing performance and engagement, Culture Amp is a great solution for companies needing a way to lock employees in. There may also be other features for the price that you don’t need as much as the employee engagement features.
  • Overall Assessment: Culture Amp is worth checking out if you want a complete platform for onboarding highly-engaged employees in the future.

OfficeVibe

  • Main Features: Offering employee experience software, this is another platform that focuses beyond surveys and tries to keep engagement up with fuller HR features like org charts and employee directories.
  • Pros and Cons: Easy to implement and begin onboarding new employees, you’ll likely find this is a nice shortcut to finding out how employees feel about your company. But is it more of a platform than a survey tool?
  • Overall Assessment: Another quality option for discerning how employees feel—OfficeVibe by Workleap is a great platform to keep on your potential list.

Leverage employee feedback in your HR strategy

Get detailed insights and AI-powered recommendations with eNPS surveys and employee surveys sent through Peoplelytics.

Best practices for accurate results

Implementing surveys isn’t enough. The surveys themselves need to be high-quality and give employees some leeway to express themselves without fear of repercussions. Here are some best practices as you design the surveys with your chosen platform:

Ask the right questions. The goal? Clear and simple language. The clearer your questions are, the more likely your employees will get what you were aiming at.

Tip: Use some of the specific questions below and assign numbers to their responses so you have quantitative data to work with.

Conduct your surveys regularly. Annual or bi-annual surveys are common, for example. These let you track your progress over time to see if the answers are changing or if you need to change your initiatives.

Tip: Do this with regularity, but don’t forget to leave some time in-between so you avoid “survey fatigue.” Briefer “pulse surveys” can help probe more deeply on specific topics, as well.

Take time to process your data. Use statistical tools and AI—using a platform like Peoplelytics—to process the data and find the key insights that will guide your next decisions.

Tip: Sign up for a platform with some more robust tools; general survey tools like Google Forms and SurveyMonkey may not have all the insights you want here.

Follow up on previous surveys. Finally, share your results with teams, managers, and employees and outline the steps you’re taking to address the feedback. This shows that the answers didn’t just go in the nearest trash bin; you’re using them to shape how the company culture works.

Tip: When presenting to your teams, show off results from previous surveys to let employees know that their messages have been heard loud and clear. 

Types of questions to use in an employee engagement survey 

The following are examples of Likert scale employee engagement survey questions you can include, where an employee would rating items from Strongly Disagree (1) to Strongly Agree (5)

Job Satisfaction:

  1. I am satisfied with my job.
  2. I find my role to be rewarding to me personally.

Work Environment:

  1. I am satisfied with the technology I have access to in order to complete my job successfully.
  2. I am satisfied with the quality and cleanliness of my work environment.

Management and Leadership:

  1. I believe my manager is approachable and receptive to feedback.
  2. My supervisor regularly provides me with helpful feedback.
  3. I believe leadership communicates their goals and objectives clearly.

Team Dynamics:

  1. My team can resolve conflict well.
  2. I believe there is a balanced distribution of work within my team.

Career Development:

  1. I believe I have good opportunities for career development within this company.
  2. I believe the company is invested in my career development and progression.

Work-Life Balance:

  1. The company respects my time outside of work.
  2. Work does not interfere in my personal life and responsibilities outside of the office.

Learning and Development:

  1. I believe my company is supportive of my professional growth through training and development.
  2. I believe I have training and development opportunities available through my company that will help me reach my career goals.

Basic Needs:

  1. I have a best friend at work.
  2. I feel safe at work.

Make the most of your employee engagement surveys

A survey is more than the sum of its questions. It should lead to actionable insights from employees who feel comfortable enough to give you honest answers. 
But how do you get started? We recommend signing up for Peoplelytics or scheduling a demo. You can use our prebuilt templates and select from 150+ existing questions—or use customized question sets—while using AI-powered recommendations for future ways to address your most pressing employee engagement needs.

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