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Employee Motivation Surveys: Questions, Best Practices, and More

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They say that the majority of success in life is showing up. But what that maxim doesn’t tell you is why people show up. It comes down to one factor: motivation. According to some statistics, motivated employees are 41% more likely to attend work. And that comes along with a 17% rise in productivity.

But many companies already know this. They know motivation is a key factor for any company that wants to get the most out of its employees. They simply don’t know how to motivate people. Financial incentives? Sometimes they work; sometimes they don’t. If you want to get to the heart of what drives the people at your company, you have first to do one thing:

You have to ask them.

Enter employee motivation surveys. These surveys are key factors in determining why you struggle with employee engagement. They can help you dial in to the precise reasons employees might show up—but don’t always feel fully invested in what you do. Let’s explore what these surveys are—and how you can use them to bring your company’s groove back.

Happy employee smiling at his desk

Defining the employee motivation survey

An employee motivation survey is a questionnaire tool that organizations can use to understand the drive employees have—or don’t have—when coming into work. Your goal with an employee motivation survey? Gather all relevant feedback, determine job satisfaction, and find out what drives the most engagement when your employees come to work.

You’ll create a survey with a structure of multiple types of questions—both multiple-choice and open-ended, ideally. You can then use the data and feedback you gather from these surveys to fuel your new employee motivation initiatives. 

The rewards of using employee motivation surveys at your company

The easy answer is that employee motivation surveys will help you put your finger on the pulse of your company culture. But the work environment is often more complex than what you can find on an answer sheet. That’s why you need compelling reasons to take these surveys seriously. Ideally, you’ll put a lot of thought into the questions you ask, the way you present them, and the platforms you use to gather employee motivation feedback.

Let’s start by talking about why these surveys are worth the effort.

Benefit #1: Identifying key areas of improvement

It’s one thing to have a vague notion that employees at your company are unmotivated. It’s another thing to put your finger on the root causes of this disengagement. Employee motivation survey results can help clarify these root causes. Not every set of answers to your survey will indeed yield crystal-clear results. However, you may detect patterns when you sit down and pore through the data. 

If most employees report one factor affecting their motivation, you know where to focus your efforts. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Benefit #2: Supporting talent retention

Employee turnover is downright expensive. According to one study, the cost of hiring someone new can be equivalent to 6-9 months of an employee’s salary. And that’s on top of the salary you have to commit to the new employee. The more you hire new employees, the more you’ll have to spend. This doesn’t even factor in additional costs like time and opportunity costs.

Benefit #3: Promoting open communication

Employees sometimes feel demotivated when they feel like they’re out of options. Maybe they like the work and they like your company—but they just feel trapped by their circumstances. If they’ve missed the chance for a promotion or don’t have enough paid time off to enjoy some rest and relaxation, even the most exciting work can start to feel mundane.

Your first instinct might be to throw money at these problems. And while incentives can be powerful, don’t forget about the added benefit of open communication. If employees notice that you’re taking the time to note what they’re feeling demotivated about, you’ve given them an outlet. Their job is no longer a trap—it’s a position in which they have some say and control. For many employees, having control over their destiny is a prime motivator that makes them feel more engaged and ready to share new ideas.

Example employee motivation survey questions

When running your survey, it’s important to ask the right questions to get detailed insights from the answers. Here are some questions you could ask:

  1. I feel genuinely motivated to contribute more than what is expected of me in my role.
  2. I am driven to excel in my tasks and responsibilities.
  3. I believe that my efforts are recognized and appreciated by my team and management.
  4. I feel a strong sense of commitment to the success of my team and the company.
  5. I am excited about the work I do and find it meaningful.
  6. I feel empowered to take initiative and make decisions in my role.
  7. The company’s goals and values resonate with me and influence my daily work.
  8. I have the resources and support I need to perform my job effectively.
  9. I see clear opportunities for personal and professional growth in this organization.
  10. I feel encouraged to come up with new ideas and contribute to the company’s innovation.
  11. I understand how my work contributes to the company’s overall success.
  12. I am satisfied with the level of communication and feedback I receive from my supervisors.
  13. I believe the company cares about my well-being and work-life balance.
Group of happy workers at coffee shop

How to run an effective employee motivation survey

Now that you know the benefits, let’s talk nuts and bolts. What kinds of employee motivation survey questions can you ask to get the best responses? How can you use these answers to foster growth in your employee engagement? Here are a few ideas:

  • Get started with a high-quality survey platform. Tools like CultureMonkey, SurveySparrow, and Culture Amp can tackle the logistical questions. You shouldn’t have to wonder how to conduct, test, and measure your employee motivation survey responses. Let tools like these take the nitty-gritty details out of your hands so you’re free to focus on big-picture strategy, like asking the right questions and measuring your responses over time.
  • Explain exactly what you want to get out of your survey. If you present the survey to your employees without explaining what you want, you minimize their impact. On the other hand, if you tell employees that their responses can help you create new employee motivation initiatives, they’ll be more likely to give you accurate and helpful feedback. Tell them what kinds of answers you want—without instructing them how to answer—and then explain how their answers will translate directly into action on your part. If employees feel that their feedback matters to your business’s leadership, they’re more likely to tell you what you need to hear.
  • Get the timing right. Try to send out employee motivation surveys when there are lulls in action. Sometimes, taking employees’ collective temperature during stressful times or busy seasons can give you skewed results. You should aim for a time when employees have enough freedom to give you thoughtful answers—without feeling stressed about it. Ideally, this will be during a lull in company action, which gives employees the space they need to think about big-picture questions.
  • Maximize your employee participation. It’s one thing to say that you want everyone to complete the survey. But if you provide incentives for completing it, you can maximize how many employees actually fill it out. Don’t forget to create a specific due date, either. Otherwise, employees might consider it “unessential” work and, ironically, not find the motivation to complete the surveys on time. Instead, create a deadline, consider offering incentives, and let employees know how their answers will factor into the company’s future.
  • Use multiple question types to get different kinds of insights. Multiple choice questions and numerical ratings of employee satisfaction are great tools to put measurable numbers on intangible feelings. But they shouldn’t be the only types of questions you include. Add open-ended questions to allow employees to jot down their unique thoughts. Review these answers thoroughly so you can get a sense of how employees are feeling, or if there are any commonalities with the recommendations they make in text.
  • Schedule multiple surveys with enough time in between. Finally, do yourself a favor and measure your results over time. While an employee motivation survey that reports poor results can be discouraging, it’s not the end of the world, either. That’s why you conduct these surveys: to identify holes in your policies and improve your company. Once you put the initiatives into place, schedule a second round of surveys (ideally a few months later) and measure the impact of the changes you made.

You may also find it helpful to use the recommendations of your employee survey software. Many platforms will bake these good habits into the way you build the surveys. Don’t skip any steps. Remember: you’re investing time and energy into employee motivation. Avoid skipping through the process, because you never know where a good idea might come from.

Give your employees a feeling of belonging

Employees often feel motivated when their work is tied to their success. That’s why sales commissions have such a long history: the harder the salesperson works, the greater the rewards. But you’ll also find that money alone is not the reason many employees work hard. Employees may derive motivation and satisfaction from their social impact, from their camaraderie with colleagues, and from the mission of your company.

An employee motivation survey is a key step to giving employees this feeling of belonging. Don’t get us wrong: a survey alone isn’t enough. You need to turn each survey into a list of actionable steps. Discover what your employees value most about their jobs. Find the most frequent answers to what would motivate them. Then find ways to implement those rewards into the way you run your business. 

Sometimes, financial incentives may work best. But they won’t always. The reason you run employee motivation surveys? To discover what it is that makes your employees tick. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. 

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