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2024 Guide to Employee Surveys

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If we told you that half of the salaries you were paying to employees was going down the drain, it would sound like an emergency. And you’d be right. That’s a massive impact on your bottom line—salary money you’ll never recoup. 

But what if we told you that something similar may be happening in your company if employees aren’t happy? According to Gallup, 50% of U.S. workers—if not more—are “quiet quitters.” That means they’re so emotionally checked out, they’re basically “quit” in their head, if not in fact.

If you had a company full of quiet quitters, it could mean all sorts of nasty things about your business. Maybe your company is so disengaging that none of your employees are excited about contributing. Maybe your workers are so disengaged, they don’t even want to improve your business.

And there’s only one way to find out: the employee survey.

Employees discussing company feedback

What is an employee survey?

An employee feedback survey is a series of employee questions designed to get insights into how your employees are thinking. Are they happy in their work environment? Are they excited to come to work? Do your organizational processes make them want to lead a revolution against leadership, or are they happy with how your business runs? 

Typically, the employer runs an employee feedback survey (or EFS). That makes these surveys a little tricky. You must identify ears for improvement while using strategies designed to get honest and accurate feedback from employees who may fear reprisal.

Those are the basics. However, you may have specific goals for these surveys, which means you can lean on particular types of surveys for different reasons. Let’s explore some of the different types of employee feedback surveys:

  • Employee engagement surveys: This measures employees’ commitment to the work you do—as well as their job satisfaction and feeling of participation. How much does it matter? You may be surprised to find out that 85% of employees do not feel engaged in the workplace, which can lead to employees not giving the effort they might otherwise give. It can also lead employees to start looking for other places to work, leading to higher turnover.
  • Pulse surveys: Why “pulse”? Because they’re short surveys, designed to be carried out more frequently. They’re a quick check-up on the employees and their feelings, much like a doctor takes a pulse to get a quick check on your health. These surveys can be effective because you can take a large sample to understand your employee sentiment. And you don’t have to distract employees with lengthy survey processes.
  • Onboarding feedback surveys: These surveys specifically address new employees and how they feel about joining your team. Rather than dealing with your entire company, these surveys zoom in on the onboarding process and improvements you can make. These are essential surveys to conduct if you run a large organization in need of onboarding at scale.
  • Diversity and inclusion surveys: How do employees perceive the diversity and inclusion at your organization? Where are the opportunities to create a more inclusive work environment? This can help open up management to any blind spots that may have been overlooked and/or negatively impact your business.
  • Wellness surveys: This is a check-in about the employees themselves. It’s less about their level of engagement with your company and more about how they’re doing in their life. Get a measure of their mental and physical well-being. Are there ways to improve that well-being with initiatives you can create at work? Are the existing wellness programs you have in place working effectively?
  • Leadership effectiveness surveys: With anonymous answers here, you can get more accurate feedback about the state of leadership in your business. Ask employees to evaluate the performance and leadership skills of those in charge. Look for improvements in team dynamics and communication you can make—as well as actionable insights about how to carry out those improvements.

How to use employee surveys

Good news here: if you simply systematically run employee feedback surveys, you may be ahead of 36% of companies. That’s how many employees report that their workplace had no employee feedback program in place at all. 

But you’ll also discover that simply asking employees questions, while useful, isn’t enough. Not if you want accurate, actionable feedback in specific areas of your business. Let’s dive deeper into the specific steps of using employee feedback surveys.

Leverage employee feedback in your HR strategy

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

Define your objectives clearly

Don’t send out a survey until you explain what the survey is trying to accomplish. And you can’t write that portion of the survey until you know exactly what you want to get out of the survey.

Your first step may be to choose a type of employee feedback survey from the list above. That’s a start: it means you’re choosing a specific type of feedback you want to receive.

But you should also briefly explain the purposes of your survey. For example, let’s say you chose the leadership effectiveness survey. Your goal: get your employees to be candid about the leadership’s performance and ways they can improve.

How would you explain that off the bat? Maybe it might sound something like this:

The goal of this anonymous survey is to provide feedback to our leadership team on areas of improvement. Specifically, we would like to find out if there are specific categories that deserve attention, including communication, leadership style, team camaraderie, and engagement with employees.

Note a few elements here. Not only do you point out the specific kinds of answers and constructive feedback you’re looking for, but by mentioning that it’s an anonymous survey, you’re more likely to get the candid feedback you’re after.

Look for transparent communication—on both ends

The last thing you want is employees filling out your survey just to get the survey done with. For example, maybe the survey asks employees to rate their leadership skills on a scale of 1-10. If employees barely think about that number and enter “8” because they think it sounds like a good number, you’re not receiving meaningful feedback.

There are two elements in transparent communication. You should both ask for their candid, thoughtful answers…and you should demonstrate the same level of candidness. And because you want your employees to be thoughtful, you should explain what impact their answers could have.

You’ll achieve both tasks by briefly explaining how you’ll use the surveys once they’re done. Don’t be afraid to explain the process. Is an independent consultant going to review the survey responses and give recommendations to leadership? If so, mention that. Employees may feel that the presence of a third party gives more weight and impact to their responses—leading to higher-quality answers.

You’re asking for transparent communication, so don’t be afraid to provide exactly that. Tell employees how and why you’re running the survey. They’ll be more likely to respect it.

Craft crystal-clear questions

Want clear answers? It depends on the quality of your questions.

Let’s start with a classic example: the job satisfaction question. A typical question might read: 

How satisfied are you with the support and resources you’re provided in order to effectively perform your job?

But let’s imagine you over-wrote that same question:

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 feeling extremely unsupported and 10 being very supported, how would you rate your satisfaction level regarding the level of support present in your position at this company?

You’ve added too much. “Present in your position” can apply to anyone in the same position. The employee might be left wondering whether the overall levels of support they see at the company are under scrutiny here. Maybe they privately feel supported, but don’t think there’s support going to others. Their answer of “4” gives you an incorrect impression of their feelings.

With that in mind, let’s explore some critical question-writing tips to ensure you always write clear questions:

  • Shorter tends to be better. The longer the question goes on, the more likely it is your employees will lose the thread. Avoid unnecessary jargon or complex language and simplify the question to its essence.
  • Use simple language. Specificity isn’t always more clear. Simple, direct language will help ensure that many employees understand what you’re getting at.
  • Ask one thing at a time. If a question contains two components, yet you ask for a simple 1-10 rating, how is an employee supposed to answer it honestly?
  • Avoid leading questions. A leading question hints at a potential response. Your questions should be open enough that they allow the employee to do the answering without any prior influence. This helps ensure honesty and accuracy.

Analyze your survey results and look for actionable advice

Once you have your feedback, the next step isn’t to analyze it and set it away. Your next step is to turn those insights into action.

Employee looking at survey result data at his computer

There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Sort your results by the most popular responses. If the most popular response was that your company’s communication needs to improve, then you’ll know that should be your key area of focus. Find the most commonly-answered questions to help prioritize your next steps. (Note: the software you use for your EFS can help with this analysis.)
  • Identify KPIs (key performance indicators) and begin measuring them over time. Once you know what areas of improvement you want to focus on, look for KPIs that indicate your success in this area. This can even be the survey responses you get from employees in the future. But as long as you actively track and monitor your progress, you should notice improvements over time.
  • Seek clarifying feedback as needed. It’s okay if the feedback you get is initially confusing. That doesn’t mean the survey failed; you may just need additional information to find actionable advice. Ask employees what you can do to improve, elicit suggestions, or make a few of your suggestions and have employees rate them.

3 benefits of using employee surveys

One reason businesses might avoid seeking employee feedback? They’re afraid of what they’re going to hear. Maybe it sounds like a lengthy process of receiving negative feedback for things that are out of your control.

And that may be the case sometimes. But these fears also overlook the benefits of employee feedback surveys.

Benefit #1: Increasing employee engagement

Employees need to have a voice. And if you don’t have channels for including their feedback and suggestions in how you run things, they don’t have that voice. 

According to Harvard Business Review, employee surveys are still one of the best ways to improve employee engagement. Said HBR: 

Not having a regular survey sends a clear message: you don’t care about people’s opinions. The act of filling out a survey gives them a specific channel for expressing voice. 

The employee experience is a subjective one, true. But well-written surveys can take the subjective experience and give it concrete numbers. By giving employees the ability to put a number on their satisfaction—or maybe provide you with some fresh ideas—they feel that they’re a small part of the leadership process. They hope their feedback can help shape the way the company is run.

The best way to increase engagement? Invite employees in the leadership process. The more employees feel they “own” the process, even a small part of it, the more they feel like their voices are heard.

Benefit #2: Boosting employee morale

If there’s one thing we know about employee engagement, it’s that it tends to improve employee morale. Employees who feel disengaged may be looking for other jobs soon enough. But an employee who feels engaged—and that their feedback is an active part of your company’s decisions—will feel at home.

This is a tangible effect. Consider that disengaged employees have a 48% higher likelihood of experiencing daily stress. Feeling cut out of the process can make employees question their work. They might also begin to question why they’re contributing to that work, particularly if they receive nothing from the process but a paycheck.

On the other hand, employee feedback surveys give you the tools to reach out to employees. The act of surveying their opinions is just one part of it. Showing employees that you took their feedback under advisement and are putting their suggestions to work will help.

Benefit #3: Retaining more talent

It’s expensive to hire a new employee. Onboarding, training, and getting employees up to speed costs a lot of salary—not to mention the investments associated with finding good employees in the first place.

According to some research, a salaried job of $60,000 may cost you $180,000 to fill the role.

This means every employee who leaves isn’t just an inconvenience. It’s a real impact on the bottom line. You are far better off if you invest in talent retention—which starts with the time and resources to make employees feel heard.

And there’s another wrinkle to consider here. Some businesses may know the above, but never really do anything to resolve their issues with employee engagement. So rather than run employee feedback surveys, they simply give their current employees raises. 

That’s a good thing, of course: employees like a raise. But if you’re using this strategy to paper over the underlying root causes of turnover, you haven’t truly solved any problems. Employee feedback surveys give you the insights you need to reduce turnover, saving money on expensive onboarding costs.

Example employee surveys

There are several options you have as an employer running employee surveys. You can run an annual or bi-annual employee engagement survey, with lots of questions and digest it all at once and work through it over the course of the year, or, you can run micro-surveys at different points of the year to address different aspects of the company and company culture in smaller quicker batches. Some example employee surveys include:

  • eNPS Suryey
  • 100+ Question Employee Engagement Survey
  • Employee Satisfaction Survey 
  • Belonging and Inclusion
  • Work-Life Balance
  • Employee Burnout & Work-Related Stress
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Learning and Development 
  • Remote Work
  • Teamwork and Collaboration
  • Employee Recognition and Appreciation
  • Recognition and Rewards Programs
  • Workplace Environment and Facilities
  • Company Scaling: Employee Readiness
  • Return to Office
  • Company Scaling: Progress Assessment
  • M & A Team Integration
  • M & A Post-Acquisition
  • Technology and Digital Transformation
  • Innovation and Creativity
  • Workplace Safety
  • Mentorship
  • Employee Health and Wellness
  • Career Development
  • Onboarding Experience
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Employee Morale
  • Employee Representation and Voice
  • Workload Management
  • Autonomy and Decision-Making
  • Role Clarity and Expectations
  • Benefits and Compensation
  • Communication and Feedback
  • Colleague Friendships
  • Professional Development
  • Employee Turnover
  • Internal Company Events
  • Transparency
  • Company Culture
  • Employee Engagement
  • Management Styles
  • Communication Channels
  • Organizational Agility
  • Community Outreach
  • Employee Motivation
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Company Values and Mission
  • Trust in Leadership
  • Employee Referrals
  • Perception of the Company

Warning: what to watch out for when you run employee feedback surveys

It’s easy to read everything above and think that by simply surveying your employees, you’re accomplishing a lot. But that’s not the case. You need a few best practices to help you steer through the process. Even better, you might benefit from knowing what to avoid. Here’s a list of warnings and best practices to help ensure you don’t take on bad habits that can erase all of your well-intentioned work:

  • Survey fatigue. It’s one thing to invite employees to give you feedback. But imagine if you did that every day. Not only would employees get tired of telling you how they’d feel, but the value of every survey would decrease. They’d know that you couldn’t possibly act upon every answer they gave you. And that means the surveys would lose their engagement-boosting potency.
  • Forgetting about anonymity. Always run anonymous surveys. Employees need to know they can be perfectly candid, without repercussions. You’ll benefit from this because you’ll get more honest and accurate feedback. So make sure you make it clear—even to the point of explaining how the surveys remain anonymous—that you don’t intend to reprimand anyone for negative feedback.
  • Biased questions. You need to ask the right questions. But it’s only natural: when you write questions, you might want to lead employees to good answers. Maybe you want them to say nice things. Maybe you want to steer their feedback in a particular direction. But your surveys will be far more helpful with your team members if you don’t lead them at all. Leave it to the answers to provide the direction for the feedback. Even if you’re slightly afraid of what they might say.
  • Small sample sizes. It’s well known in the scientific community that a small sample size is a poor predictor of accuracy. The same is true with employee feedback. With employee feedback, you often try to take intangible ideas—like improvements you can make—and turn them into tangible, measurable results. For those numbers to be accurate, you should try to get as large a sample size as possible. And keep measuring that sample over time with regular—albeit not too regular—surveys.
  • Focusing on the negatives only. What if there are initiatives and things about your company that employees enjoy? You’ll want to know which initiatives not to shut down. Getting too negative with your surveys can lead to biased results that only reflect what you can fix, and not the areas where you’re already succeeding. Try to include both positives and negatives in your surveys. Give your employees a chance to tell you what they think you’re doing right. That way you can double down on the most effective policies.

Companies offering employee survey software

If all of the above sounds too difficult or too complicated to manage, not to worry. There’s software who can handle the nuts and bolts of your surveys. Leaders shouldn’t feel distracted by the logistics of implementing software. Instead, outsource your surveys to the leading providers.

Who are those providers? Here are some top names you can look at:

  • Peoplelytics. We offer 50+ premade employee surveys for employers to select from. All surveys are fully anonymous for employees, and offer detailed reporting insights for employers (around department, location, and other demographic information you include about team members). With low pricing, free plans for small companies, and AI-powered recommendations, we’re looking to offer a new competitive alternative to larger companies.
  • SurveyMonkey. SurveyMonkey is an affordable, popular solution—they advertise that 20 millions get asked on their platform every day. Although it’s not specialized to employee feedback surveys in particular, it’s a robust solution through which you can start sending out those surveys. They also offer all sorts of templates, such as 360-degree employee evaluation, which you may find useful.
  • EngageRocket. Engage Rocket is for employee engagement and performance. It’s a great solution if you want to package your surveys in with performance reviews, which helps you get a lot accomplished at the same time with minimal disruption of your employees’ natural workflow.
  • Lattice. A platform of HR software for performance, compensation, and analytics, you shouldn’t think of this software as survey-exclusive. But if you already need HR software and want a package that includes the employee feedback survey tools you need, you’ll find Lattice to be robust and helpful.
  • Reflektive. When you scale, you’re going to need to create ongoing conversations with employees to continually track the quality of your processes. That’s one aim of Reflektive, which helps your teams improve their performance while you continually gauge the engagement levels at your company.
  • Qualtrics. Qualtrics is typically for customer surveys, but that’s just one of the platforms it offers. You’ll also find a suite of “people/teams” features here, which includes employee engagement and ongoing analytics so you can track the results of your employee feedback over time.
  • SuperSimpleSurvey. You can build and customize your own surveys through this platform, available with a free trial.

Feel free to perform your own research into these platforms, or explore your own. You won’t find a shortage of solutions to help you run basic surveys or employee feedback surveys. Ultimately, what you choose comes down to what you need.

What if you get low employee scores?

Low scores can be scary at first—but remember that they’re the reason you’re doing them. If you didn’t want to improve your company, you could always skip them altogether. It’s the hard work of strategizing after your feedback that will make the difference.

Woman at her desk thinking about her next move at work

Start by thoroughly analyzing the data. Your survey software should provide analytics for this. Sort by the most common feedback and look for the areas that seem to be lagging the most. You’ll want to find a combination of negative feedback and strong indicators that suggest that most people agree. If you get an area of strong confidence and negative feedback, that’s your sign that it should be your top priority.

Seek clarification on your feedback if necessary, using follow-up surveys with fresh questions and open-ended questions where employees can provide additional written feedback. Be wary of how many surveys you send, though—you don’t want to induce survey fatigue.

Next, develop action plans based on the feedback you’ve prioritized. 

  • Develop a company-wide communication plan
  • Involve leaders, managers, and key stakeholders in your plan from the outset to both gain support and raise awareness
  • Communicate with your employees when you launch new initiatives, letting them know the feedback is what brought these changes about. This helps ensure they see the link between their answers and the kinds of changes you make.
  • Continue to run the surveys on a regular basis to track the impact and progress you make over time from the initial survey through the iterative process

And don’t be afraid to involve employees in your solutions! Ultimately, the feedback you receive creates a problem. And now it’s time to enter a problem-solving process. If no one else but leadership tackles those problems, you may not get the boosts in employee morale you’d like. Instead, include employees in the potential solutions, look for their suggestions, and highlight when they make contributions to your company. After all, you’re in search of the best idea. And maybe an employee has the best idea in many cases.

Make sure you track your results over time. This should be easy to do in your survey tool (like Peoplelytics). If your initiatives are working, you should check your analytics on future surveys and see a noticeable improvement. The analytics are effective at taking intangible ideas and transforming them into tangible, measurable results. So use them! Track them consistently over time so you know whether your changes are having an effect.

Make the most of your employee feedback surveys

Your employee feedback surveys are more than a series of questions. They’re an invitation to engagement. You don’t want employees to feel out of the loop. Instead, use these surveys to find genuine, honest feedback for everything you do at your company. You’ll likely find that you get more than just a little bump in engagement. Done right, you should get ideas for the future. And you may highlight a few key weaknesses you weren’t even aware of.

With good employee feedback survey processes in place, you have a recipe for higher morale and lower turnover at your company. Try running your employee surveys through Peoplelytics and get detailed insights, AI-powered recommendations for strategies to improve, and improve key business metrics related to your employees!

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