15 Employee engagement surveys best practices

Written by: Officevibe | Edited by: Rachel Steben
Published on: April 11, 2022 |  Reading time: 9m

When people are happy with their job and work environment, productivity skyrockets, and organizations achieve extraordinary things. It’s no accident that the most successful businesses are often those who make employee engagement and satisfaction a top priority.

Common sense tells us that employees who love their job and work environment will be more productive than those who don’t. But how do you assess team morale, fix team issues and get everyone working in harmony?

Now usually managed by software, employee engagement surveys provide an excellent feedback loop between employees and managers. And even if a lot of the work is done for you in-app, there are still some best practices to follow when using employee surveys.

15 best practices for employee engagement surveys

Best practices when conducting employee engagement surveys

The considerable benefits of using employee surveys are, at times, overlooked. Yet they are the most straightforward tool to allow managers to understand issues of concern to their team members. And employees get to voice their opinions through anonymous employee surveys.

However, not all employee surveys are created equal. To get the most from your employee feedback software, you need to understand best practices and use them to your advantage. Here are some tips to help you build an employee survey process that produces optimal results.

1. Inspire leadership buy-in

Employee engagement surveys can only succeed if senior managers are on board with the process. Inspired leaders should lead by example and demonstrate that they have bought into the concept of employee engagement surveys.

Once leaders are aligned with the goal of greater employee happiness, the survey flywheel can spin Getting alignment around the objective of better employee experience, the power of surveys can really take off. The real benefits of feedback surveys occur when you achieve a continuous improvement loop — something company leaders accomplish when they view engagement surveys as part of their long-term vision.

There is good reason to integrate employee surveys into your management strategy. They give a glimpse into the realities of your people’s work experience in a way like none other. Leadership and executives get relevant data to inform their decision-making and gain an additional competitive edge.

2. Make regular employee communication a priority

Traditional annual employee surveys have value, but they suffer from low frequency. Getting feedback once a year is not enough for either employees or managers.

The most successful businesses are those who understand that regular communication is not just important but essential. Employee engagement surveys are a great way to achieve this.

Officevibe employee engagement surveys help managers and leaders measure engagement levels on their team and track trends over time. Officevibe measures 10 metrics and 26 sub-metrics of engagement with easy-to-read reports, making engagement data accessible and actionable.

There are many ways teams can communicate to good effect. These may include one-on-one meetings, leadership round tables, goal-setting programs, and exit interviews. They all provide valuable information that managers can leverage to gain greater insight into team sentiment.

3. Surface core employee issues with the right questions

Henry Ford once said, “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.” Sadly, many organizations do precisely this when choosing survey questions.

Best practice tell us to avoid asking questions out of routine. Instead, word your questions to uncover issues hidden beneath the surface. For example, you may have a general question such as:

Are you happy with your job?

Analysis of the answers may show that this question produces only yes/no answers that give no new insights. Asking this question again and again, is unlikely to be helpful. A better idea would be to replace it with a question that demands a more detailed answer, such as:

What would make you happier in your job right now?

These questions work best if employees are confident their feedback is anonymous and private. They may be more encouraged to raise concerns that managers might not otherwise know about with this greater sense of security.

4. Prioritize survey questions about behaviors

Employee feelings are critically important, and you certainly want to understand emotions within your team. However, direct questions about feelings are not always the most helpful and may make others feel uncomfortable.

A question like “how do you feel about your manager?” may invoke an emotional response. Yet the answer may provide little insight into what’s wrong with the relationship or how to fix it.

You can reap much more valuable feedback by focusing instead on behavior-based questions, such as: “are you happy with the frequency of feedback received from your manager?”

This more focused question can yield insights you can action right away to improve the relationship.

5. Commit to following up with action

💡 The value from employee engagement surveys doesn’t come from gathering information. It depends entirely on how you use that information.

Once you’ve collected feedback and analyzed the survey results, it’s time to act. Create a plan to address the issues raised and implement this as quickly as possible. For your engagement loop to thrive, employees need to see that feedback does make a difference.

6. Share survey results and actions with your employees

Taking action based on employee feedback is not enough. They need to see you taking feedback seriously. 

Employee surveys are a great way of building trust between managers and employees. But to maintain this trust, you need to be open with employees. Share the results of feedback surveys (both good and bad) and demonstrate your actions as a result.

When team members see their feedback translated into action, they will be more likely to participate in future feedback surveys.

7. Make the connection between employee feedback and action clear

When you take action due to employee feedback received, it should be crystal clear to your team members that they’ve made a difference. It’s easy to assume that employees can connect the dots for themselves, but that’s not always the case.

A connection that seems clear from the manager’s 30,000-foot viewpoint may not be so apparent at ground level. You need to ensure that both the cause and the effect are apparent.

You can do this through presentations at team meetings, email messaging, or any other communications method that works for your organization. The extra steps to communicate may take a little effort, but you will reap considerable dividends.

When employees see their input leading to direct action, they’re inspired to contribute further in the future.

8. Act in a timely manner

In larger organizations especially, bureaucracy can slow things down. Employee feedback can get lost in the cogs of the machine. If action is ever taken, it happens much further down the track.

This delay makes it hard for employees to see the connection between their feedback and the resulting course of action. It may seem as if their concerns are not worthy of attention, so they will be reluctant to put forward ideas in the future.

That’s a real shame, especially when you can easily avert the issue.

Officevibe can help you get real-time feedback that surfaces problems quickly. You will get weekly feedback that covers the 10 key metrics of employee engagement, alerting you to issues as they arise.

If the company is equally timely in dealing with the matter, team morale will receive a significant boost.

9. Reward employees for their participation

We all have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Busy employees may be reluctant to spend some of their valuable working time filling in a survey. They may ask themselves, “what’s in it for me?”

That’s a valid question, so make sure you have a good answer! That can be as simple as messaging employees to thank them for their participation. If you can show them that their feedback is valued and acted upon, that’s even better.

Anything you can do to reward employees for participation will encourage future feedback.

10. Make employee feedback safe and anonymous

Your employees must feel they can give honest feedback without fear of reprisal.

That’s why Officevibe’s Pulse Survey tool provides anonymous feedback by default.

Team members need to be confident that responses are anonymized. But that’s only half the story. They also need to know their data is safe from compromise, too.

11. Use benchmarks with care

Benchmarks allow you to compare responses from your team with industry norms. That can be very helpful to managers, giving valuable insights.

However, be cautious in how you present benchmark data to your team. It should be realistic in any comparison. People may feel you are judging them unfairly if say a small company benchmarks against a large competitor with greater resources.

So think carefully about the benchmark data you want to share, focusing more on the positive than the negative.

For example, if your employees outperform their peers in competing companies, you should undoubtedly congratulate them on their achievements. But if they are underperforming, be careful how you share the news. Rather than focus on the negative, use the opportunity to demonstrate what’s possible.

12. Encourage senior managers to lead by example

Starting to measure employee engagement is a big change for most companies. Managers will look to their leaders to see how they should adapt to this innovation.

Because of this, senior managers must lead by example. They must show that employee feedback takes priority in their world by:

  • Formulating plans of action based on the feedback received
  • Implementing these action plans promptly
  • Keeping employees in the loop regarding progress

This initiative will signal that feedback is to be taken seriously and acted upon as a priority.

13. Create a positive feedback culture

Your employee engagement survey must be a valued element of the company’s processes to succeed. That means creating a robust culture that accepts regular surveys as the right way to do business.

These surveys are best integrated into a system that includes annual performance reviews, one-on-one meetings, informal feedback, and other appraisals. Together, these will give you a holistic view of how employees feel—and what issues you need to address.

14. Conduct exit surveys

When employees leave your organization, it’s essential to know why. Was there something amiss that you need to address? The best way to find out is by conducting an exit survey. Simply ask leaving employees to answer questions regarding their reasons for leaving.

These provide perhaps the most honest employee feedback you will ever receive. Analyze them carefully and compare them with your employee engagement survey results. You may be surprised at how much you can learn—and how much you can improve employee retention.

15. Schedule employee engagement surveys regularly

You will get the best results from feedback surveys when you schedule them regularly. As the cycle continues, you benefit from a process of continuous improvement.

Better still, giving feedback becomes a routine procedure for employees. Once offering their thoughts and opinions becomes an accepted part of their role, they will share more often and more willingly.

You will get more engaged employees, and senior leaders will gain greater insights.

Better engagement, better outcomes

When you start measuring employee engagement and implementing these best practices, you will find that internal feedback is potent for improving company culture.

Find out what kind of employee engagement survey is best for your team and start putting the theory into practice. Then when the employee survey results are in, take action.

You may be amazed at the results you achieve!