Employee engagement surveys: a complete guide

What type of survey is best for your team, what questions you should ask, how to take action on your results, and more.

Written by: Nora St-Aubin | Illustrated by: Officevibe team
Published on June 23, 2021 |  Reading time: 15m

Every great manager wonders how their employees are feeling, and whether they’re happy, engaged, and satisfied at work. While one-on-one meetings and status updates help you stay connected with each team member and their work, employee engagement surveys are a great way to get a high-level view of your team’s engagement level over time.

Questionnaires, polls or surveys give employees a voice within their organization. And as a manager, their honest feedback comes directly to you. This gives you plenty of actionable insights, because a great employee survey tool will measure engagement metrics like peer relationships, job satisfaction, wellness and stress, company alignment, and more.

So what’s the best type of survey for your team? How can you implement it so people participate? How do you interpret your employee survey results? And what do you do with the insights you get from your team? Find answers to all of your employee survey questions in this complete guide!

Employee engagement survey statistics

So, what are the statistics related to employee engagement surveys? What kind of data can you expect to get in your survey results? Over 50,000 managers use Officevibe’s employee engagement software to understand how their team feels.

Officevibe’s employee engagement data tells us that:

  • 90% of employees who use Officevibe are happy with their direct manager’s level of transparency.
  • 82% believe their direct manager cares about their opinion.
  • 4 out of 5 are clear on how to meet their goals and objectives, and
  • 83% believe their direct manager cares about their wellbeing.

Measuring the engagement level on your team is a first step in showing them that you care. When employees feel that their opinion matters, they’re more likely to speak up when it’s important. And when managers take their input to heart, it builds a trusting manager-employee relationship. This relationship can help re-engage a disengaged employee, or help an engaged employee thrive.

This is important, because as Gallup reports in their 2021 state of the global workplace report, global employee engagement has dropped from 22% in 2019 to 20% in 2020.

20% of employees are engaged at work, globally.

— Gallup’s 2021 state of the global workplace report

Gallup estimates that low engagement costs the global economy US$8.1 trillion, and state that current levels of employee disengagement are causing average corporations to fight on a daily basis to improve team productivity. But they also believe that it doesn’t have to be like this. As they put it:

Gallup’s work with employers around the world has proven that organizations with extremely low engagement can make changes that produce a high percentage of engaged employees — 70% or higher.

Gallup’s 2021 state of the global workplace report

When you invest in your people, you’ll quickly see the benefits of employee engagement. But you can’t build an effective employee engagement strategy without the actionable data to back up your efforts. That’s why giving prompting people to share how they feel with surveys is key to boosting engagement on your team.

Team leader stack

Keep up with your team’s needs all in one place

Track engagement, respond to feedback, and have better 1-on-1s with Officevibe’s Team Leader Stack.

Types of employee engagement surveys and frequency

There are a few different types of employee engagement surveys you can use to keep a pulse on employee sentiment. Depending on your industry and the size and context of your team, you can pick the survey type that’s best for your needs. You might even opt to implement a combination of surveys to measure different things.

One of the main differences in employee surveys is the frequency. Your company might already have an annual or quarterly employee satisfaction survey to collect high-level insights. But as a manager, you might opt to supplement this will more frequent surveys, whether that be monthly, bi-weekly, or every week.

1. Annual employee surveys

Traditionally, annual employee engagement surveys have been the way to get a lot of employee feedback on several metrics. Usually done at an organizational level, an annual survey gets leadership teams high-level information on the employee experience, company culture, and employee turnover. These insights can help guide everything from business strategy to HR initiatives and company policy.

The main problem with the old-school annual approach is that the results are often skewed, and even biased. Employees tend to respond to surveys based on how they currently feel, which is unlikely to represent an entire year’s worth of work life.

In fast-paced modern workplaces, annual surveys are unlikely to offer the right kind of insights to make meaningful change — especially at the team level. As a manager, these surveys aren’t likely to help you make incremental changes month-to-month and week-to-week that will have a big impact for your team.

2. Quarterly employee surveys

Quarterly employee engagement surveys have their place at the organizational and team level. For senior leaders and HR managers, these are a better way to keep up with how employees are doing and the way they’re navigating any changes through the year.

And for managers, these are a good way to get an overview of how things like your team strategy and work methods are going. A quarterly survey can help you plan the next 3 months for your team in a practical sense. These are some of the questions that quarterly survey insights could help you answer:

  • What will your team work on?
  • Who will work on what?
  • How will team members collaborate efficiently?

The most important thing is that any type of survey is used intentionally. A quarterly survey should be used to gather insights that are relevant on a quarterly basis. You can use a survey builder like Officevibe’s custom polls to create a quarterly survey for your needs.

3. Pulse surveys

Employee pulse surveys are the best, most accurate way to measure employee engagement levels and job satisfaction. These short employee engagement questionnaires are sent on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and only take a couple minutes to fill out.

Because of the frequency, managers and leadership teams get ongoing, real-time data of how employees feel at work. This way they can track trends and fluctuations over time. Pulse survey reports make it easier to see the impact of changes and spot issues before they become bigger problems. The benefit of all of this? It makes it so much easier for managers to take action on survey results.

Product shot of the Engagement history feature in Officevibe
A survey report in Officevibe

An employee survey platform built for managers

Officevibe’s Pulse Surveys measure 10 key metrics of engagement, that break down into 26 sub-metrics. These include employee engagement factors like recognition frequency, relationship with manager, feedback quality, trust between peers, sense of purpose, work-life balance, and more. The algorithm ensures employees answer questions on all metrics regularly, so your data report stays accurate.

Types of employee survey questions

When you build your own employee survey, you want to understand the different types of questions you can ask and the purposes they serve. There are two types of questions you can ask: quantitative or qualitative.

A quantitative survey question has a predetermined set of responses. These could be:

  • Multiple choice questions
  • True or False Questions (or Yes/No)
  • Opinion scales (ex: 0-10)

The good thing about qualitative questions is that responses can be grouped together easily. The data from your results is simpler to understand and analyze.

A qualitative survey question, on the other hand, is open-ended and can get more detailed information on a particular topic. They can be used for many different things, but are often helpful as a follow up to the quantitative questions.

A great employee engagement survey will use a mix of both quantitative and qualitative questions. This makes the survey process simpler for employees, managers, and leadership alike. They’re quick to fill out, simple to analyze, and get more detailed feedback where it’s most needed.

Officevibe’s Pulse Surveys use quantitative questions to assess employee engagement levels on an ongoing basis. Many of the questions have qualitative follow-ups, where employees can provide more context or information. When managers want to dig deeper on specific topics, they can select from the bank of customizable custom poll survey templates, or build their own from scratch.

Product shot of the Custom Polls feature in Officevibe
Building a Custom Poll in Officevibe

Question types to avoid

What are some questions to look out for when you’re building a survey? You want to be careful not to have leading questions, vague questions, or combined questions.

Leading questions

Leading questions are phrased to encourage employees to answer a certain way. These should be avoided so you don’t sway your team’s survey responses in a certain direction, or end up with a confirmation bias.

Leading question examples:

  • Wouldn’t it be nice if we had more fruit in the kitchen?
  • Are you satisfied with your great benefits package?

If you can, have a colleague proofread your questions before you send out your survey. Ask them to look out for any wording that could influence people to respond in a certain way.

Vague questions

Vague questions run the risk of confusing the reader, which can cause them to give an irrelevant or misleading response. Or, it could even make employees frustrated and disengaged with the questionnaire.

Vague question examples:

  • What do you think about feedback?
  • How do you feel about your coworkers?

Be as specific with your question as possible. If you want to know about feedback frequency, ask about how often people get feedback. If you want to know about collaboration, ask if people are working well together.

Combined questions

Combined questions are when more than one question is squished into one. This is easy to do if you’re trying to keep your survey short and get a lot of information. But it’s important to look out for these questions because they can end up making your survey responses a lot less accurate.

Combined question examples:

  • Does your manager give you specific feedback, and give feedback often?
  • Can you rely on your peers for support, and do they go above and beyond?

Even if two or more questions are related, it’s always best to split them up. People might have different answers for each part of the question, so make sure each question truly stands alone.

Team leader stack

Keep up with your team’s needs all in one place

Track engagement, respond to feedback, and have better 1-on-1s with Officevibe’s Team Leader Stack.

Employee engagement survey questions

Ready to build a survey for your team, but looking for employee engagement survey questions to use? Look no further! Here are a selection of Officevibe‘s 120 employee Pulse Survey questions, divided into our 10 metrics of engagement.

Personal growth questions

  • Do you feel you have enough freedom to decide how you do your work?
  • Is there is someone at work who helps you grow and develop?
  • Do you have the opportunity to grow within your organization?

Relationship with manager

  • When you ask your direct manager for help, can they devote time to help you?
  • Is your direct manager someone you can trust?

Happiness questions

  • Do you enjoy the work you do?
  • Have you noticed your work taking a toll on your personal life?

Job satisfaction questions

  • Do you know what you need to do to meet your goals and objectives?
  • On a scale from 0-10, how reasonable is your workload?
  • Are you comfortable in your work environment?

Wellness questions

  • Overall, how do you feel about your level of work-related stress?
  • On a scale from 0-10, how would you rate your organization’s actions to promote employee wellness (support, resources for remote work or mental health, programs, etc.)?
Product shot of the Pulse survey feature in Officevibe
An employee wellness survey question in Officevibe

Company alignment questions

  • Do the leaders of your organization demonstrate that employees are essential to its success?
  • Do you believe that your organization is able to reach its objectives?

Relationship with peers

  • Can you count on your peers when you need help?
  • Do you and your peers collaborate well together?
  • Are communications among peers honest and transparent?

Feedback questions

  • Are you satisfied with the frequency of feedback coming from your direct manager?
  • Is the feedback you get specific?

Recognition questions

  • How would you rate the frequency at which you receive recognition?
  • Is recognition meaningful when you receive it?

Ambassadorship questions

  • On a scale from 0-10, how likely are you to recommend this organization as a good place to work?
  • On a scale from 0-10, how likely are you to recommend the products/services your organization makes?

Employee engagement surveys participation

Creating an employee survey or finding the right survey tool for your needs is one thing. But how to make sure employees participate so you get the most accurate survey responses is another.

The levels of trust in your organization and team, how you communicate about the survey, and the length of your survey will all play into your participation rates. These are the best areas to focus as you launch an employee engagement survey to get people participating, and get the most accurate results.

Building trust

Building trust on your team is the most important part. You need to have a culture where employees aren’t scared to speak their minds. It takes time and effort to get there, but the good news is that a survey can actually be a great place to start.

When employees have the security of anonymity (more on that later), it can help create the psychological safety they need to be honest. When they see that their candid responses are taken into consideration and acted on, it builds more trust for them to be open with how they feel.

Communication

Whether you send an email, a slack message, or announce the survey during a team meeting, communicating it effectively can impact how employees respond. Try to cover the following points when you let your team know that you’re launching a survey.

  • Why they’re taking the survey
  • How many questions it contains
  • When they can expect the survey
  • How long it should take
  • Whether their responses are anonymous
  • How you plan to use the results

Survey length

The amount of time an employee engagement survey takes will impact your response rate. This is another reason why shorter, more frequent pulse surveys see higher participation rates. Beyond your participation rate, survey length impacts the quality of your data.

The more questions you ask, the less time your respondents spend, on average, answering each question.

Survey Monkey

Research from Survey Monkey found that when people speed through questions, their answers become less reliable. And people take their time with each question when the survey is shorter in length. So a well thought out, short survey is the best way to get more people engaging with it, and giving higher quality responses.

Engagement surveys results

One of the most important parts of the employee survey is understanding your results. Employee engagement is more than a score — your reports have so much information to offer you. From understanding the impact of team or company changes to tracking seasonal trends in employee morale, there are many ways to interpret your employee survey results.

Your team’s survey results can tell you a lot as a manager, and you want to let your employees know that their input is valued. Here are the steps you should take once your survey results come in.

Thank employees for participating

Once the survey is completed (or once in awhile if you use pulse surveys), you should thank employees for taking the time to participate. Let them know that you’ve received the results and you’re in the process of analyzing them. Reminding employees that their opinions matter to you and the company makes them feel that their time invested in the survey was worthwhile.

Share and explain employee surveys results

Whether you’re using quarterly, monthly, or weekly surveys, it’s important to share the results with your team. You can do this after each survey or every month or two if your surveys are more frequent. Explain what fluctuations or trends you’re spotting, and let your team know that you’re planning to act on these insights. Employee survey tools can simplify this process with clear, digestible reports. Officevibe makes it easy to share your survey report with your team anytime.

Team leader stack

Keep up with your team’s needs all in one place

Track engagement, respond to feedback, and have better 1-on-1s with Officevibe’s Team Leader Stack.

Creating an action plan with survey results

Don’t stop at collecting your survey results, or even at sharing them with your team. The most important thing any manager can do with their survey results is to act on them. Here’s how.

Discuss with your team

Once you’ve shared the results with your team, get their input on what focus areas they feel would have the greatest impact. Maybe they’re doing well in feedback quality, but need to improve feedback frequency to make the most of this strength. Or they could be struggling with collaboration, and might feel that focusing on peer communication will benefit them in this area. Talking to your team helps you decide where to focus together, and involves them in the process.

Brainstorm ideas

With one or two focus areas in mind, it’s time to start thinking of solutions. Have a brainstorm with your team to come up with ideas of how you might address your pain points. Once everyone has shared their suggestions, you can vote together on which ones you’d like to pursue. Again, this gives people agency in their own engagement. Employees will be more committed to the action plan because they took part in defining it.

a miro board with post-it notes
Brainstorming on team pain points & solutions

Communicate and follow up

Set a timeline for your goals or action items and be sure to follow up with your team. You can check in during team meetings or in one-on-one meetings to see how people are adjusting the the changes. If your team is having trouble getting an initiative off the ground, you can regroup with them to see how you can make it work.

Survey anonymity concerns and benefits

While allowing for employee anonymity could be nerve-wracking for some managers, it’s an important part of surveying employees and soliciting feedback. Even on the most open, honest, and psychologically safe teams, people might not always be comfortable to answer specific questions.

But offering anonymity can actually build up that sense of safety. When employees see that their honest feedback is taken to heart and turned into meaningful action, it empowers them to speak up more. This builds up trust on teams and stronger manager-employee relationships.

When you think about it this way, there’s less to fear, and much more to gain.

Employe surveys key takeaways

  • Short, frequent surveys are the best way to get accurate, actionable employee engagement data.
  • Survey questions should be crafted with care and clearly formulated.
  • Involving employees in building an action plan boosts the impact of it.
  • Tools like Officevibe can help you facilitate, analyze, and act on your employee surveys.
  • Anonymity helps you get more honest feedback from employees.