As we close out 2022, a year where we’ve adjusted to hybrid workplaces as the new norm, tried to understand quiet quitting, navigated ongoing inflation and economic uncertainty, and faced increasing demands for compensation and employee engagement, it’s time to look ahead to see what the next year will hold for organizations and HR teams.

1. HR will have to bridge the divide. 

Companies are going to over-index on performance — and risk damaging the employee experience.

We are still dealing with a global pandemic, and on top of that, we now also have inflation and economic uncertainty to contend with. As businesses look for ways to cut costs and increase productivity, organizations have tried various tactics to get more out of their current workforce, including requiring employees to return to the office at least a few days a week or using surveillance software to track employees.

Increasing productivity is easier said than done. Gallup found that highly engaged teams are 18% more productive and 23% more profitable than low engagement teams. However, only 21% of employees are engaged at work globally, with workers in the US and Canada slightly higher at 33%, meaning the majority of employees worldwide are disengaged. Low engagement teams have 18% to 43% higher turnover rates than highly engaged teams, which is costly to the bottom line.

Disengaged employees are leaving companies, but the reasons why they’re leaving and the reasons that executives believe they’re leaving are mismatched. Executives attribute attrition to transactional elements — compensation, poor health, and employees looking for a better job. Meanwhile, employees have reevaluated what they want in a job in the last few years, and it now takes more than money to retain top talent. A Lattice survey of 2,000 US and European employees showed that younger workers are looking for a place to belong. Work flexibility has also risen in importance: Recent Lattice research showed that 59% of Gen Z and millennial employees would consider walking out of a job over a company’s remote work policy. Plus, in light of layoffs and cost-cutting efforts, employees are being asked to do more with less, which is a surefire recipe for burnout.

HR teams have the difficult job of finding the middle ground, working with executives to set realistic goals for the organization while also trying to increase employee engagement and retention in order to achieve those goals. HR teams can create or revisit their employee value proposition (EVP), which is the promise the organization makes to employees and candidates that incorporates company values, compensation strategy, learning and development opportunities, and more. Employees are looking at their work experience in its entirety and are looking for businesses that align with their values. By emphasizing deeper connections, personal growth, flexibility, well-being, and a shared purpose, employers can shift their EVP to be more human-centric to show employees that they are valued as people, not just line items on a spreadsheet.

Your employee experience doesn’t have to be at odds with your business performance. Check out How to Use Performance Management to Inspire Employee Growth to learn how.

2. Your managers are not okay.

Manager engagement and retention will be a mission-critical priority for HR and business leaders this year. 

It’s clear that employees at all levels have faced challenges these past years, and that is certainly the case for managers, who sit in the wide middle area between C-Suite executives and employees and have to balance the priorities of both. Good managers have a specific set of skills and are more than just advanced individual contributors. They lead, manage, and develop their teams and reports. The past few years of the pandemic and shift to hybrid work have made managerial responsibilities multiply and grow in unexpected ways — not only do they have to champion their employees but they’ve also had to help employees navigate an unsettling economy and potential job insecurity, and managers are reaching a breaking point.

With engagement and retention more important than ever, the brunt of this responsibility falls on the shoulders of managers. Gallup data shows that team engagement depends heavily on the manager, who can account for a 70% difference in engagement rates. Employees want purpose in their jobs, but the “who” that can drive employee engagement is a caring manager. A GoodHire survey of 3,000 American workers showed that bad managers not only impact engagement, but also retention, and 82% of workers would potentially quit their job because of a bad manager. One of the top reasons employees leave their jobs is because they don’t feel valued by their manager.

But managers are also struggling with engagement. According to Gallup’s State of the American Manager Report, 35% of US managers are engaged, and 14% are actively disengaged. With these rates, it’s no wonder that employee engagement rates are also low, as employees who work for engaged employees are 59% more likely to be engaged themselves. And it’s not just that managers are disengaged; they’re also burned out and leaving their jobs. Lattice research also found that middle managers (defined as managers who oversee teams of managers) were the most likely cohort of employees to be actively looking for new work (70% in the UK and 50% in the US). 

Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index showed that managers felt like they were stuck between managing executive and employee expectations, which often aren’t aligned. Over half of managers surveyed felt that their organization’s leadership was out of touch with employees. But managers felt powerless to create change, with 74% of surveyed managers saying they lacked the resources and influence to make changes for their team.

The role of the manager as a team motivator is more critical than ever, but managers are facing an extraordinary amount of pressure to have their teams deliver while trying to balance heavy workloads, manage people, engage employees, and maintain everyone’s well-being. Most managers do not have the resources or bandwidth to combat burnout when they’re facing it themselves. 

Companies need to find ways to support their managers, as they are a crucial part of improving engagement and company culture. That means including managers in the employee experience to get a full picture of how employees are doing, and implementing the right systems and processes to enable managers to succeed. Managers are less likely to know what’s expected of them than the people they manage, and over 40% of managers surveyed say they have competing priorities, so setting clear priorities and expectations can help managers focus on the most impactful business goals instead of trying to do it all. Organizations should provide career development opportunities to help their managers grow, as well as performance management resources (best practices in giving and receiving feedback, conducting one-on-ones, etc.) to help their teams succeed. And there should be a focus on well-being initiatives or programs to help managers combat burnout for themselves and their teams. 

Lattice’s 2023 State of People Strategy (SOPS) showed that manager training was the second highest priority for HR leaders in 2022, behind employee engagement. Investing in managers helps invest in the teams they oversee. Bad managers negatively impact engagement and retention and are therefore costly, but good managers give employees a reason to stay and perform to their best ability.

See what HR professionals around the globe had to say about this year’s priorities, successes, and challenges in The 2023 State of People Strategy Report.

3. Pay transparency is coming, and it’s going to be a mess.

Creating a compensation philosophy is only half the equation; employees want to know where they stand.

California recently passed a pay transparency law requiring all companies with more than 15 employees to list salary ranges for jobs. California joins the growing number of states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, and Washington, that have passed similar legislation requiring employers to disclose pay. The laws vary from state to state, which may be difficult for job seekers to navigate. Still, pay transparency has benefits, such as helping to counter the gender pay gap, the difference in salary between men and women in the US. Research from 2022 shows women earn $0.82 for every $1 men earn, and the gap is even wider for women of color.

Pay transparency is also in line with what employees want from employers. A Lattice survey on compensation found that 67% of US employees agreed their company should have transparency around pay policies, and over half of respondents think companies should disclose how much everyone is paid.

Companies, on the other hand, are still catching up. Lattice’s 2023 State of People Strategy found that pay transparency within organizations is still low, and even lower at smaller companies.

  • 54% of HR leaders said only HR and finance know pay bands.
  • 25% of employees know the salary band for their job level, but only 9% know the pay band for the next level up.

With 59% of companies investing in pay transparency, and 21% investing considerable effort in it, companies are making some progress. Pay transparency helps employees have trust in pay equity across the organization and can also increase engagement and retention. For example, if employees see a comparable job listing with a salary that is much higher than theirs, that information may help them negotiate during the next round of performance and compensation cycles. It can also save time during the recruitment process by weeding out candidates who are looking for a role that pays differently.

Compensation transparency can’t happen without proper planning and strategy. Businesses need to be clear on what they are going to disclose and how. To achieve that, People teams need to develop a compensation philosophy that provides clear guidelines, ties back to company values, and explains how salaries, raises, and bonuses are structured. Creating the compensation philosophy is only half the equation; organizations then need to develop a communication plan so all employees know where they stand and what the potential opportunities are for movement within the company.

Keep in mind that compensation goes beyond salary, and a compensation philosophy should factor in a total rewards package, which can include benefits, health and wellness programs, learning and development, and paid time off. These additional items may not show up directly on a paycheck but can still positively impact the employee experience. 

One way to add structure to your compensation strategy is to use a compensation tool, which can help HR teams securely share data, collaborate across teams, and implement updates as needed.

Fair compensation can improve retention, employee motivation, and overall business performance. Download How to Reward Top Talent With Pay-for-Performance to learn more.

4. We’re returning to fundamental workforce strategies.

The world of work is moving on from gimmicks like quiet quitting, productivity paranoia, or the hybrid push/pull.

Changes in work norms have led to rebranding of old trends with new terms in an effort to describe the shifts in employee expectations. For example, “quiet quitting” is simply a new term for employee disengagement, and “productivity paranoia” is when leaders are worried their teams aren’t working hard enough with hybrid work models, despite 87% of employees reporting they are productive. And even employees recognize that these are just new names for old stories: Recent Lattice research found that 45% of employees reported that they were not very familiar, or not familiar at all, with the phrase quiet quitting — and yet 36% of those same employees self-reported having “quietly quit” in the last year when it was defined as disengaging from their work. 

Neither of these trends began during the pandemic, but coining phrases for them highlighted the fact that engagement and productivity have always been organizational priorities, and HR teams have been at the forefront of navigating this new world of work. According to Lattice’s 2023 State of People Strategy, HR leaders expect some, if not all, of their workforce to be remote, and have prioritized employee engagement; manager training; learning and development; diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) programs; and performance management over talent acquisition.

As employee expectations change and organizations adapt to meet them, we’ll see a shift from The Great Resignation to The Great Recognition. Organizations will recognize that the best employees are engaged employees and that listening to workers’ feedback is not only good for employee growth, but for company growth as well.

5. “Hybrid work” is just “work” now.

Employees who have embraced it will increasingly shape where the new workforce is headed. 

For better or worse, a majority of workers have gotten used to remote work and all that it offers: no commute, comfortable work clothes, and more flexible schedules. According to behavioral economics, people avoid loss more than they seek gain, and thus they are not likely to want to give up remote or hybrid work, no matter what the additional in-office perks are. In fact, six in 10 fully remote employees and three in 10 hybrid employees said they are “extremely likely to change companies” if remote flexibility is not an option. Even though a company’s percentage of remote workers varies significantly by industry and organization size (for example, professional services and tech companies will have more remote employees than manufacturing companies), for most employees and employers, hybrid work is not an option anymore, but rather a requirement. 

Some of the early concerns with remote work were about how managers and employees needed facetime together for productivity and engagement. However, managers have become comfortable managing their teams remotely, with 45% saying they have enough facetime to effectively manage most employees and situations. Even the 26% of respondents who would prefer more facetime feel they have enough of it to handle major issues. This is consistent across companies whether they are 10% or 90% remote. HR professionals who feel there should be more facetime cited engagement and culture as their top concerns, with productivity ranking second to last.

Employees have realized that they don’t need to go to a physical office to do work and that they want increased flexibility so work can fit into their lives instead of the other way around. Smaller companies can shift to hybrid and remote work models more easily, and traditional businesses will have to follow suit to retain talent. Gen Z not only places greater importance on purpose at work, but will also be the first generation that has not been required to be in the office five days a week. Gen Z’s percentage of the total workforce will only grow over time, and as a result, as an increasing number of hybrid or remote employees move into leadership and manager roles, hybrid strategies will improve and solidify in the long term.

A shift in employee values and demographics, new and hybrid spaces where we physically do work, and an ongoing struggle to maintain employee engagement despite internal and economic pressures have all upended traditional organizational playbooks. HR teams play an increasingly important role in balancing priorities at all levels of the organization, evolving company culture to meet dynamic needs, and driving employee and business success.

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Experts say there are two make-or-break moments when the emotional intelligence of company leaders can have an outsized impact on their employees and teams: Layoffs, and mergers and/or acquisitions (M&As). Both company-wide staffing reductions and mergers and acquisitions are times of high stress, anxiety, and instability for employees; these are the moments when not just the decisions leadership makes but how they make — and communicate — them can have lasting effects on company culture and an organization’s industry reputation.

“Mergers and acquisitions are among the most significant forms of organizational change, as they alter roles, ranks, responsibilities, and the ‘order’ of an institution; this creates substantial anxiety and fear,” said Theodore Klein, Managing Partner of organizational development consulting firm Boston Strategy Group. “Empathy is management’s acceptance and understanding of [these emotions], and [their] powerful impact on business function. Empathy is the recognition by management and executives that mergers and acquisitions will always cause major problems that need to be anticipated.” 

During periods of transition, empathetic leaders — and empathetic leadership styles — are essential. Modeling empathy during times of peak organizational strain can be a lifeline to both workers whose positions have been eliminated, as well as the employees who remain. It’s critical for preventing burnout and attrition, but even beyond retention, it’s a crucial quality for business success.  

Here’s why experts say empathy is important during mergers and acquisitions, and how leaders should embody it.

Why Empathy Is Essential

According to Nadya Zhexembayeva, PhD, founder and Chief Reinvention Officer of change consultancy Reinvention Academy, there are a few elements that make mergers and acquisitions uniquely stressful. 

“In addition to complex legal, financial, and operational issues, [employees] are asked to process deeply personal unknowns: ‘Is my job safe? Will I be able to align with the new coworkers? Will my position and respect in the company get diminished?’” Zhexembayeva said. “As a result, confusion, frustration, and anxiety are even more pronounced — and these feelings are absolutely normal and natural.”

Being able to address these emotions head-on and in a productive way is crucial for business success, noted Zhexembayeva. “When you have a group of coworkers experiencing intense emotions, your ability to empathize and express your empathy is the difference between a productive workforce and a disengaged workforce, which translates into a major gain or loss of revenue,” she said. “In other words, empathy is a building block of a successful business and should be treated as a must-have skill across all functions and levels in the organization.”

Suzanne Smith, founder and CEO of social change consulting firm Social Impact Architects, said cultivating a strong culture of empathy can ultimately affect a merger’s chance of success.

Mergers are about negotiation, so practicing empathy makes you better at understanding the other side’s needs and motivations,” said Smith. “Having strong empathy skills is a necessity for finding [a positive outcome for all parties], which is the goal of the best negotiators.”

How to Practice Empathy in Times of Transition

No amount of training can make bad news like layoffs, or complex news like company mergers, easy to hear or accept. But experts said there are proven strategies that Human Resources professionals, managers, and emotionally intelligent business leaders can use to show compassion for employees’ and stakeholders’ feelings and well-being during times of high anxiety. Here’s what they recommend.

1. Be honest and transparent.

One of the best ways to demonstrate empathy, experts said, is to trust your employees with the information they need to know.  

“Fluffy ‘everything is going to be okay’ empathy is the polar opposite” of true empathy in times of change, said Sara Raudenbaush, a Fortune 500 business consultant who works with businesses running M&A integrations and founder of coaching firm Back Pocket Business Coach. “Managing change has to center on reality,” she stressed. “Give employees the respect and benefit of the doubt that they can handle information.”

In cases where managers can’t (or shouldn’t) provide all of the details, they should still be transparent about what they can and can’t share, Raudenbaush said. Trusting employees with an accurate — and as complete as possible — picture of what is about to come allows individuals to not just make decisions for their work and personal lives, but it also keeps business on track. 

“Tough decisions will always happen and employees may not understand the mechanics of layoffs or growth, but fear is worse for productivity than knowing the risk,” she said. 

2. Communicate clearly.

Keeping employees informed means keeping the lines of communication open. In addition to holding group meetings and one-on-ones (both formal and ad hoc) to share M&A-related news and updates, consider creating a document that outlines expected changes and a timeline of when they’ll be happening. A written plan gives employees a clearer picture of what the “new normal” will look like, and something to refer to when things feel chaotic.

Renée Sanábria Lautermilch, VP of Learning and Development at HearingLife, a US-based retail hearing healthcare provider, which was formed entirely through acquisitions, said these types of documents, or “change roadmaps,” can serve not just as an important communication tool, but also as an investment in employees’ mental well-being. “Change roadmaps allow impacted employees to see what will be changing and when, so nothing takes them by surprise, thus eliminating the scary ‘unknown’ element,” she said. 

3. Really listen.

Emily Sander, a leadership coach and founder of Next Level Coaching, said listening skills are essential for leaders looking to build an empathetic workplace. 

“Understand that if you’ve been part of the decision-making process for days, weeks, or months and someone else is hearing the news for the first time, you need to give them time to process it and catch up to where you are,” Sander said. “Give people the chance to ask questions and provide feedback. Sometimes this is to vent, which may be valid, and holding a space for that can be part of your job. Sometimes the feedback provided can be very helpful — perhaps it’s something that hadn’t been considered before and you can incorporate going forward.” 

Don’t ignore nonverbal communication, either, experts advised. Taking note of what employees aren’t saying is just as important, added Sander.  

“Everyone processes information differently, so giving people what they need to best do that is helpful, [whether that’s] time, space, more information, [or] a place to voice their opinion and just be heard,” she said.

4. Don’t take it personally.

Employees’ feelings about the changes ahead may be mixed: They may be excited or energized, but the reality is, especially if job cuts are involved, anxiety, sadness, fear, disappointment, and anger are all likely, too. That’s normal — and it’s critical that empathetic leaders don’t take an employee’s feelings about the changes an M&A brings personally and view it as a personal attack.

Klein said managers conducting check-ins with their employees should be prepared for different perspectives, and should “anticipate pushback of all forms.” Accept and recognize any emotional reactions, he advised, and “remove your own emotions from the process.” 

“Trust is essential to the smooth functioning of any organization. What builds trust…is the belief that others have some understanding of [your] personal goals, aspirations, wishes, feelings, emotions, and needs; that understanding is the essence of empathy,” Klein continued. “The less empathy exhibited by an organization, the less trust — and the more dysfunctional — the firm.” 

There’s no doubt that mergers and acquisitions can be incredibly tense and stressful for leaders, managers, and employees alike. But practicing empathy at higher levels of the organization during these times can have a cascading effect on the company as a whole — even, and maybe especially, when different perspectives, opinions, and feelings about the changes exist throughout the firm. If the new company structure is going to be successful, leadership skills will be put to the test, and approaching change with an empathetic mindset is part of the answer. 

“Understanding the stages [employees] are going through and when they’re going through them is important. If this isn’t done well, it’ll translate into negative impacts for morale, personnel churn, productivity, customer service, and revenue,” Sander cautioned.  

But there’s upside, too, said Sander, and it’s considerable. Leadership displaying empathy, consideration, and understanding can go a long way to making an organization’s culture better — and making sure the merger, acquisition, or transition is as smooth and successful as possible for all parties involved. 

Employers have long used employee engagement surveys to take the temperature of the workforce. With the direct feedback these surveys provide, organizations can shore up engagement, replicate what’s working well, and build trust with employees.

Now, with so many organizations moving to permanent remote and hybrid work arrangements, the role of employee engagement questionnaires may be more important than ever. Informal discussions between managers and direct reports around the water cooler, another opportunity for these types of candid conversations, are harder to come by when everybody’s working at home.

And, as they leave their jobs at historic rates, workers have demonstrated they value work-life balance, flexibility, and the feeling that they’re making an impact on the job. To retain workers, companies must do all they can to tap into what employees need, want, and expect at work.

“We need to hear from the source — what’s going on, how are you feeling, [and] how can we improve?” said Charlotte Kackley, SHRM-SCP, Human Resources Director for Merchant Maverick, which provides financial services research for small businesses. “Otherwise, we’re just stuck making assumptions and we could be implementing changes that really don’t affect change in the areas that are needed.”

But to get actionable results from survey data, the design is critical — especially the order of the survey questions. “When we see the start of the survey is challenging or causes people to stop and spend a lot of time reflecting, we’ll see that the responses become less meaningful,” noted Jessica Lambrecht, founder and CEO of HR strategy and organizational culture consulting firm The Rise Journey.

Here’s why survey design is so critical — and how to build a survey that will uncover the best insights for your team. 

Order Matters

Workers are bombarded with so many responsibilities, and an employee engagement survey is just one more task competing for their attention. When designing surveys, senior management and HR leaders must ensure the survey questions aren’t a slog to answer, triggering survey fatigue that might prompt people to just give up. “Order matters because people’s willingness to complete the survey diminishes with each additional question,” said David Ciccarelli, founder and CEO of Voices, an online marketplace platform for voiceover talent.

It also matters because the right order of the survey questions can build a natural narrative for respondents as they think about their work life. When designed well, a survey will prompt employees to consider the big picture of their workplace, as later questions dive more deeply into their individual work experience. This kind of design can elicit more thoughtful reflections.

“Ordering survey questions a certain way can make the overall intention of the survey more clear,” Kackley said. “One question can provide context to the next, and answers can build on each other.”

Questions Should Flow Naturally, Like a Conversation

The optimal questionnaire design starts with higher-level queries about the organization as a whole before drilling down to more sensitive questions. “It’s a bit of a warmup,” Ciccarelli said. “It’s guiding the survey participant along to the point where they feel like [they’re] opening up more about [themselves] personally.”

Ciccarelli compares it to small talk: “You talk about shared experiences first — [like] the weather, whatever sports were on, travel, [and] holidays, and then you go into more personal stories later on in the conversation,” he said. “The same [concept applies] in structuring a survey. You want to…capture all these shared experiences and then slowly but surely move toward the individualized, personalized experiences.”

The style of survey questions can also reflect this top-down approach. Using multiple choice questions toward the beginning of the survey can help respondents engage with ease, and think about high-level concepts before moving down to more reflective, open-ended questions.

When Lambrecht works with clients on employee engagement surveys, she recommends they order it by dropping down organizational levels with each bucket of questions. Here’s what that looks like: 

  1. Organization: These questions dial into employees’ thoughts about the overall organization, Lambrecht said. The type of questions might include: 
  1. Leadership: The next set of questions would focus on the company’s senior leadership. Specific questions might include: 
  • Is leadership sharing information transparently? 
  • How frequently do you hear from leadership?
  • What channels or platforms are most effective for receiving communication from leadership? 
  1. Managers: These types of survey questions then home in on an employee’s managers or management. General questions include: 
  • Are you comfortable giving feedback to your manager
  • Does your manager listen to your concerns?  
  • What could your manager provide more clarity on?
  1. Team: From there, the questions begin to focus on team relationships. Queries might cover: 
  • Are there clear lines of communication on your team? 
  • Is it easy to collaborate with team members? 
  • How often do you give or receive feedback from your team members?
  1. Individual: Then, the survey should focus on more personal questions. Questions might cover how the respondent feels about their role at work, including: 
  • Do you know what you need to succeed in your role (personal attributes, skills, competencies, resources, etc.)?
  • Do you understand the company’s compensation philosophy, and how to earn a promotion
  • What resources would help you grow or reach the next level of your role?
  1. Personal: The final set of questions zero in on an individual’s experience even more deeply, covering topics such as: 

The exact buckets and wording, according to Lambrecht, will depend on an organization’s unique needs. A small company, for example, might not have teams. Or an organization with only in-office staff won’t need to ask about remote collaboration tools. 

She also recommends allowing employees to leave written comments about each grouping of questions. Many surveys will ask close-ended questions with specific response options — multiple choice questions, Likert scale questions (a five-point scale ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”), or yes/no answers. Opportunities to provide written comments to more open-ended questions can reveal additional information and insights. “It’s important to have as much context as possible to understand where there are trends,” Lambrecht said. 

Where Does an eNPS Question Belong?  

Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) questions measure how employees rank the desirability of a workplace through a rating scale from 0 to 10. Employees are asked whether they would recommend the employer to their own network, and it is a popular query to include in broader employee engagement surveys.

“Those questions almost always are among the first questions,” Lambrecht said. In a survey that starts with the big picture, it’s a big-picture question to ask. And some experts believe that putting it at the top ensures that answers are not clouded by the previous questions.

But others leave the eNPS questions for the end of the survey after employees have mulled over their work life. It’s what Ciccarelli does when surveying his employees. “It’s giving someone the opportunity to reflect on all of their answers up to that point and then asking the punchline question,” he said. 

Make It Easy to Participate

When sending out surveys, a response rate of about 75% should be the goal, Lambrecht said. 

And it’s important to keep in mind that as employers build out surveys, other design aspects are critical beyond the order of questions, including:  

  • Question Consistency: To make it easier to measure successes or failures over time, make sure the questions asked are the same or very similar to those you included in previous surveys — especially the answer options for multiple choice questions. It makes internal benchmarking and other survey research possible, Lambrecht said. “That will give you that roadmap for heading in the right direction,” she noted.
  • Survey Ease: An intuitive flow is key, along with a clear picture of how long the survey will take and what percentage has been completed. “If the process seems disorganized or incongruent, a responder is more likely to abandon the survey,” Kackley cautioned. 
  • Survey Results Action: You can have the perfect survey with the optimal number of questions in just the right order, and still have flagging interest and responses. That often happens when employers have distributed employee engagement surveys in the past — and then done nothing with the feedback.

When you ask employees what they think of an organization and where improvements can be made, you have to be ready to share the results and take action. Consider it a “transparent feedback loop,” Lambrecht said.

“That’s what gets people to fill out the next survey — they saw the results, [and then] they saw the changes that came to their workplace,” she said. “And now they’re motivated to share their thoughts in the next year’s annual survey.” 

Ready to learn more about employee surveying? Download our free eBook The Ultimate Guide to Employee Engagement Surveys.

Employee experience can make or break an organization. But while countless companies recognize the importance of employee experience, many aren’t looking at the full picture when creating their strategies.

“So often when talking about employee experience, companies zoom right in on their front lines: the individual contributors,” said organizational and culture consultant Daniel Juday. “This isn’t wrong; it’s just incomplete.”

It’s incomplete because it doesn’t factor managers into the equation. Since they directly oversee other employees and teams, managers play an integral role in employee experience. But all too often, they’re left out of not only crafting the employee experience strategy, but of being prioritized or even considered as team members whom that strategy will ultimately impact.

But the truth is, “managers are employees, too — with all the layers, nuances, and complexities that make work and life complicated,” said Juday. This means that including managers in employee experience should be nonnegotiable.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at why managers are so often excluded from employee experience, why it’s essential to include managers in your employee experience strategy, and how you can prioritize the employee experience of your managers — and see your teams and organization thrive as a result.

Why Managers Are Left Out of Employee Experience — and Why That’s a Problem

One of the reasons managers tend to be overlooked during conversations about employee experience is that they’re often siloed in a grey area between entry-level positions and higher levels of leadership.

“In many cases, managers exist in their own bubbles,” Juday noted. “They’re no longer individual contributors and aren’t necessarily included in those conversations, relationships, and interactions. And they’re not often invited into higher-level leadership meetings, as their roles are more about accountability than strategy. So they’re left floating in the liminal space between these two camps.”

Managers might also be overlooked because, in certain ways, they’ve already shown that they’re invested in the company. Leadership may not feel like they need to work as hard to keep managers happy and engaged with their jobs, and instead, will put their focus on creating a positive employee experience for team members they consider at a higher risk of leaving the organization.

“Top leadership isn’t necessarily trying to woo and win managers who have been there for a long time, and who generally do a fine job,” said Juday. “In some sense, [managers] get ‘checked out on.’”

But not prioritizing managers’ employee experience is a big mistake. Not only does it put a company at risk of losing its best managers, but if managers have a negative experience at work, it can trickle down to the rest of their teams, causing retention issues across the board.

If you want your employees and organization to thrive, you need to prioritize employee experience for managers. Here’s how to do it.

4 Key Steps for Including Managers in Employee Experience

1. Include managers in developing employee experience strategy.

There are few people within an organization who have deeper relationships or more frequent contact with employees than managers. “Managers have more ‘employee touches’ than anyone else in the organization — from team meetings, to one-on-ones, coaching, accountability, check-ins, and more,” Juday pointed out. 

Managers also have more frequent contact with company leadership, which puts them in a unique position: “Managers are pivotal within any organization because they are the key bridge between the experience of front-line employees and the vision and direction of senior leadership,” said Farzana Nayani, a business and strategy coach specializing in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and author of the soon-to-be-released book The Power of Employee Resource Groups: How People Create Authentic Change

Not only is it important to think about including managers in employee experience strategy, but because they have such a high level of involvement with both team members and leadership, if you want to create the best employee experience across the board, you need to involve managers in developing that strategy, too.

“Managers should be included in any employee experience strategy because they can communicate the needs of employees to leadership through ongoing and immediate feedback, which can in turn shape policies and frameworks that can support the overall employee experience,” Nayani said.

Including managers in developing employee experience strategy will help create a more positive experience for team members across the entire organization, and will also give managers a sense of ownership in shaping the company’s culture — which can lead to a more positive employee experience for them as well.

2. Give managers a clear path for growth.

Many companies focus on developing their individual contributors into managers. But once employees reach the management level, organizations often feel like their work is done. However, in order for managers to be fully engaged at work, they need to feel like they have a clear path for growth. If you want to improve employee experience for managers, give them that growth path.

“Leadership development is a lifetime learning journey,” said Lauralee Hites, CEO of Indiana-based organizational consultancy Stratavize Consulting. “Top-performing organizations continue to invest in…[managers’] development.”

Sit down with your managers and have a discussion about their career goals. Then, develop a plan to help them achieve those goals — and provide them with whatever support they need along the way, whether that’s acting as a mentor as they take on more direct reports, or investing in a training course that will enable them to develop new skills.

When you show your managers that you’re invested in their professional growth, it will make them feel more seen, appreciated, and supported at work — all of which will contribute to improving their employee experience.

3. Treat your managers as individuals.

When it comes to improving managers’ employee experience, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. To improve your managers’ experience at work, you need to treat each manager as an individual, and identify what would improve their particular employee experience.

For example, say you have two managers — a brand-new manager who’s just started overseeing their first direct report, and a more seasoned manager who’s overseeing 10 direct reports and three big projects. Both of these individuals hold the title of manager, but improving their employee experience is going to require a different approach in each case. The new manager may need support or training to learn how to balance their time between managing their new employee and tending to their other responsibilities, while the more seasoned manager may need leadership to step in and reassign some of their work in order to help them avoid overwhelm and burnout.

Managers may hold similar titles, but regardless of their title, they are individuals with unique experiences and needs. In order to create a better employee experience for your managers, you need to take an individual approach.

4. Check in regularly.

Because managers hold a more senior role in the company, you may think they don’t need as much support as more junior-level employees. But in reality, managers often need just as much — if not more — support as they navigate their work responsibilities.

“Managers are often under pressure, needing to achieve deliverables along with the constraints of resources such as time and personnel,” said Nayani. “As such, they are often caught in the middle, needing to navigate the needs of employees [and] that of the company overall. In this effort to serve many stakeholder groups, managers’ needs themselves often go unmet.”

This makes it crucial to frequently check in with your managers. Start by scheduling regular one-on-ones with them. Ask how things are going and listen, with compassion and empathy, to what they have to say. If they’re dealing with any frustrations or challenges, let them know that you’re committed to helping them find a solution, and then work to get them whatever support, guidance, or resources they need to move through their difficulties at work.

For instance, say you check in with a manager who recently returned from parental leave and is struggling to balance their responsibilities as a manager with those as a new parent. In this situation, you could validate how challenging it is to balance work and parenthood, and then offer to work with them to help them find the right balance, whether that means adjusting their work hours or temporarily shifting some of their responsibilities off their plate until they find their footing.

You can’t know how to improve your managers’ employee experience if you don’t know what’s going on with them or what kind of support they need, so make sure to check in with your managers regularly.

Managers are often overlooked in conversations about employee experience, but if you want all your employees to thrive, prioritizing employee experience for managers is a must. These strategies will help ensure that your managers have a positive experience at work — one that will then influence their direct reports and, as a result, positively impact your entire organization.

Organizations might survive if team members only slog away at daily tasks — doing just enough to get through the routine requirements that keep a business running. But without goal-setting, it’s usually difficult to do anything other than tread in place. 

Studies consistently show that actively setting goals and OKRs makes it more likely that those objectives are met. One study from Dominican University of California found that 76% of respondents who wrote down their goals, committed to take action, shared those commitments with a friend, and sent their friend weekly progress reports accomplished at least half if not all of their goals, compared to the success rate of participants who only thought about their goals but didn’t write them down (43%) and participants who wrote down their goals and action steps and shared those commitments with a friend, but didn’t follow up with progress reports (62%). 

And there is a clear business case for goal-setting as a team, too. According to Gallup, employees with managers who partner with them to create goals are 2.3 times more likely to say the goals are realistic than those with managers who did not include them in that process. What’s more, when managers collaborate with direct reports on creating objectives, it boosts employee engagement: Three-quarters of workers say they strongly agree that they know what’s expected of them when they are part of the goal-setting process, based on that same Gallup research. 

“The best way to get buy-in is for people to feel [like they’re] part of the process,” said Abi Ireland, performance strategist and executive and business coach. “It’s important to get people involved on the journey.” 

But getting every team member on the same page, and driving toward the same objectives and outcomes, can sometimes be easier said than done. Read on for five best practices that will enable you to effectively set goals as a team. 

5 Best Practices for Setting Goals As a Team

1. Get SMART.

From the start, all goals and initiatives should be SMART, said Jennifer Durbin Tuffy, founder of executive coaching practice Scoutenger. The SMART goals formula is a concept, usually attributed to renowned management expert Peter Drucker, that provides a framework for how goals are achieved. 

“That is so critical because if you don’t hit each of those aspects of the goal, you really can set yourself up for failure,” Tuffy said. “I see a lot of teams that say, ‘We need to increase our revenue another $500,000 this coming year.’ Well, that’s lovely, but unless there’s a plan behind it that tells you how you’re going to achieve that goal, it’s nothing but a wish written on paper.” 

The SMART acronym spells out an action plan for goal-setting. Here’s how it works: 

  • Specific: Ensure the goal is clearly defined, detailing why it’s important and who will be working toward the goal.

“A goal is no different than any other project you run within an organization,” Tuffy said. “It has to have an owner [and] it has to have a purpose. People have to understand what the purpose is and why they are working on this.” 

  • Measurable: Set metrics for how the goal will be measured. So, for example, don’t just say “Increase sales,” say “Increase sales by 20% during the upcoming fiscal year.”  

“Make sure the goal is very specific and action-oriented, not just a fuzzy thing that different people can interpret in different ways,” Ireland advised. Provide “as much clarity as possible around what it looks like, what the objective is, [and] why [you] are doing it. Getting all of that right from the start is going to be very important.” 

  • Achievable: Is this goal attainable, and does each contributor have the resources they need to get it done? 

“The dirty little secret is a lot of goals don’t get accomplished,” Tuffy cautioned. Don’t set your team up for failure. 

  • Relevant: How does the particular initiative mesh with the company goals, values, and business strategies, for example? 

Jessica Donahue, founder of HR consulting firm Adjunct Leadership Consulting, recommended that the executive team meet at the end of each year to set annual goals for the company. From there, she advised that leaders share those goals with managers, so they can set team goals and individual objectives with their direct reports. In this way, every goal is clearly connected to an organization’s overarching plans. 

“The idea being that [employees] can very clearly see that this is how their individual goal will help their team’s success and, therefore, help the broader organization, so that they have that line of sight to their job driving success for the business,” Donahue said. 

To ensure team members see the bigger picture, Ireland recommended posting a visual map or diagram that ties goals to company, department, and team objectives and links individuals’ activities to that big picture. “People talk about [goals], but it’s all just words,” she said. “Making it as real as possible, as visual as possible, can help.”

  • Time-Bound: What’s the actual deadline for accomplishing the goal? If there are no hard-and-fast timelines for when company objectives must be met, it’s easy for them to become a moving target. 

“It has to be time-bound in some way,” said Ireland. “We want to make sure we know what success looks like and we know when it’s achieved.”

2. Prioritize and role-model ethical, collaborative behavior.

With so much on the line, goal-setting can sometimes bring out the worst in people. Team members can get competitive, sometimes triggering unethical conduct that could include everything from lying to customers to get a sale to steamrolling a colleague they disagree with. Ireland worked in banking during the 2008 financial crisis and saw bad behavior in action. 

“The goals were to get in as much money as you can or do as many deals as you can,” she recalled. “The behavioral challenges were around ethics and trust and [was what you were doing] in the customer’s best interest?” 

As organizations set goals, they also need to make sure that leaders are role-modeling good behavior. Ensure, for example, that everybody has a voice at meetings and is treated with respect, Ireland said. Squash any workplace bullying. If organizations get this wrong, they risk damaging their reputation for the long-term, prompting a cascade of negative impacts. 

“You could lose customers over time,” she said. “You’ll lose people because of high turnover — people get fed up with going out to achieve the targets, but [seeing others] not really…valuing the team members.” 

3. Celebrate milestones.

Big goals take a long time to achieve, and that’s why it’s so important to mark the milestones — even the little ones — along the way. These celebrations don’t require big expenditures or elaborate gestures. Bringing in bagels, taking the team out for lunch, giving shout-outs during team meetings, sending an email to an executive about a particular team member’s accomplishments, or logging an employee’s good work into a People management system as part of the performance review process may be all it takes. 

“What people forget is how draining every day can be,” said Tuffy. “When you’re talking about large, lofty, year-long goals, it can be really demotivating to think, ‘I’m plugging away all year and I’m not going to win or be successful until the end of the year when this entire goal is achieved.’ Teams can lose a lot of motivation and energy for achieving the goal if they don’t have those small wins. 

“When you celebrate the small wins, you reinvigorate the team, and you give people the opportunity to celebrate what they have accomplished,” she added.

4. Review and adjust.

If we’ve learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that plans can change very quickly. And those shifts can require adjustments to specific goals and objectives. Donahue recommended reviewing goals every quarter, and asking whether a particular goal is still the right one to move forward with.

“Do we need to become more aggressive with the target? Do we need to pull back? Do we need to move up the deadline or push it out to accomplish other things?” she said. “All those conversations are right to have.” 

Tuffy, who also recommended setting regular goal-review cycles, agreed. “The absolutely worst thing you can do is have people continue to work on a goal that’s no longer relevant to the business,” she said.

5. Learn from failure.

When setbacks occur, which they inevitably will, executive teams and managers must follow up in a thoughtful way. Ireland advised that teams reflect together on whether the target was too high in the first place and whether the challenges were internal or external. 

“The best you can do is learn from [the setback], rather than just glaze over it and rush into the next year’s planning,” Ireland said. “Do a bit of scientific dissection of it and figure out, as a team, what can be done next time even better.” 


Research shows that high-performing teams have a lot in common. They’re often led by performance-oriented managers who guide their direct reports on goals and help them decide which projects are most important, according to Gallup. And with the right strategies and mindset, it’s possible to attain not just key results that are critical for business growth, but the kind of achievements that ensure an organization — and its people — will flourish and thrive. 

Every business has employee turnover. But there’s an expected, manageable level of employee turnover — and then there’s a problematic level of employee turnover that means there is a serious issue with your business. The only way you’ll know if your employee turnover falls into the “expected” or “problematic” category is by calculating your employee turnover rate.

Understanding your employee turnover rate will give you key insights into the rate at which employees are leaving your company — and, just as importantly, why they’re leaving.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about how to calculate employee turnover rate, why it’s important, and how to lower your turnover rate and keep top talent at your company.

What Employee Turnover Rate Is and Why It’s Important

Your employee turnover rate is the percentage of employees that leave your organization during a given time frame. Knowing the rate at which employees are leaving your company is a must if you want your organization to thrive.

“Calculating your employee turnover rate is like getting your annual physical; it is how you get a sense of the health of your organization,” said Edie Goldberg, PhD, founder and President of consulting company E.L. Goldberg & Associates and author of The Inside Gig: How Sharing Untapped Talent Across Boundaries Unleashes Organizational Capacity. “When you know how your turnover is trending — and how your turnover compares to industry benchmarks — you can learn if there are problems that need to be addressed,” like recruitment or management issues, she explained.

Not only can understanding your employee turnover keep you from losing your best people, it can also prevent you from losing a lot of money.

“The costs [of high employee turnover] to an organization are great,” said Goldberg.

“Estimates of the cost of turnover vary, but commonly it is [around] 33% of an individual’s salary,” she continued. “But when you add in all of the indirect costs of turnover, [like] lost business opportunity, training new employees, [or] lower productivity [of newly hired employees] in the beginning…others estimate the cost of turnover to be one-and-a-half to two times annual salary.” 

Calculating employee turnover rate is crucial if you want to keep your organization healthy and successful. Here’s how to do it.

How to Calculate Turnover Rate

When you’re calculating employee turnover rate, the first step is to choose a time period for which you want to measure turnover. For instance, do you want to know the turnover rate for the past year, or the past month?

From there, it’s time to look at your actual turnover numbers. “To calculate employee turnover, you need to know three numbers,” Goldberg explained. They are:

  1. Number of people who have left the company during the time period
  2. Number of employees at the beginning of the time period
  3. Number of employees at the end of the time period

Once you have these numbers, “the actual calculation of a total turnover rate is quite simple,” said Cabot Jaffee, PhD, CEO and President of hiring software company AlignMark. “Take the total number of people leaving the job and divide that by the average number of people in the company [average the number of employees at the beginning and end of the time period].” Then, take that number and multiply it by 100 to get the employee turnover rate.

Or, in formula form, the employee turnover calculation for a designed time period would look like this:

While this formula can be used to calculate general employee turnover (regardless of the reason), you can replace total departures with employee and employer-initiated departures for more detailed insights. For example, a high voluntary turnover rate might suggest that you aren’t providing employees with enough opportunities for long-term growth. A high involuntary turnover rate might mean you should rexamine your hiring or new hire onboarding processes.

Ready to give it a try? To determine your own turnover rate, use the interactive calculator below. The tool also makes it possible to calculate voluntary and involuntary turnover, giving you better insight into why employees might be leaving.

Using Employee Turnover Rate

Calculating employee turnover rate is an important step in getting turnover issues under control — but it’s not the only step.

“Many companies simply look at the overall [rate] of turnover, as calculated above,” said Goldberg. “But if you really want to understand what is happening in your company, you need to examine this data with a finer lens.”

Digging deeper into the details of your turnover rate (like which employees are leaving, which departments they’re leaving from, and how long they’re staying with your company) can give you key insights into the issues driving your employee turnover. This, in turn, can help you develop an effective strategy for dealing with those issues.

For instance, “if you are losing a lot of undesirable employees, you might have a problem with your recruitment or selection process; you are not hiring well,” Goldberg said. “[But] if you are losing a lot of desirable talent from one part of your business, you may have a management issue that needs to be addressed.”

There’s more to employee turnover than simply calculating your turnover rate. If you want to improve retention (and keep your turnover rate at a manageable level), you need to dig deeper to understand the factors contributing to employee turnover — and take action to address those factors and get your retention back on track.

Strategies to Lower Employee Turnover Rate

Calculating your employee turnover rate, and digging into the data to understand what’s driving turnover, is essential for improving employee retention. But there are also steps you can take on an ongoing basis to keep your turnover rate low — and keep your top employees at your organization. Here are some steps you should be taking to lower employee turnover and bolster retention.

1. Measure turnover rate regularly. 

If your turnover rate is high, there’s an issue driving it. In order to lower that rate, you need to address that issue as soon as possible. But if you’re only looking at your turnover metrics once a year, chances are, you won’t know there’s an issue until it’s already driven a lot of employees out of your organization. So, if you want to keep employee turnover low, make sure you’re calculating turnover rate on a regular basis (for example, monthly or quarterly).

“Turnover should be examined at least annually, but…to be more proactive in addressing issues, it is important to measure more frequently,” Goldberg advised. 

2. Consult with your staff. 

If you want to keep your employees from leaving your organization, one of the best things you can do is ask them what it will take to keep them there — and then take action accordingly. “Conduct stay interviews with your high-performing and high-potential talent to get in front of potential turnover,” Goldberg recommended. “Understand what is important to them and address those issues when possible.”

3. Set your employees up for success. 

Employee retention starts from the moment you decide to bring a new team member on board. So, if you want to lower your turnover rate — and prevent employees from leaving your organization — you need to set them up for success from day one. “Create a great onboarding process to make sure that each new hire is given the best opportunity to succeed,” Jaffee said.

4. Give employees opportunities to grow. 

If your employees don’t feel like they have the opportunity to grow within your organization, eventually, they’re going to seek out other opportunities. To keep turnover rate low, make sure you’re giving your employees the space and opportunity to grow and evolve in their careers. “Provide clear development opportunities and career paths for all employees,” advised Jaffee.

Employee turnover rate is a critical metric in understanding the overall health of your organization. Now that you know how to calculate employee turnover rate (and how to use that information to reduce turnover and improve retention), you can start taking steps and implementing strategies right away to make your organization that much healthier — and keep your top employees around for a long time to come.

As many employees continue to work remotely and the modern workplace transitions to a hybrid environment, measuring employee job satisfaction becomes increasingly difficult. Previously, the physical proximity of working in an office brought teams closer together and allowed employees to feel connected to the company mission, while better understanding their role’s impact on overall company success. Now, with a distributed or hybrid workforce, it’s harder to recreate that sense of community and mission, which can leave a lasting negative impact on employee satisfaction.

A year characterized by so much loss and change — 2020 — has reminded us that not every employee can be engaged at work 100% of the time. But, while your company probably conducts regular or annual surveys on employee engagement, you might not be measuring employee satisfaction as often or as accurately as you should. This important HR metric can help you identify when employee morale is slipping, so you can create meaningful initiatives to improve the employee experience and drive engagement.

The key to creating an effective employee satisfaction survey lies in asking the right questions. To give you the tools you need to build a survey that helps you reach your HR and People goals, we’ve outlined what employee satisfaction is and how to measure it, along with some sample questions to help you create the most effective satisfaction survey possible.

Employee Engagement vs. Employee Satisfaction

While employee engagement and employee satisfaction are sometimes used interchangeably, there are significant differences between the two terms:

  • Employee engagement measures the extent to which an individual loves their job. An engaged employee is more productive, motivated, passionate, and willing to go the extra mile to ensure the business succeeds. 
  • Employee satisfaction, on the other hand, is when an individual is content with their job, pay, and benefits. Sure, they show up for work, but you typically won’t find these employees volunteering for new projects or staying at the office past 5PM. 

“Employee satisfaction refers to the state when an employee enjoys the job they do, without being necessarily engaged with it. They are simply content with their pay, and that they can finish work earlier on Friday, for instance,” explained Magda Klimkiewicz, HR business partner at Zety, a career site offering job seekers resume-building tools and job-search advice.

While an engaged employee might be more valuable to your company, you can’t ignore the needs of satisfied employees. After all, with the right support, a satisfied employee can easily become an engaged employee.

Why Is Employee Satisfaction Important? 

As an HR team, you want to get to the bottom of why your employees are satisfied but not engaged. Once you identify what factors are blocking your team from being more engaged at work — ineffective management, lack of recognition, or poor work-life balance, for example — you can take action to improve the employee experience at your organization.

When you build a work environment where every team member feels seen, heard, valued, and recognized, you can improve engagement. And, improving your engagement scores is in your company’s best interest.

“Engaged employees are deeply involved and invested in their work, continually thinking about how to make a tangible impact on your company’s bottom line,” said Klimkiewics. “That leads to higher retention rates, [and] improved productivity, innovation, and quality of work.”

Another reason it’s important to keep an eye on employee satisfaction levels within your organization is that low satisfaction might mean your employees are more open to new employment opportunities elsewhere. When employees are satisfied with their jobs, they’re more likely to stay put, so your company can benefit from higher employee retention.

“Employee satisfaction provides the foundation for employee engagement,” said Cathleen Snyder, SPHR, CIR, SHRM-SCP, Director of HR and Development at Ohio-based Human Resources management firm strategic HR inc. “If an employee likes their job, it’s easier to build on that satisfaction to achieve engagement. Measuring employee satisfaction can help to define the path to the greater impact that employee engagement brings.”

A survey can help you identify the factors keeping satisfied workers from becoming engaged employees so you can remove those barriers, improve the employee experience, and help your team have more fulfilling careers at your company.

What Can You Measure With an Employee Satisfaction Survey? 

Employee satisfaction surveys help you collect qualitative and quantitative insights about employee experience at your company. They empower you to be more proactive, helping you find opportunities and fix problems before they become larger organizational issues.

These surveys can measure employee satisfaction at three key levels: individual, interpersonal (or departmental), and organizational.

1. Individual

The goal of any employee satisfaction survey is to learn if an employee likes working at your company. At the most basic level, you want to know if your employee enjoys their job. If they’re understimulated, overworked, underpaid, underappreciated, or just feeling stuck in their careers, they might become disengaged at work or be tempted to look elsewhere for a more fulfilling career. Including job-specific questions in your employee satisfaction survey can help you better understand if an employee enjoys their job, or if their day-to-day role leaves much to be desired. 

2. Interpersonal

As the old adage goes, “Employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” You’ll want to include some questions in your satisfaction survey around managerial involvement, communication, and support to understand if poor management could be holding employees back from being more engaged. 

In addition to management questions, you’ll also want to get a pulse on an employee’s team dynamic. As employees continue to work remotely, and even as businesses transition to a hybrid work environment, it’s easy to feel cut off from team members or left out of the loop. Including questions about team relationships, respect, employee recognition, communication, and inclusivity can help you paint a more holistic picture of the employee experience at your organization.

3. Organizational

Lastly, you’ll want to know how your overall company experience impacts employee satisfaction. Are employees happy with their benefits? Do they feel connected to your company culture? Can they see their career growing with your organization? While change at the organizational level is more difficult and time-consuming to implement, it can also be the most rewarding. Employee satisfaction survey feedback can help you discover your workforce’s concerns and take action to keep everybody happy at work.

While it’s helpful to think of your employee satisfaction survey questions in these categories, don’t feel your survey needs to represent all three. Your survey is unique to your organization and can include whatever questions will best inform or help prioritize your Human Resources decisions.

“The questions we ask depend on what is going on in the organization, [and] if we are considering implementing policy changes or new programs,” said Melodie Bond-Hillman, PhD, Director of HR and Administration at  XYPRO Technology Corp., a cybersecurity solutions company located in Simi Valley, CA. “During [COVID], we geared our questions toward making sure employees had the tools they needed to do their job and added general check-in questions to better understand how our team was managing through the pandemic.

“Surveys do not need to be complicated to be effective; instead they should be focused on questions that will provide the data needed to make sound decisions,” continued Bond-Hillman. Focus on including the questions that will get you the answers you need to drive meaningful change at your organization.

15 Employee Satisfaction Survey Questions

Ready to launch your own employee satisfaction questionnaire? In order to get the most out of your survey, you’ll want to include a combination of open-ended questions to collect employee feedback, and rating scale or Likert scale questions for quantitative answers. Rating-scale questions ask respondents to select a number from 1 to 10 (or another specified scale) that most accurately represents their response. Similarly, Likert scale questions have employees indicate their agreement or disagreement toward a given statement by selecting a response ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”

Below, we’ve included a mix of all three question types, in all three of the aforementioned categories, to help inspire you as you create your own employee satisfaction survey.

Role-Based Survey Questions 

  1. Do you find your work meaningful? 
  2. Do you feel your role leverages your skills as much as it could? 
  3. Do you feel well-compensated for your work? 
  4. Do you feel you are growing professionally at this company? 
  5. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your work-life balance?

Interpersonal Survey Questions

  1. How much do you feel your coworkers value your opinions? 
  2. Does your manager support you when you need it? 
  3. How often does your manager invest in your professional growth? 
  4. I feel my work is always recognized.
  5. I feel my manager values my opinions. 

Organizational Survey Questions 

  1. How satisfied are you working for our company? 
  2. Would you recommend our company to friends and family? Why or why not? 
  3. How open to change are we as an organization? 
  4. How likely are you to look for another job outside of the company? 
  5. If you could change one thing at the company, what would it be?

Lastly, it’s nice to end an employee satisfaction survey with an open-ended question that gives employees the opportunity to share any honest feedback that other questions didn’t address.

“We have found that open-ended, qualitative questions give us more insight into our organization than rankings and ratings,” noted Rochele Bertasso, SHRM-SCP, HR business partner at Helpside, a Human Resources consultancy specializing in small businesses. “This gives space for an employee to provide information that you may not have even asked about.”

Learn how Lattice compares in surveys to competitors like Leapsome and Culture AMP to decide if Lattice is the right fit.

Employee satisfaction surveys are just one of the many surveys you should regularly conduct to keep a pulse on the health of your organization. Employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, onboarding, and exit surveys are just a handful of the many ways you can gather the insights you need to create an exceptional work environment. Just be mindful of how often you reach out to employees as you don’t want them to have survey fatigue.

If you’re looking to introduce new surveys or update your existing ones, check out Latice’s employee survey template library for more sample questions and best practices.

Call it the cardinal rule of surveying: If you aren’t willing to act on feedback, don’t ask for it.

But even if your company makes good on survey feedback through action planning, it can take months or even quarters before those efforts yield results. In some cases, you need a more immediate response — coming in the form of an acknowledgment from HR, a department head, or even executive leadership.

“Directly responding to survey comments is a good idea in situations where it may otherwise feel like feedback is being brushed aside,” said George Santos, Director of Talent Delivery at 180 Engineering. Filling out a survey shouldn’t feel like “shouting into the void,” in his words, but rather starting a dialogue. “If people are taking the time to express something, it is important that management takes the time to respond,” Santos said.

The problem? Survey anonymity encourages honest feedback but makes it hard to respond individually. With a recent update, Lattice empowers leaders to facilitate that dialogue without compromising privacy. We asked HR teams to share their tips for responding to employee survey feedback.

1. Don’t get defensive. 

Psychological safety is core to surveying. You shouldn’t expect to receive honest feedback if you tend to react poorly to it. Before replying to survey feedback, HR leaders recommend weighing your tone — are you coming off as defensive? Ask others on your People team for a second (or third) opinion.

“No matter what, don’t be defensive. You’ll just make employees feel uncomfortable about expressing themselves in future surveys,” Santos said. Avoid describing your perspective on the issue if you disagree (or even agree) with what’s been shared. At this stage, focus on intake, acknowledgment, and next steps: Thank you for your feedback, subject X is important to us, and this is what I’ll commit to doing next.”

“If employees feel confronted, they will regret being honest. Thank people when they express themselves and demonstrate that you are open to working towards solutions,” he said. Santos added that no matter the issue’s scope, word tends to spread if a manager or HR team came across as dismissive in a private response. 

2. Pull in the right stakeholders.

As an HR professional, you already know to weigh your words carefully. That’s especially true with something as sensitive as survey feedback. Lattice empowers your team to pull in other stakeholders, like managers of managers and senior leadership, to craft the right message.

Still, be mindful of precisely who you decide to “loop in.” Experts shared that less experienced managers, or those who might be the subject of the feedback, likely shouldn’t be the ones responding directly. The experts we talked to recommended leaving that to the People team — even if those leaders are part of the behind-the-scenes deliberations.

“The problem starts when someone sees the negative feedback and starts acting chaotically, not knowing what to do next,” said Pamela Ilieva, Head of HR and Recruiting at Shortlister. Managers may fail to identify what warrants a response, or worse, contest the feedback and try to defend themselves. They may need to be reminded to “focus on the point of the message instead of who said what,” Ilieva added. Depending on the nature of the feedback shared, the feedback-giver may also be mortified to see their direct supervisor respond. Give your People team the last word on messaging and who gets to press “reply.”

Anonymous Survey Comments

3. Ask clarifying questions.

Kris Osborne, Chief of Staff at FinanceBuzz, uses employee engagement survey software to respond to anonymous feedback from his team. In cases where a comment might seem unclear, he doesn’t have to infer what the employee meant — he can just ask.

“Anytime someone gives constructive feedback, I can ask follow-up questions and for recommendations, all while keeping the individual anonymous,” Osborne said. For more widespread issues, his team continues that dialogue by meeting with select leaders or employees. At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, doing so gave him a better understanding of his team’s most pressing challenges.

“The next step is to discuss this with your leadership team and get on the same page about how employees are feeling…We begin by having managers ask their teams about the data during one-on-ones or team meetings. That way we can collect more feedback, but also be transparent about the areas we need to improve,” he said. 

4. Set realistic expectations.

But the dialogue shouldn’t stop there. HR leaders shared that it was just as critical to set expectations, especially for more systemic issues that won’t be resolved overnight. Be wary of overpromising.

“There will be, at times, bigger questions or topics raised that require more thought from leadership and the HR team,” said Kim Beaver, Director of HR at Shop LC. It isn’t enough to thank employees for their feedback around issues like equity and inclusion; you need to make it clear in your response what you plan to do next. Provide updates on progress and milestones along the way — either as an individual follow-up message or in a company-wide update, when appropriate.

“Some areas require a more systematic and strategic approach to make a lasting and impactful difference,” Beaver said. Rather than set expectations around how you’ll implement a solution from start to finish, share your next steps, like meeting with executive leadership, and follow up with more digestible updates.

5. Address issues broadly when you need to.

If you see the same feedback being shared across multiple departments, it might be time to acknowledge the elephant in the room. While responding to these comments in your engagement survey tool is a helpful start, consider bringing it up in a more public forum, too.

“For concerns around topics that impact the entire company — like safety measures, COVID updates, company policies — we ask that leaders address or answer them during our all-hands meetings,” Beaver said. Sharing commitments company-wide (while preserving anonymity) also fosters accountability. “Under this approach, we’ve seen a very positive response from our employees, and better employee survey results for feelings of being heard, appreciated, and validated for voicing questions or concerns.”

Doing so also sends a powerful message about what behavior is and isn’t tolerated.

“It’s the responsibility of the employer to condemn any offensive actions publicly and lay out a specific plan for addressing those issues,” said Cara Hunter, Senior Vice President of Talent and Culture of livingHR. “Swift, genuine reactions can solidify cultural norms and lead to a workplace where all employees feel a sense of safety, inclusion, and belonging.”

It’s one of engagement surveying’s most stubborn challenges: While anonymity facilitates more open and honest feedback, it makes it harder for leaders, managers, and HR teams to respond to comments individually. In the past, closing the loop on important issues or acknowledging a great piece of feedback wasn’t feasible without issuing broad statements or breaching employee trust.

With Lattice’s recent launch of anonymous comment replies, we’ve taken a major step in facilitating that dialogue. To learn more about the new feature, read our product update or request a demo from one of our engagement experts today.

We’ve all heard it before — with power comes responsibility. Becoming a manager means having an influence on the employee experience and professional trajectory of those who report to you. But managers are also accountable for establishing team processes, evaluating new candidates, overseeing projects, setting goals, facilitating review cycles, and providing a safe working environment — all while exhibiting leadership and trust in their direct reports.

Businesses can set first-time managers up for success by equipping them with the tools they need to transition into a management role. To get a sense of how HR leaders are doing this in their organizations, we asked Lattice’s Resources for Humans community to share tips and resources for training first-time managers. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Learn to communicate.

Building strong relationships with your direct reports is all about communication, but this can be a challenge, especially for new managers. Part of being a boss is understanding that the employees you manage may behave differently toward you or avoid disclosing sensitive information that could have a negative impact on their career. This communication dynamic between managers and direct reports is also known as “mitigated speech,” and it’s common for first-time managers to struggle to overcome this issue. That’s why it’s important for HR teams and managers to be invested in communication training.

“Communication skills training helps [first-time managers] understand what makes a great manager — empathy, perspective, compassion, and trust,” said Ellie McLaughlin, Director of  People Operations at Aprio Cloud.

First-time managers also need to be mindful of clarity and tone when communicating with direct reports. Teams take what their managers have to say seriously, so it’s important to be explicit when you’re making a direct ask versus sharing an idea or suggestion. It’s also important to be open to feedback so that peers aren’t afraid to share perspectives that might not align with your own.

“I always recommend starting with ‘listening’ training and then following up with ‘feedback’ training. It’s more important as a manager to listen to your team than it is to have all the answers. Listening builds relationships and buys understanding,” said Rachel Ben Hamou, RfH Ambassador and Director of Talent Development at PeopleStorming.

Apart from engaging in communication skills training, first-time managers can make a point of seeking input from their peers and direct reports on their behavior and decisions. Relying on your team to help you grow and stay informed is perfectly normal, and how you go about this is up to you. Do you want to use an issue tracker? Do you prefer one-on-ones? Do you want a weekly update from your direct reports? Maybe a combination of all three? Figure out which cadence and approach work for you in keeping communication transparent and consistent.

2. Lead with authenticity.

We spend most of our day interacting with our coworkers, so it makes sense that we feel a connection with them. As a manager, it’s important to maintain boundaries and keep in mind that your direct reports are not responsible for your emotional state. But that doesn’t mean managers can’t set an example of openness and authenticity in the workplace.

“We often become friends with people we manage, or start out as friends or peers and then become their managers. This is normal. And there’s also value in being able to be authentic about our own difficulties and where we are struggling at work and in life,” said Amy Newell,  Senior Director of Engineering at Wistia in her article, “You’re not just a manager, you’re also a boss.”

Everyone deals with struggles outside of the workplace that may or may not impact their performance. Managers need to be prepared to have difficult conversations about sensitive issues, like mental illness, interpersonal challenges, or harassment. The best way to create a safe space for your team is to be available and honest. 

Follow-up with your coworkers if it seems like they are going through something. When you are unsure if you have overstepped a boundary, ask how it makes the other person feel. If you don’t know the answer to something, be open about it, and use it as an opportunity to learn about how systems operate at your organization. If your company is doing things right, they’ll provide you with all the resources you need.

“I’ve created a manager toolkit which is a crash course in company policies, onboarding, giving feedback, offboarding, pro-dev, as well as other softer skills that managers should work on and develop,” said Ashley Waldemar, HR Manager at HYPEBEAST

3. Take care of yourself.

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Managing others can be emotionally draining work, and having direct influence over those around you can sometimes feel like a heavy burden to bear.

“Employees trust you with their careers, their feelings, their promotions, and their raises. It’s a big responsibility. There will be times in your management career where you will need to deliver painful feedback, coach someone into a different role or even a different employer, or outright fire someone. If you are taking your responsibilities seriously, none of these things will feel good to you,” Newell said.

It’s important to make taking care of yourself a priority, especially as a first-time manager. If you have a major presentation or have to deliver bad news in the morning, try giving yourself some time to recover before jumping into your next meeting. Some managers like to set standard communication hours during the day and enforcing a no-contact policy after work hours to help maintain a sense of work-life balance. There is also lots of helpful literature available for first-time managers in search of guidance and leadership training.

“I have a few books about leadership that I’ve really enjoyed reading over the years and I recommend them to all our new managers. We have a monthly book benefit, and I tell all my employees they are always welcome to expense books that I recommend to them,” shared Caitlin Cuesta, RfH Ambassador and People Operations Manager at Screencastify.

When you consistently demonstrate that you care about your teammates’ well-being and show up when they need support, they’re more likely to put forth their best effort and stick with you through times of difficulty. First-time managers can play a pivotal role in building a healthy and supportive work environment. They just need the right tools and mindset to lead.

To learn how other HR professionals are equipping managers for success, join the Resources for Humans Slack community.

While 2020 brought immeasurable challenges to businesses, the pandemic was not without its bright spots in the workplace. For one, people seemed to start appreciating each other a lot more. 

“Part of this appreciation factor stemmed from a new understanding of how integrated our home and work lives really are, and we had never seen that before,” said Erica Keswin, workplace strategist and author of Rituals Roadmap: The Human Way to Transform Everyday Routines into Workplace Magic. Keswin noted that at the beginning of the pandemic, entire meetings could be focused on checking-in with colleagues. But eventually businesses had to adapt the ways in which they appreciated and recognized employees in order to keep operations afloat.

Many have turned to creative uses of technology to ensure employees feel seen, heard, recognized, and appreciated as most continue to work remotely. As it turns out, appreciating employees is about more than just providing support — it’s also really good for business. 

According to an article in Harvard Business Review, data from JetBlue’s employee recognition program showed that for every 10% increase in employee recognition, the company experienced a 3% drop in turnover and a 2% bump in engagement. Similarly, a 2018 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study found that two-thirds of HR professionals believe recognizing employees combats turnover, and 89% of respondents believe workplace appreciation and recognition improves the employee experience

Even so, Gallup research shows that only one in three workers have received recognition or praise in the past week. What’s more, team members who haven’t received adequate recognition are two times more likely to say they’ll leave the company in the next year. 

Technology makes it easy to appreciate employees and encourage peer-to-peer praise. Here are some creative ways businesses can implement this right away. 

1. Enable employees to give each other rewards.

Allison Goldberg, cofounder and co-Creative Director of Gold Jam Creative, a firm that provides communications training with an emphasis on comedy and creativity to companies like Spotify, BuzzFeed, and Deloitte, has seen clients embrace a range of technology to appreciate employees. One in particular that stands out to her is Bonusly, an employee appreciation platform that helps employees give small bonuses to colleagues. 

With Bonusly, companies purchase one of several monthly plans which gives employees access to a small monthly allowance of points to send as bonuses to their coworkers. Individuals must send all of their points by the end of the month or they expire. “You can exchange the points at the end of the month for gift cards at a slew of retailers,” Goldberg said. “Our clients seem to love it, because, what’s better than sending your coworkers money?”

Kaspter Langmann, CEO of Spreadsheeto, a company that offers online Excel training courses, said his company started using Bonusly as a way to encourage and appreciate employees in their hierarchy-less organization. 

“Our organization is almost completely flat, so we rely on one another to do our jobs effectively,” Langmann said. At Spreadsheeto, the sales team really counts on the outreach team for prospect lists, and Langmann wanted a way for employees to be able to directly reward one another for making life a little easier. “People have loved it, and I think it’s been responsible for strengthening working relationships and camaraderie,” he added. 

2. Take advantage of your existing tech stack.

Like many organizations, Brosix, a company that provides secure corporate instant messaging services through a private network, uses a dedicated Slack channel to shout-out employees. Rather than simply using it to share everyday business wins, employees nominate a colleague each week to receive a dedicated note in the channel. But the differences don’t stop there. 

“The focus isn’t on people’s professional achievements, but on their team spirit and the specific activities that contribute to team success and cohesion,” said Brosix’s CEO Stefan Chekanov.

For example, one Brosix employee took the initiative to create a virtual escape room as a team-building activity, which was based on a set of riddles that the team solved remotely. “We worked in teams and it was a lovely opportunity to relax and solve an intriguing puzzle,” Chekanov said. The result: Almost every team member nominated the colleague responsible for the riddle that week.

Chekanov believes that the focus on spirit and teamwork is an important differentiator of the company’s appreciation practices — and that these factors are especially important to acknowledge when your team is working from home. “The sense of community is crucial for remote teams, and it leads them to seek support in one another rather than waiting for management to solve every problem,” Chekanov said. 

3. Enlist celebs for a shout-out.

Other companies are enlisting celebrities for shout-outs through apps like Cameo to appreciate and recognize their employees. With Cameo, businesses can hire public personas or celebrities to record a personalized video message for employees. 

John Ross, CEO of online education company Test Prep Insight, has used Cameo multiple times over the last six months, hiring actors from the show Seinfeld to wish employees a happy birthday. “Our office has a Seinfeld obsession, so I thought it’d be a hilarious way to boost spirits during an otherwise crummy time,” Ross said. 

According to Ross, the videos were widely circulated throughout the company and brought much-needed levity. “Hostely, it’s had more than the intended effect. People absolutely love it,” he said.

Knowmium, a business and communications training consultancy, has used Cameo, too. For the birthday of senior consultant Robert Kienzle, a colleague hired Comedy Central’s Roastmaster General, Jeff Ross, to record a video. “The cameo wasn’t used as a traditional recognition for a completed project or promotion; instead, it was a great gift that showed my company’s thoughtfulness and originality,” Kienzle said.

Kienzle himself organizes a nonprofit called Roastmasters that’s associated with the popular public speaking club Toastmasters, so Roastmaster Ross was the perfect selection for his personalized video. “Knowing my company was creative enough to hire a cameo and find a celebrity that corresponds to my interests shows my company’s dedication to employee relations,” said Kienzle. 

4. Incorporate rituals into the workplace. 

Getting creative with peer-to-peer bonuses or celebrity shout-outs isn’t the only option for appreciating and celebrating employees. Additionally, Keswin recommended using rituals as a way to appreciate staff. 

“Far more than habits and routines, rituals are personal, purposeful, and powerful — they bring people together in real, authentic ways that deeply matter. And in the workplace, rituals can be the glue that holds your workplace together,” wrote Keswin in her book Rituals Roadmap.   

Appreciating employees through rituals can simply mean adapting routine in-office practices to our current remote reality. Bill Koenigsberg, CEO and founder of Horizon Media, a media services agency, built his business around appreciating his employees, which is much of the inspiration behind his tagline “Business is personal.” To embody that, Koenigsberg brings a personal touch where he can to his organization, including sending handwritten anniversary cards to Horizon Media’s nearly 3,000 employees to celebrate their workplace milestones and thank them for their service.

As a guest on Keswin’s podcast, Left to Our Own Devices, Koenigsberg talked about the importance of this ritual, and how when the pandemic hit, he pivoted to a daily Zoom call with the individuals celebrating their work anniversaries. “I wish them a happy anniversary, talk to them in their homes, in a very personal way,” Koenigsberg told Keswin on the podcast. 

“These kinds of human connections don’t have to cost a dime,” Keswin pointed out. “But with intention, [they] can really make an impact.”

5. Make it easy for employees to share praise.

Personalized messages from upper management are a meaningful way to show employees you care, but so is everyday praise from those with whom they work most closely — their peers. Peer-to-peer praise boosts company culture, as the act of giving and receiving it reiterates that it’s not only those at the top who are qualified to recognize a job well done.

Lattice’s Praise feature offers a Slack integration that allows employees to celebrate folks directly in their company’s #praise channel. The praise is synced directly to Lattice, and those submitting praise are prompted to tie their kudos to a specific core value — an especially important component, since SHRM has found that employee recognition programs are rated higher when they are aligned with organizational values. Praise is most effective when it’s public, and Lattice’s Praise feature makes it easy to see all the team wins and shout-outs by popping into the #praise Slack channel. Team members can share in-the-moment wins, and companies can drive individual and organizational growth by celebrating employees. 

Using technology to appreciate employees doesn’t have to be overly costly or complicated. Technology offers the opportunity to get as creative as you’d like with employee appreciation, and you can also adapt traditional office rituals for today’s virtual and hybrid reality as a simple but effective way to show employees you care. Praise takes relatively little effort, and receiving kudos — be it from peers or management — can have a big impact on employee morale, especially during challenging times.