If you are planning an engagement survey, what you ask and how you ask it is of utmost importance. An engagement survey is intended to help you solve a critical problem at your company, better your workplace, and identify your strengths — so you need to be sure that your employee engagement survey questions are actually going to give you insight into your problem. In truth, designing a survey is not something you can knock out in 30 minutes. For years, psychologists have worked on perfecting to effective surveys: making the best matrices, designing the best questions, and developing the best interview guidelines for everything from quality of life in cancer patients to ergonomic passenger comfort. That's because how you design your questions, what you ask, how you phrase questions, and even what response options you offer can have a statistically significant effect on results. So rather than making up something all on your own, here's a guide that can help you ask the right employee engagement survey questions.
What makes a good question?
If you are planning an engagement survey, what you ask and how you ask it is of utmost importance. How you design your questions, what you ask, and how you phrase questions can have a statistically significant effect on results.
With that in mind, make sure your questions:
- Are pointed and unambiguous
- Only ask one thing at a time
- Are worded neutrally
- Ask about something you can actually change or improve
Lattice's employee engagement surveys include suggested questions developed from psychological and management research, with the help of UC Berkeley professor and behavioral economist Elizabeth Linos, to get you started. We have several sections in our engagement survey question bank: Commitment to the Company, Diversity Climate, Engagement, Fairness, Feeling Valued, Fit and Belonging, Job satisfaction, Management, Psychological Safety, Self-Efficacy, Team culture, Team learning, and Work relationships.
Anything in this article marked with an asterisk is one of the many questions that you can find in Lattice's employee engagement survey tool. All questions are rated on a Likert scale (strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, and strong agree) unless otherwise noted. This type of response helps gauge how vehemently an employee feels about a topic, either negatively or positively. It is widely used in surveys — in fact, you've probably taken dozens of surveys with this type of response. One of the benefits of using the Likert scale is that you avoid asking the same question twice. A positively worded Likert Scale question would be “I am happy to come to work everyday.” It’s important not to include “I am unhappy coming to work everyday,” because the “strongly disagree” option already covers that.
Finally, make the survey easy to complete and not that long. This will encourage more employees to fill it out, and give you better data to check engagement overall.
Workers need to feel they have a certain degree of autonomy at work; but they also have to feel supported. It’s a fine balance, and asking these questions will help you understand if you’re striking it.
- I can list concrete steps I need to take in order to move up in my organization within the next year. This is a direct question that can help you determine whether employees feel they can grow at your company. It helps you identify whether employees have a clear vision of their trajectory at your company.
- I can see myself growing and developing my career in this company.* When employees believe that they have a way to grow at the company, they are more invested in the company’s future.
- There is adequate company support for my skill development. This question addresses personal goals by asking employees to gauge how well the company supports the acquisition of skills they want to learn, not something prescribed by a manager.
- This organization really inspires the very best in me when it comes to job performance. When employees believe that they are being pushed to do their best work, they are fully engaged in their development and production at a company.
- I am excited about the majority of my work projects/customers. If employees aren't excited about the work they are doing, they are definitely not getting fulfillment from their jobs. Adding an always/sometimes/never scale helps managers identify how engaged employees are in the work they are doing, thus surfacing folks who may be at risk for leaving.
Fit and Belonging
If an employee doesn't know why they're doing what they are doing, then their job is meaningless. Imagine coming into work every day and being 100% engaged with a meaningless job — you probably can't!
- I find that my values and the organization’s values are similar.* When employees can see their core beliefs reflected in the place they work, they are more likely to find personal satisfaction working there.
- I feel like I belong in this company.* This is a powerful indicator of whether or not something is awry, especially when you analyze your results to look at how different groups feel.
- I plan to still be at this company in two years. This is an indirect yet powerful way to gauge happiness with personal goals. Those who are not planning long-term employment with you will not believe that their personal goals align with what your company is offering them.
- My work style matches the work style of the company.* Alignment isn’t just about values, but also about working style. By asking this question, you’ll learn a lot about what teams and departments and employees feel supported at this company, and which ones don’t.
Team Culture, Team Learning, and Work Relationships
Everyone knows that one of the biggest elements to employee engagement are the people they work directly with. The work they do with their team, the way they work with their team, and the friendships they’ve made at work all make a huge difference to an employee’s engagement levels.
- I learn a lot from my coworkers.* Collaboration depends on employees understanding how other people work and what they’re working on. Employees being open to learning from their coworkers also indicates a degree of mutual respect, which increases productivity.
- We regularly take time to figure out ways to improve our team’s work processes .* When a team is constantly refining their processes, that's a great sign that people are internally aligned and committed to working toward a goal.
- My team has clear and prioritized objectives. This question can be a great way to dig into the different segments of your company. If a certain team lacks alignment or goals, it can affect that segment's overall connection to the company, but you won't know the team alignment is the reason unless you ask.
- My supervisor or someone at work seems to care about me.* We spend a majority of our life at work, and employees flourish when they feel connected to the people they work with.
- My coworkers have the skills and expertise to do their jobs well.* This indicates the level of trust an employee can in their coworkers’ abilities to do their work.
- How would you describe working at your company in three words? (comment box).* If you want to know how your employees feel about your culture, the best thing to do is to let them use their own words. Preset choices won't encourage honesty; they will limit the ability for employees to respond.
- If I could change one thing about our company culture, it would be (comment box). This is an important follow-up to asking about the culture. For example, you might feel that “competitive” is an important aspect of your company culture. But if many employees list “competitiveness” as something they would change, you've gained insight into a disconnect between employees and management.
A job can be stimulating but unsatisfying. Asking about engagement in particular is critical for an engagement survey because it delves into more than just how well employees understand their roles on paper.
- I am proud to be an employee at my company. A broad question like this is a gut check for your company. It can help you clearly delineate how employees are feeling, even if some of the more nuanced or personal questions about job satisfaction show mixed results.
- I would refer a friend or a family member to this company. If an employee would recommend that a friend or a family member work for the company, they are definitely satisfied with their employer. Putting a hard yes/no cap on this question forces a decisive statement.
- I feel exhausted in the morning at the thought of another day at work.* Satisfaction is more than just an overall good feeling about a job; it also means that people are excited about the work they are doing.
- I feel recognized for my hard work and successes at work. If an employee believes that they are not being recognized, they may not derive satisfaction from their work. If all of the other questions indicate that people are generally happy but engagement is low, asking whether they feel seen is a way to frame their problem more holistically.
Without strong psychological safety, companies can’t innovate and grow. But it's often hard to identify whether or not communicative efforts are working on an individual level — especially if they're not.
- When I approach my manager with a problem, I trust that they will listen. By asking something that is both specific and personal, you can learn a great deal about the responder. Gaging a degree of trust is an excellent way to discuss communication without being vague.
- I know who to talk to if I am having a problem that is not in my manager's domain. If an employee doesn't know who to talk to, then communication is at zero, which is a big problem that often goes unnoticed.
- Members of this team are able to bring up problems and tough issues.* Asking if a team communicates well is tricky because it can be broken down many ways — from 1:1 talks to project meetings. But asking whether anyone can bring up a tough issue helps determine whether the team feels empowered to speak up.
- I am comfortable sharing my opinion at an all-hands meeting. Asking this will tell you how confident employees feel about opening up to the company. If someone strongly disagrees, that's an indication that you need to further probe the problem; for example, is it because they don't expect people to listen or because they're not sure what avenue follow to bring an opinion up?
An employee's relationship with their manager is one of the most important working relationships, and asking about management can tell you two main things. One is whether your managers are doing what they are supposed to be doing in accordance with your policies. The other is whether your management policies are working.
- My manager demonstrates an interest in my well-being. While the responses to this question can vary by manager, if the majority of respondents don't feel their managers care, it's more than a case-by-case problem — it's a systematic lack of support from the top down.
- I feel comfortable giving feedback to my manager. If an employee can be honest with their manager about the manager's performance, that is an indicator that an employee and a manager have built a strong working relationship.
- My manager has the technical expertise required to effectively manage me.* This is a good question to ask when a manager is going through all the right motions — the 1:1s, the public praise, the problem solving — but a team is still disengaged. Even the best-intentioned manager will fail if they don't have the tools to support their team.
- I feel comfortable asking for help if I do not have the skills required to meet my goals (+ comment box). Adding a comment box here allows employees to elaborate on their discomfort. Is their manager not receptive? Do they feel that a time crunch on their productivity leaves no opportunity to ask questions?
Try it out yourself
If you are feeling inspired by these questions or are ready to set up your own engagement survey, contact us today. And remember that the questions here are just a small fraction of what's available in the Lattice engagement survey and that every single one of those questions has been expertly formulated.