An employee engagement survey can give you great insight into whether your team is happy and enjoys their work environment in a quick and easy way. It also can create a foundation for improvement and a good pattern for reassessing employee engagement at regular intervals.
In this article, we will explain how you can do an employee engagement survey at your small business from start to finish (and what to do with the results). Let’s start with the template so that you can get an idea of the questions that would give you insight into employee engagement.
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Free Employee Engagement Survey Template
Here is a short 10-question template that is meant for any organization in any industry. Regardless of your size or structure, these 10 questions should be useful for your business. Click here to download this survey as a free PDF, or click here to view as a Google doc.
Instructions: Please fill out this survey to the best of your ability. ABC Company will be using this survey to create benchmarks and identify areas that we can improve as a company. The survey is anonymous and the data will only be used for this purpose. Please feel free to write in commentary as well, the more detail or ideas provided the better.
Please note that for all questions, the following scale applies:
1 = not at all/never/no/poor
2 = rarely/probably not/not great
3 = sometimes/occasionally/maybe/decent
4 = often/most likely/pretty good
5 = all the time/very much/yes/awesome
Question 1: On a scale of 1 to 5, how happy are you at work? _________________________
Question 2: On a scale of 1 to 5, how likely are you to leave our company for a 10% raise from another company? ______________________________________________________________
Question 3: Would you refer someone to work here? (Yes/No/Maybe) ____________________
Question 4: The last time you accomplished a big project, did you receive any recognition? (Yes/No/A Little Bit) _________________________________________________________
Question 5: On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate our company’s culture? ______________
Question 6: On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate your colleagues and fellow team members or peers? ___________________________________________________________________
Question 7: On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate the performance of management? _____
Question 8: On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate your work-life balance? ______________
Question 9: On a scale of 1 to 5, how likely is it that you would recommend our organization’s products or services, or the company in general, to a friend? __________________________
Question 10: On a scale of 1 to 5, how valued do you feel at work? _____________________
If you would like to make specific comments on things we can improve upon, or things that you love about working here at ABC, please do so here:
Top 20 Additional Employee Engagement Survey Questions
Here are 20 more employee engagement survey questions that you might want to add to your survey, or replace one of the questions on the template with. You also may like the wording of the questions below better: (i.e. “Do you foresee yourself working here one year from now” versus Question 2 of the template “On a scale of 1 to 5, how likely would you leave for a 10% raise from another company”).
- On a scale of 1 to 5, how much opportunity do you have for professional growth in this organization?
- On a scale of 1 to 5, how well do you think we service our customers?
- Do you have a clear understanding of your career or promotion path?
- Hypothetically, if you were to quit tomorrow, what would your reason be?
- If you were given the chance, would you re-apply to your current job?
- Do you foresee yourself working here one year from now?
- Do you believe the leadership team takes your feedback seriously?
- Do you feel like the management team here is transparent?
- On a scale of 1 to 5, how comfortable do you feel giving upwards feedback to your supervisor?
- Do you believe we live authentically by our organizational values?
- Do you have fun at work?
- Do you understand the strategic goals of our company?
- Do you know what you should do in your job to help the company meet its goals and objectives?
- Can you see a clear link between your work and the company’s goals and objectives?
- Are you proud to be a member of your team?
- Does your team inspire you to do your best work?
- Does your team help you to complete your work?
- Do you have the appropriate amount of information to make correct decisions about your work?
- Do you have a good understanding of informal structures and processes at the organization?
- When something unexpected comes up in your work, do you usually know who to ask for help?
3 Basic Rules of Employee Engagement Surveys
While conducting an employee survey might sound easy, you will want to make sure you follow the basic rules for it in order to get the results that you want, as well as in order to build trust with your employees to fill them out honestly.
Rule 1: The survey must be anonymous & inclusive
For a survey to have any integrity, it has to be anonymous. You will also want to make sure you survey everyone at the company, or at least give them the option to participate, in order to make sure that people don’t feel left out of the process and also to keep the integrity of the survey.
Even if you have an HR person, they should use an external online provider to conduct the survey. Here are a few sites which let you create anonymous surveys:
Some integrate well with social media, so if you have a large employee base with a private Facebook group, you might want to pick an option that can do that in order to get a higher response rate.
If you prefer not to use an online service, you could also hire an outside consultant, but that price tag can run really high. If you were going to use an outside consultant, we recommend posting a project with a specific budget on Upwork, Craigslist, or another freelancer site in order for it to be affordable.
Rule 2: Be careful what you ask because you will get answers
If there is a topic that you don’t want to know about, or maybe where you don’t want to open the door to objections, then don’t ask the question.
For example, let’s take question 8 in our template about work/life balance. If you are an accounting firm in the middle of busy season, asking this question is setting you up for skewed answers or even failure. In this business, it’s normal to work 80 hour weeks from February 1-April 15, and so opening a door about work/life balance might be counterproductive.
This rule relates directly to our next one, which is arguably the most important:
Rule 3: If you do a survey, you will need to be prepared to act on the results
If you take an employee survey, your employees will expect to see results. Maybe they all asked for something reasonable, like a water cooler in the office (versus having to buy bottled water down the street). Well, guess what? They are going to talk to each other and they are going to know what they asked for. If you take a survey and do nothing, your employee engagement survey will have the opposite effect of the benefits below and instead will cause employees to get frustrated and even sink morale.
We recommend after the survey’s data has been collected to do one quick win, i.e. the water cooler, and then strategically plan how to take actions on the other items that may take longer, like management training or work/life balance aspects. However, we also recommend announcing your plan to take action to your employees so that you are held accountable and so that they know their voices were heard, which is incredibly important for morale and for trust.
Benefits & Drawbacks of Doing an Employee Engagement Survey
The benefits to doing an employee engagement survey might seem obvious to some, but might also be a bit scary to others since it’s going to let you know exactly what your employees think of your company. Here we will explain the benefits of an employee survey with some detail to give you color on why it’s a benefit.
Benefit 1: You’ll See the “Other Side of the Coin”
Doing an employee engagement survey will get you to see what your employees think. If you have a lot of remote team members, or perhaps they are all in a different age bracket than you, or maybe you are on the road all the time, this can be incredibly insightful on the culture and company you are creating.
Benefit 2: Pinpoint Your Organization’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Your employee survey can also help you to pinpoint your company’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you ask the question 9 about referring friends to your company’s services or products, you might learn a lot about your employees’ perceptions of your products, which could even lead to marketing campaign tweaks or retargeting of campaigns.
Benefit 3: Survey Data Gives You a Path to Change
Though data alone from the rankings of 1-5 might not give you a clear path to change, it can start to point you in the general direction of where to start. Most surveys at companies should show trends in areas you can improve, or that you should keep as is. The commentary and suggestions can provide a lot of ideas on what that path to change might look like.
For example, when I worked as an in-house HR Manager, we did an employee engagement survey to take the temperature on morale and if people were looking for other jobs after 2 years of no pay raises. One result of the survey was that people really missed having interns around with their big ideas and young energy. So, we started an internship program to begin that summer and, aside from saving us $40K in labor costs, it perked up a lot of the managers and made for quite a fun summer for everyone at the office.
Once you start to figure out this path of change, we highly recommend involving your employees in the process so that they buy into the change, as well as to make sure they know you are taking action on the survey, which we discussed is the key part of taking one.
Potential Drawbacks to an Employee Survey
Though the benefits are great for a survey, it’s important to acknowledge that there can be drawbacks from doing one, which are:
Drawback 1: You don’t have the budget for the changes they want
Maybe your wonderful team make suggestions like “catered lunch every day” or “unlimited expense accounts for client dinners”. This is one of the dangers of an employee survey where they make suggestions that are in no way shape or form within your budget.
So what do you do? You compromise. When you create your plan of action, come up with a smaller version of their suggestions (catered lunch once per month or a higher expense budget for clients who are over a certain account threshold).
Drawback 2: You don’t have the time to take action
Maybe you do the survey and realize you bit off more than you can chew and you don’t have the time for this. Whatever you do, don’t back down from this- DELEGATE. Repeat after me- DELEGATE. Take 30 minutes to look at the data, and then assign your right hand person or your HR person to create the plan of action and present it to your approval. Let them come up with the solutions, the budget needed, and then they can take the ball from there. Otherwise, you risk lowering employee morale if no action is taken.
5 Tips for Making the Most of an Employee Engagement Survey
CEB research tells us that 80% of senior leaders believe employee engagement is critical to achieving their business objectives, and 92% of companies conduct an employee engagement survey.
That’s a lot of people who need to make sure they are doing the most with their employee engagement survey, which is what we go over here.
Tip 1: Take Action on the Results – A Small “Win” Immediately
As we’ve said a few times now, and we’ll say it a few more times, you need to take action. Think of a quick win, a small thing, that you can do to show the team you listened. Maybe it’s a lunch on the company this Friday to discuss the results, or maybe it’s that water cooler we mentioned previously. Think of something that shows you listened and you care about what they said that’s $250 or less.
Tip 2: Take Action on the Results – Plan for a Long Term Larger “Win”
We talked about earlier creating a long term action plan, which might mean a larger investment or involving other team members, to show that you heard the survey loud and clear.
For example, maybe you learned that your managers are not appreciating or praising their employees enough. This could require a combination of manager training as well as even implementing a performance management system. You might even look at performance management software, which can be a longer term investment to solve the problem. This type of change won’t happen overnight, but tell your employees what you are doing and that you heard their voices.
Tip 3: Record the Data for Comparison
This tip may sound obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to companies and they go, “Oh yeah, we did a survey last year. Oh wait… I have no idea where it is”.
Remember to record the data and to create some benchmarks and goals for improvement. You could record this in HR software, or you could record in a normal file on your computer and set an alarm in your calendar to reassess every 3-6 months. If you do have a plan for change, make sure to record that as well and to plot out due dates for the deliverables.
Tip 4: Make the Survey a Repeating Event
You should do the survey again in 6 months. Or even 3 months depending on your turnover and business model, such as if you are a restaurant or retail store. Either way, like any experiment, you need to do the survey more than once in order to make sure that you are getting accurate, consistent results, as well as to make sure you are improving.
Tip 5: Engage Employees on the Survey Content (for the second one)
Once you have done an employee engagement survey once, you could engage a focus group (aka 3-5 key employees of varying levels) or get feedback from management on questions to add onto the survey. Maybe you missed the boat on a big issue or two that they want to know about; this will also increase buy-in from all levels.
Employee Engagement Survey versus Employee Morale Surveys
You might be wondering what, if any, difference there is between an employee engagement survey and an employee morale survey. The best way I can describe this is with an example:
Here at Fit Small Business, I’ll say it–we are all happy to work here and we get along well. Employee morale is high, and I think people enjoy their work from what I can tell. We still should do an employee engagement survey because it can provide a ton of insight for our owners, as well as provide us a benchmark to keep or improve upon.
A company where I was hired to do layoffs as an in-house HR manager was the polar opposite of this. Many people were angry, jaded, and showing up to work late or calling in sick. It was clear that employee morale was low, and I encouraged them to do an employee morale survey to see how they could improve things for the staff that was left.
The moral of the story is that EVERY company, be it healthy and happy or unhealthy & struggling, can do and may need an employee survey. A company that is unhealthy and struggling should really focus their survey on the morale aspect in order to not lose more people.
I Need to Improve Employee Morale
If you realized that you are doing this survey to improve employee morale, you will want to tweak your survey questions a bit to include employee morale survey questions (or those of the like). You should do this in 3 ways:
1. Focus the questions on the employees and their inner needs (think being valued, feeling appreciated)
Morale is not something like a water cooler, it is an internal aspect of the general energy of the office and how people feel about working there. Focus your questions as such on your employees’ feelings, like feeling valued, feeling appreciate, and feeling recognized.
2. Hone in on improvements and the positive aspects
Try to keep the language of the survey positive- if morale is already suffering, you don’t need any more Debbie Downer language in the office. Focus on the positive.
3. Provide options for them to choose, especially if you are on a budget
If budget is tight, you will still want to make changes. To help ensure that changes are within budget, give employees specific questions with options, instead of leaving questions open ended like in our template.
For example, you could ask:
If given a choice to improve the office, what would you choose:
- Weekly happy hours on Thursdays from 5-6 pm on the company
- A fancy latte machine in the office
- A sparkling water machine to make fizzy water
- New headsets for our phones
These options are all similar in cost, with number 4 costing the most upfront, but 1-3 are going to be continuous costs (i.e. buying more latte pods).
The Bottom Line
Employee engagement surveys can provide excellent insight and great data for you to make the most of as a business owner. We recommend trying one, but before you do, plan your budget and what you are hoping to learn out of it.