If you want to know how things are going at your organization, your employees are the best ones to ask. But not every company has a strong process in place for soliciting — and using — employee feedback. The ones that do enjoy more collaboration, innovation, higher job satisfaction, and lower turnover.
This isn’t always an easy process. When companies espouse certain values, how do you ensure that those “north stars” are actually guiding your business? Is there a mismatch between the company you want to be and who you are? In essence, an employee satisfaction survey questions these values and measures how well you’re doing in achieving them.
For this to work, you need buy-in from both sides. Employees must have the psychological safety to participate in the survey. Leaders have to be committed to responding to the feedback in a meaningful way.
At BetterUp, all employees participate in regular surveys that measure various aspects of employee experience. We call this a Culture Canvass. Our leaders use this feedback to inform their Culture Commits — actionable, tangible steps towards reinforcing our values in the workplace.
An employee feedback survey can give you important insights into how your team members feel about their workplace — and what they want you to improve on in the future. This information is critical to the development of your workplace and the happiness of your team.
Equally important, though, is knowing what to do with feedback when you collect it. If you reach out for suggestions, but you never follow up, you’ll lose trust. (If you’re imagining the locked “suggestion box” that no one actually has a key to, you know what we mean). You also risk breeding cynicism — toxic for company culture.
Asking the right questions, at the right time, and following up in the right way is a critical part of building an environment people want to work in. Learn how to prepare to conduct an employee feedback survey, the questions you should ask, and how to use the information you gather.
What is an employee feedback survey?
An employee feedback survey is a tool used by business owners, leaders, and human resources professionals. These surveys ask about an employee’s job satisfaction, work environment, and career development. This information is then used to improve company culture, employee experience, and retention.
Conducting regular pulse surveys helps leaders spot areas of improvement and pain points within the team. After all, when it comes to employee morale, there’s no such thing as too much information — but there is such a thing as too little. High levels of communication in the workplace improve employee morale, satisfaction, and retention. But poor communication has been implicated as the number one reason employees quit their jobs. And although communication is the top skill employees value from their managers, it’s also widely considered to be the most lacking.
There are tremendous benefits in soliciting employee feedback early and often. Some of the benefits of employee feedback surveys include:
- Improving employee engagement and happiness
- Better management of internal communication
- Clearer understanding of employees’ career goals
- Ability to provide constructive feedback for professional development
- Identifying and eliminating barriers for employees with disabilities, neurodivergent conditions, or chronic illnesses
- Gauging satisfaction with pay or benefits packages
- Monitoring changes in employee sentiment
- Analyzing demographic trends over time — including gender balance, ethnic diversity, and age distribution across your organization
How to prepare to kick off an employee feedback survey
Preparing to conduct an employee feedback survey can seem like a daunting task. However, it’s important that leaders take the time to get it right, as the results will shape their future goals and objectives. If you’re thinking about conducting an employee feedback survey, but you’re unsure where to start, here are a few best practices to help you prepare:
1. Decide what to measure
Before beginning your survey, consider what metrics or measurements you want to collect. It is important that the questions be as specific and focused as possible so they can be used for future research and analysis.
2. Ask “What do I want to know?”
Have a plan in place for how to use the information that is gathered. Some businesses may choose to keep the information on hand for future use or share it with their employees on a quarterly basis. Others may choose to make it public by publishing the results online for all of their employees or outside audiences.
3. Determine what your results will be
It might be hard to decide in advance what you’ll do with the information. More than likely, an employee satisfaction survey will confirm some things you already suspected. But it’s also likely to reveal something new. Whatever you learn, you should have an idea of what action your leadership team will take to follow up.
At the conclusion of BetterUp’s Culture Canvass, C-suite leaders draw the most common concerns from this report and look for ways to address them. These commitments are presented to the entire company. This kind of transparency keeps leaders accountable and builds a high level of trust within the organization.
Tips for designing an employee feedback survey
With all this potential knowledge to be gained, it’s tempting to try to make your surveys as comprehensive as possible. However, you’re not likely to get much participation in a survey that takes 3 hours to complete. Think of these questionnaires as check-ins, and aim to conduct them regularly. Keep these ideas in mind as you create your survey:
- Keep it short and sweet. The survey should only take 5-10 minutes to complete. Any longer than that, and you risk losing interest and engagement.
- Make sure the questions are clear and concise. The clearer the questions, the clearer the data yielded.
- Use survey templates or questionnaire examples as a starting point. However, you should tailor the questions to fit your specific needs and organizational values.
- Ask about both positive and negative experiences. If you only ask about positive experiences, people won’t feel like you want honest feedback. If you limit it to negative feedback, you’ll lose sight of what your team is doing well.
- Don’t keep it “strictly business.” Be sure to ask about work-life balance and whether employees feel like they have a good work-life balance.
- Avoid yes or no. Ask open-ended questions that allow for freeform responses. You can also use scales that allow you to measure sentiment on a spectrum. These are called Likert scales. For example, you might give a statement like:
I feel like I am appreciated for my contribution to the team.
Individuals would then rank themselves along a continuum, according to their feelings on that topic. “Strongly disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, and Strongly Agree” are common Likert scale responses.
- Save the commitments. You don’t have to promise anything in the survey. Use this as a time to listen to your team. You can then use the information you gather to make improvements in the workplace.
20 employee feedback survey questions to include
The questions you ask in your survey will give you an idea of what the daily experience of working at your organization is like. Although measuring productivity is important, avoid asking questions about employee performance. Employee feedback surveys are an opportunity for your staff to tell you what’s going well — or not so well. Used properly, this information may even help you find ways to improve the bottom line. Belonging, connection, and other areas of workplace culture have a direct impact on team output.
Use the following questions as a jumping-off point to design your survey:
Questions about employee experience:
- Do you feel a sense of connection to your colleagues?
- Do you feel comfortable asking your manager questions?
- Would you recommend a friend or family member to an open role at this company?
- How would you rate your level of happiness at work?
- Do you feel that the leadership of your company is trustworthy?
Questions about personal development:
- Do you have career conversations with your manager? How often?
- Do you feel that there is a clear path for development and promotion within your team?
- If you need support, do you know who to reach out to at work?
- Do you have access to opportunities for professional growth?
- Have you had a performance review within the last year?
Questions about work environment:
- Do you have a comfortable place to work?
- Do you feel you have access to all the resources and supplies you need to complete your daily tasks?
- Is your workplace distraction-free and conducive to focused work?
- Do you have flexibility to complete your work when and where is most effective for you?
- Do you feel supported in making use of flexible work arrangements?
Questions about employee engagement:
- Do your immediate coworkers seem invested in the work that they do?
- Do organizational changes seem aligned with the company’s values?
- Do you look forward to coming to work each day?
- Have you interviewed or applied for a role at another company within the last three months?
- If you were to leave this company tomorrow, what would be the reason?
How to interpret employee feedback survey results
So once you have all of this data, what do you do with it? How do you interpret the results of an employee feedback survey? Here are 4 things you should keep in mind when interpreting the results of an employee feedback survey:
Employees will have good days and bad days. Keep this in mind when considering someone’s response to any given question or group of questions. Try not to read too much into one particular response as it may not represent that person’s opinion on all topics — or at all times.
To adjust for mood, try to conduct shorter, pulse surveys on a regular basis. Be aware of any challenges or changes within the company that might affect morale — like recent layoffs or the loss of a major client.
2. Personal experience
Every single one of us has different backgrounds, past experiences, and expectations. It’s impossible to create a questionnaire that everyone will answer in the same way. Instead, think about what you want to learn from the survey and design your questions accordingly.
Most surveys are conducted anonymously, but you may have non-identifying demographic data. This information can be very useful in determining widespread culture concerns. Are women, people of color, or older employees feeling overlooked or unwelcome? Look for these trends when you review your data set.
3. Avoid leading questions
Leading questions tell respondents what to say, rather than giving them space to give their own opinions. They make an assumption right at the beginning of the question. A leading question might read like:
What do you like most about working here?
Asking a question like “Do you find your work engaging?” instead allows respondents time to ponder the question and come up with an answer without feeling pressure to conform. It leaves equal space for an affirmative or negative response.
4. Don’t take it personally
Try not to take any one response out of context, even if it feels like it’s directed at you or your team. When reviewing comments, it’s tempting to pick out quotes that support our viewpoint and overlook ones that contradict it. However, no single comment or response is accurate enough for making decisions.
Look for patterns in both the comments and the scale responses. What does a majority of the responses seem to say? Which items get the highest frequency of agreement or disagreement? What about other factors, such as age, gender, level of education, etc.?
If you’re still unclear on what to do with your feedback survey results, or concerned about biased responses, ask for help. Try meeting with a team of consultants who specialize in human resources and management. This way, you’ll be able to learn from someone with both industry expertise and an objective lens.
Following up after an employee feedback survey
Once you’ve conducted your employee feedback survey and collected the data, it’s time to interpret the results. If you’ve never conducted this type of survey, it may be helpful to reach out to a HR professional or analyst to help review the data.
In the process of reviewing the data, don’t forget your most important stakeholders: your employees. Share with them what you’ve learned about your work culture as a result of their feedback. Thank them for taking the time to participate. Without them, your team would miss out on critical feedback and development opportunities. This could spell disaster — or success — in your organization’s future.
Even if you’re not sure what to do yet, make an authentic commitment to addressing any areas of concern. If the feedback indicates a mismatch between company values and employee experience, don’t be afraid to apologize. Be sure to follow up (within a month or less) with concrete actions. The way you handle feedback now will influence the engagement level of future surveys.
Employee feedback surveys are an excellent way to gauge how employees feel about their work environment. The information gathered can help leaders uncover what changes need to be made. They help measure employee engagement, well-being, and sentiment towards their employer. A semi-annual or annual survey can give your team a way to communicate directly to leadership, which builds trust within the team.
Employee feedback surveys should not be a one-time event. Companies that conduct regular employee surveys can react faster to issues raised in previous surveys. They will also have the opportunity to see trends over time. This data is incredibly important to teams of all sizes, but especially in larger companies. The faster you grow, the harder it can be to protect company culture.
If you want to support your employees in their work experience and professional growth, request a demo with BetterUp today. One-on-one coaching is one of the best ways to demonstrate your commitment to who they are — and what they do.