Your people are your biggest asset. But how do you know if you are engaging them and enabling them to thrive in their roles?
Employee engagement drives higher productivity, better retention, and enhanced revenue growth.
Engaged employees are committed, connected, and aligned to your business’ broader goals, because they understand, value, and support the organization. Moreover, they have the motivation, know-how, and resources to strive for your business to succeed.
Sounds obvious, right? But how can you truly measure this for your business?
While there are many ways to evaluate engagement, surveys are among the most fundamental. Alongside other HR metrics, a well-crafted employee engagement survey helps you assess progress and identify areas for development.
In this guide, we’ll break down the best types of survey questions to use, how they differ based on the type of survey, and how the right tool indicates the right questions.
We’ve broken down the best employee engagement survey questions into 11 categories based on engagement driver. Understanding the engagement driver behind each question helps you tailor your survey to what you’d like to measure and informs your analysis of the results.
Empowered employees don’t just know where their business is heading. They also know they’re a meaningful part of steering things there. They’re trusted to make a difference, and that means giving them autonomy and ownership over their role.
The questions that explore this theme should probe the extent to which your business trusts employees in their roles:
Employees will have a greater stake in your business’ future if they’re given the chance to thrive. You want an organizational symbiosis where your employees can flourish in their careers while the business booms.
So, your questions need to ask employees if they feel that your business is as committed to their futures as it is to the prospects of the organization:
A strong communication culture means employees feel connected at all levels — with close colleagues, the broader organization, and with customers.
Obviously, communication is a broad topic, but, at a high level, you might explore the following to establish some basics:
Bringing together people with different identities, perspectives, experiences, and skills enriches an organization. It fosters better problem-solving, creativity, and business outcomes — while protecting against groupthink.
But simply declaring an inclusive recruitment process isn’t enough. If the culture isn’t actually inclusive, your diversity will slip away over time.
Inclusion means people feel they can belong and thrive in your organization, regardless of background, so the questions you ask should focus on that:
Of course, such questions are most valuable if you have a keen sense of the diversity among your respondents. For example, are particular teams, groups, or identities responding in particular ways? To achieve this, you may need to include some team and demographic questions (usually best placed at the end).
Since you want to know about employee engagement, it makes sense to be direct: How do employees perceive their own engagement with the business? Ask them how committed, motivated, connected, and aligned are they with your organization
It’s then interesting to look at certain metrics, like absenteeism, productivity, and participation, to see if the aggregate trends in what people are doing seem to align with what they’re saying.
Managing employees requires a subtle mix of structure, coaching, guidance, support, encouragement, flexibility, freedom, and directness. It can be a tricky balancing act, so the questions you ask should probe the role of managerial support:
Of course, the nature of your business will shape your questioning (e.g., if you’re office-based or more remote.)
Positive peer relationships create a sense of belonging, shared purpose, and common goals. They breed trust in a team, boosting collaboration, mutual support, and the exchange of ideas. This, of course, is great for morale, retention, and productivity.
Questions in this category should provide a temperature check, where negative replies indicate any lack of trust or psychological safety:
Enablement means providing the structures, resources, tools, and training so that your employees can succeed in their roles. Enabled employees know the business is fully behind them, doing all it can to help them achieve.
That's great for motivation and engagement. It’s worth putting in that extra mile, because the business will fully support them along the way.
Questions to explore this category include:
Humans need to feel valued. A positive recognition and rewards strategy helps recognize this and can take different forms (e.g., feedback, praise, extra leave, monetary reward, etc.)
We like to feel rewarded — but our personal sense of fairness is also an integral human trait, and this should be explored:
Employees must understand your longer-term vision. If they appreciate it, they’re more likely to engage with their role in achieving it, as it puts everybody on the same page. Attempts to engage your employees will fail if employees don’t buy into the bigger picture.
Questions for this category should therefore measure both your employees' understanding of the strategy and their sentiments towards it:
This final category explores the broader impact of work on your employees. True, employees need to feel engaged and motivated about their work but, that commitment needs a counterweight to be sustainable. And that means nurturing a good work-life balance.
Your employees must feel like they can turn off from work to pursue their personal lives. This can be a challenge in today’s always-connected world of mobile devices and remote working. But, it should still be an important priority for your business. After all, a healthy work-life balance sustains employee engagement and bolsters loyalty.
The best questions will vary, of course, depending on the work patterns and practices of your teams. But the following gives a sense of the areas to explore:
While close-ended questions (“yes/no” or multiple choice) are better than nothing, they conceal a great deal of nuance. Open-ended questions, on the other hand, allow employees to respond freely, with greater detail and more shades of gray.
Open-ended questions allow employees to share their unique experiences and views. Close-ended questions provide a statistical big picture but inevitably miss lots of detail under the surface. Giving space for a free response allows deeper insights to emerge. This, in turn, gives you a richer, more qualitative picture of the employee’s experience.
Close-ended questions don’t really give much sense of what employees think could be better. For that, you need to directly invite their input, views, and suggestions.
Open-ended questions demonstrate you’re interested in each employee’s perspective. They’re not just a numerical data point. An open-ended question allows employees to share their views more accurately and truly capture how they feel.
Of course, to truly build trust, you also need to act on the survey’s results. It demonstrates to employees that they’re actually being heard.
The answer: it depends.
Keep your goals in mind when you’re determining the number of questions in your engagement survey. Quick and frequent pulse surveys might be 10-15 questions, max. But your annual engagement survey might be in the 30 to 40 range.
These best practices can help guide your survey scope:
For close-ended questions, a five-point (or seven-point) scale works. This involves providing employees with a statement, which they respond to by choosing one of the options. Offering an odd number of options allows for a neutral, middle option and avoids an enforced, artificial sense of polarization.
Most of the questions suggested above can be turned into a statement in this way:
Employees then indicate whether they agree, disagree, or are neutral about that statement.
Whatever you do, though, be as consistent as possible across your survey. For example, if you go with first-person statements, use these throughout. Likewise, use the same scale in a consistent way.
Creating the perfect engagement survey can be tricky. And implementing it with your workforce and analyzing the results can be even time-consuming.
So why not explore how Paylocity’s survey platform can help you? Paylocity’s Employee Voice survey tool is equipped with pre-made, statistically-validated engagement questions to drive meaningful insights. Level-up your engagement surveys with features like:
Request a demo today to find out what Paylocity’s survey tools can do for you.
Your employees want to be a part of creating your company's culture. Make sure they're heard through engaging surveys. Using our questionnaire tool, you can gather invaluable feedback from your entire workforce - remote, hybrid, in-office, contractors, and more. Get the insights you need to make improvements, anticipate any problems, drive strategic decisions, and keep your employees engaged.