Quick Guide: How to Choose the Right Question Types for your Survey

You can customize any Quantum Workplace survey by creating a couple of your own questions to supplement our best practice questions. When writing your own survey questions, it's important to consider how the question type you choose can influence the quality of responses you receive.

For the purposes of this article, let's say you want to figure out what flavor of ice cream you should serve at an upcoming ice cream social. We'll use this example to illustrate how different question types can serve different purposes. 

Scaled (Agreement)

What It Means: A statement that requires a single response along a range or scale of potential responses. 

What It’s Good For: Measuring the intensity of opinions, attitudes, or feelings about a topic.

What The Data Will Look Like: The percent of responses selecting each option along the scale. Quantum Workplace further simplifies your data by reporting the percent of responses that are favorable, neutral, or unfavorable, as well as the average response.

I love chocolate ice cream.

  • Strongly Disagree
  • Disagree
  • Somewhat Disagree
  • Somewhat Agree
  • Agree
  • Strongly Agree

Understanding Your Data:

If 90% of respondents strongly agree or agree they love chocolate ice cream your data will show you that your organization is 90% favorable towards chocolate ice cream. You know it will be a hit at your ice cream social!

Best Practices: 

  1. Use scaled items more often than any other question type. Scaled items are the foundation of most Quantum Workplace best practice surveys. 
  2. Write scaled survey items as statements (sentences), not as questions. 
  3. Use Quantum Workplace’s recommended 6-point agreement scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Somewhat Disagree, Somewhat Agree, Agree, Strongly Agree. This provides a detailed understanding of your respondents' perceptions without giving them an overwhelming number of options. 
  4. Ensure that scaled items are worded as positive statements such that you want survey takers to respond "Agree" or "Strongly Agree" to every item. For example, use the item, "I know I can depend on the members of my team," rather than "I cannot rely on the other members of my team."

  5. Ensure that the response scale is ordered "negative" to "positive", such that the most favorable response is on the far right. Research suggests that this eliminates positive-response bias. Quantum Workplace's six-point agreement scale is designed with this in mind. 

Multi-choice

What It Means: A question allowing a respondent to select one or more options from a predefined list of choices.

What It’s Good For: When you want to understand preferences or choices and you have a good idea of what options you want your respondents to choose from. 

What The Data Will Look Like: The percent of respondents who chose each option.

Note: if you limit a respondent to selecting just one response, the percentages will add up to 100%. If you allow a respondent to choose more than one response, the percentages likely will not add up to 100%.

Which of the following ice cream flavors should we serve at our upcoming ice cream social? 

  • Chocolate
  • Vanilla
  • Strawberry
  • Cookies & Cream
  • Banana
  • Other ________________

Understanding Your Data:

If you’ve got an office full of ice cream lovers, many respondents will select more than one flavor and you’ll have plenty of options to bring to the social. Alternatively, if your respondents are picky about their favorite soft serves, you’ll have a very clear picture of the flavors that will get the scoop and those that will melt away on a hot sidewalk.

Best Practices: 

  1. Be intentional about the list of options you present. Include enough variety for respondents to choose from but not so many where some options seem redundant  or the list is overwhelming. Also, don’t list options you can’t deliver on. If you ask employees what food they’d like to have served at the company picnic, don’t list a steak dinner that busts your budget.
  2. Consider using “Other” as a response option for instances in which none of your answer options apply to a respondent. Allowing the respondent to then leave a comment is a great way to collect more insight.
  3. Limit respondents to choose one option if you prefer to know their very favorite or allow multiple options if you want to know any preference.

  4. Any time that you want 

Create Yes/No questions using the multi-choice question type.

Demographic

What it Means: Demographic questions give survey-takers the opportunity to self-report a demographic. When you view your data, you'll be able to compare how survey responses differed depending on how survey respondents identified. 

From a survey taker's perspective, demographic questions look like multi-choice questions; the respondent sees a set of choices and selects the option that best describes them.  However, unlike multi-choice questions, you can use demographic questions to slice your data. That is, demographic questions add a demographic attribute to your survey.  You can view how responses to the other survey questions varied depending on how survey takers responded to the demographic question. 

What it's Good For: Use demographic questions anytime you want employees to self-identify with a particular demographic or any time you want the option to see how responses to other survey questions vary depending on a survey taker's response to a demographic question. For example, if y

Best Practices: We recommend providing most employee demographics to Quantum Workplace so that you can view demographic data without relying on survey respondents to self-report a demographic on any given survey. Demographic questions are best suited to "one off" categories that you do not need to track in the future.


For example, if you wanted to be able to sort survey responses between employees who work remotely and employees who work in an office but do not need to track that information long term, you could include a question "Do you work in the office or work remotely?" as a demographic question. Then, you'd be able to view how responses to all non-demographic questions on the survey varied between remote and non-remote employees.

What the Data will Look Like: Demographic questions are the only question type that do not appear in the body of your survey results. Instead, the demographic question will appear in your menu of demographics to slice and filter your data by. 



Rank

What It Means: A question allowing a respondent to rank a predefined list of options in order of preference or importance.

What It’s Good For: Expanding beyond multichoice questions, rank allows you to understand the order of a respondent’s preference or choices.

What The Data Will Look Like: Among the options, you’ll get to see what percent were ranked first, second, third, fourth or lower, or not ranked.

Rank the following ice cream flavors in order of what you’d most like to see versus least like to see served at our upcoming ice cream social.

___ Chocolate

___ Vanilla

___ Strawberry

___ Cookies & Cream

___ Banana


Understanding Your Data:

Imagine that 80% of respondents prefer Strawberry, but Chocolate was a close second. Those two flavors will be hits at your ice cream social! Almost everyone ranked Banana at the bottom (because duh, gross…), so don’t bother serving that.

Best Practices:

  1. As with multichoice, create your list so that there are a variety of options to rank, but not so many that options seem redundant or it takes too much time to decide.
  2. Consider designing the question so that respondents rank their top 2 or 3 choices instead of ranking all possible options. This saves the respondent time  and brain power but still provides you with the most critical data. 

While valuable, responding to rank questions can be time-consuming. Try to limit the number of rank questions that appear on your survey compared to other types.

Open-Ended

What It Means: A question allowing a person to respond in their own words.

What It’s Good For: Understanding context, gaining deeper insights, or collecting suggestions or ideas. Open-ended questions are not good when you need a quick understanding of responses.

What The Data Will Look Like: You’ll be able to read the responses exactly as they were written.

How can we make our ice cream socials more fun?

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________


Understanding Your Data:

If you include this question you'll likely receive a bunch of ideas-- some feasible and some not. The good news is, you’ll know exactly what respondents are looking for in your ice cream socials. If you are looking to improve your socials, these responses might reveal some common themes-- but it will take time to sort through all the data. 

Best Practices:

  1. Avoid using open-ended questions when you need quick insight, as it takes more time to review open-ended questions than other question types and you may receive some responses that you can't deliver on. Instead, use scaled, multichoice or rank questions.
  2. Think ahead to what type of responses will be most helpful. If you want respondents to share their opinion on something specific, word your question so that they’ll respond accordingly.
  3. Avoid generic questions like “What other information would you like to share?”
  4. Read the comments. If your employees take the time to answer open-ended questions, you should take the time to consider their feedback.

    NPS

    What It Means: The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a common index used to measure loyalty or engagement. It can also be used to assess the opinions of your employees.

    What It’s Good For: When you only have space on your survey for one question that addresses loyalty or engagement and you prefer the NPS format.

    What the Data Will Look Like: Responses are grouped in three main categories.

    1. Promoters: Percent of responses that are 9 or 10
    2. Passives: Percent of responses that are 7 or 8
    3. Detractors: Percent of responses that are 0 to 6

    The NPS Score is the percentage of Promoters minus the percentage of Detractors.

    On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend chocolate ice cream to a friend or family member?

                         0    1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  


    Understanding Your Data:

    These questions are ideal for understanding how much your employees enjoy chocolate ice cream and whether they are promoters or detractors of the flavor. If the majority of your responses are 9s and 10s, your team really loves chocolate ice cream. But if the majority of your responses are 2s and 4s, you'll consider offering vanilla or strawberry at your next social.

    Considerations: 

    NPS doesn’t provide you with an understanding of why someone is a promoter or detractor. Consider adding other question types to better understand the opinions that influence a person’s NPS response.

 

See Also: 
Designing your Employee Engagement Survey
Quick Guide: How to Write Effective Questions