Best Practices: Custom Engagement Survey Question Guidelines

Follow these guidelines to create an effective employee engagement survey.


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Quantum Workplace has studied what makes workplaces engaged and not engaged for nearly two decades. We've used our experience to create our best practice employee engagement survey.

This is the survey your Customer Implementation Manager will share with you in the form of the Survey Content file. Many of the organizations Quantum Workplace partners with use the questions as they exist to generate great insights. 

However, if you find that your organization wants to slightly customize the survey, follow these guidelines to make sure your survey remains effective and valuable. 

Note: the terms Questions and Items are used interchangeably to refer to the scaled agreement items that make up most of the survey. Because these are worded as statements, they are technically items rather than questions.

Engagement Survey Question Guidelines

Follow our model of employee engagement

Quantum Workplace's engagement survey includes a mix of engagement outcome questions and potential impact questions. 

  • Engagement outcome questions help you assess the current health of your organization
  • Impact questions shed light on where to focus your efforts to improve or maintain engagement, learn more about our employee engagement model here

It's recommended to include all nine engagement outcome questions in your engagement survey. Used together, the nine survey questions provide a robust measurement of organizational, team, and work engagement. 

Potential Impact questions are carefully selected based on Quantum Workplace's research, alongside the engagement outcome questions, to cover the most important topics to asses in employee engagement. These include Communications & Resources, Trust in Leadership, and Team Dynamics.

This set of questions helps assess areas where you will have the biggest impact on engagement for your organization. 

It's important to include questions that are relevant to your culture. For example, manufacturing organizations may opt to add additional questions related to safety, while organizations experiencing rapid growth may consider adding questions related to change management and agility. 

If your organization wants to customize the employee engagement survey, Quantum Workplace recommends adding, editing or deleting only a few of the potential impact questions, rather than the engagement outcome questions. 

Users who customize their survey typically edit 1-5 of the potential impact questions. Engagement Outcome questions are also tagged as Outcome Item to visually distinguish these questions to prevent missing out on important data points. 

Check your survey length

Survey length determines how much time it will take your employees to complete the survey, as well as the amount of valuable survey feedback after the survey. 

30-40 questions are the recommended amount. A survey this length allows you to cover all of the necessary topics but won't take your employees more than 10 minutes to complete. 

Use the right question types

Quantum Workplace recommends including two types of survey questions in your employee engagement survey:

Scaled Agreement Items:

The majority of your survey should consist of scaled agreement items. These are statements intended to elicit a favorable, neutral or unfavorable response. These are great to include as they are quick and easy to respond to, while effectively measuring the intensity of opinions on a topic. 

Open-Ended Questions:

Between 1-3 open-ended questions are also recommended. These allow employees to share additional context and provide deeper insight. Because open-ended questions take significantly longer to respond to, no more than five open-ended questions are recommended.

In particular, the following set of Start/Stop/Continue questions are recommended:

  • What is one thing you would like your organization to START doing to make it a better place to work?
  • What is one thing you would like your organization to STOP doing to make it a better place to work?
  • What is one thing you would like your organization to CONTINUE doing that makes it a great place to work?

Keep your survey focused on engagement

Quantum Workplace defines employee engagement as the strength of the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward their work, team, and organization. 

The purpose of the employee engagement survey is to measure that mental and emotional connection and examine the factors that influence it. 

Although it may be tempting to use this opportunity to combine multiple employee surveys, it's important that the survey be focused on engagement. The inclusion of other topics can confuse survey takers and make it more difficult to act on employee feedback. Pulse surveys can be launched at any time to dive into other topics. 

Make sure all categories include more than one question

If you choose to add or delete survey questions, it's strongly recommended to ensure that all categories include more than a single survey question. 

Instead of leaving a single survey question in a category, consider whether you can add that question to an existing relevant category, or if the question is even necessary in the first place. 

Alternatively, consider adding another question or two for a more robust measure of the topic in the resulting analytics. 

Be mindful of benchmarks

Benchmarks are provided based on the organization's size and industry which allows you to compare your results to an aggregated set of competitor data. 

Benchmarks are only provided for Quantum Workplace's standard survey questions. Custom questions and any other questions you create do not have benchmarks. Similarly, if the wording for one of Quantum Workplace's standard questions is edited enough to change the meaning of the question, benchmarks are not provided. 

Learn how to view benchmark data. 

Survey Design FAQs

Q: Your standard survey doesn’t fit our internal language. Can we edit the questions slightly and still retain benchmarks? 

A: Yes, we encourage this! You change easily change specific words within your survey question to words that have the same meaning that you might use inside your organization.

Here are two examples:

  1. “My immediate manager cares about me as a person” can be edited to “My immediate supervisor cares about me as a person.”
  2. “I am proud to work here” can be edited to “I am proud to work at [company name].”

Q: What are the survey categories and can we edit them? 

A: Each scaled agreement survey question falls into a topic, or category, that it assesses. Examples include Trust in Senior Leadership, Communication & Resources, and Manager Effectiveness. Ultimately, categories provide a mid-level view of employee feedback that is more specific than Overall Favorability but less granular than each individual survey question.

You can rename survey categories to something that makes more sense for your organization, such as changing “Manager Effectiveness” to “Supervisor Effectiveness". 

Q: Can we add definitions to questions for clarity? 

A: Yes, you can clarify questions by adding hover tip text to a question. Confirm that you would like to use hover tip text with your/CSM  before submitting your Survey Content file. 

We typically get asked this question in regard to the “Trust in Leadership” category by customers who want to ensure that employees know exactly to whom "senior leadership" refers to.  You can elect to add hover-over text to the effect of “Senior Leaders refer to the CEO and executive team members”. However, keep in mind that leadership starts at the top, so even if employees think of someone outside of the executive team when answering these questions, their responses are still reflective of the top-most leadership.

Q: How should we handle items that are reverse-coded/ reverse-scored?

Reverse Coding (Reverse Scoring) occurs when scaled agreement items are phrased "negatively" rather than "positively" such that the scoring needs to be reversed for that item. For example, the item, "It would take a lot to get me to leave this organization," is one of Quantum Workplace's standard survey items and is worded such that we want survey-takers to respond "Agree" or "Strongly Agree" to that item. If we were to rephrase that item as a negative statement ("It would not take a lot to get me to leave this organization.") we would want our survey takers to respond with "Disagree" or "Strongly Disagree". 

The standard Quantum Workplace survey items are all worded positively such that we want survey-takers to respond with "Agree" or "Strongly Agree." We do not recommend including Reverse Coded survey items in your Engagement Survey or in any employee survey, as it can create confusion both on the front end for survey takers and on the back end when you are reviewing your data. 

Instead, if you have a survey item that you want to include that is phrased as a negative statement, we recommend rephrasing it as a positive statement so that survey takers can respond with "Agree" and "Strongly Agree" responses. Be sure to avoid phrasing your survey item as a double negative. 


See Also:
Quick Guide: How to Write Effective Questions
Quick Guide: How to Choose the Right Question Types for your Survey