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Designing your Employee Engagement Survey

Follow these guidelines to create an effective employee engagement survey.

Quantum Workplace has studied what makes workplaces engaged – or not - for nearly two decades. We've used our experience to create our best practice employee engagement survey. This is the survey your Customer Success Manager will share with you in the form of the Survey Content file. Many organizations we partner with use the questions in this survey as-is to generate great insights.

 

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

1. Follow our model of employee engagement

Our 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, while potential impact questions shed light on where to focus your efforts to improve or maintain engagement. You can learn more about our employee engagement model here.

 

We recommend including all 9 engagement outcome questions in your engagement survey.  Together, these 9 items will provide you with a robust measure of organizational, team, and work engagement.

The potential impact questions have been carefully selected based on our research; together, these questions cover the most important topics to assess in employee engagement (such as Communication & Resources, Trust in Leadership, and Team Dynamics). This set of questions will
help you assess which areas have the biggest impact on engagement at your organization.  We do want the questions you include on your survey to be relevant to your culture: for example, manufacturing companies may opt to add additional items related to safety, while organizations experiencing rapid growth may want to add a couple selections related to change management and agility.  If your organization wants to customize the employee engagement survey, we recommend adding, editing, or deleting a few of these potential impact questions rather than the engagement outcome questions. Most customers who choose to customize their survey edit 1-5 of these potential impact items. 

2. Check your survey length

The length of the survey determines how much time it will take your employees to complete the survey, as well as the amount of valuable survey feedback you’ll have after the survey.

We recommend including 30-40 questions on your survey. A survey of this length allows you to cover all of the necessary topic but won't take your employees more than about 10 minutes to complete.

3. Use the right question types

We recommend including two types of survey questions in your employee engagement survey:

  1. Scaled agreement items
  2. Open-ended questions

Questions or Items? 

We use the words "questions" and "items" interchangeably to refer to the scaled agreement items that make up the most of the survey. Since these are worded as statements they are technically items rather than questions. 

 

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

 

We also recommended including 1-3 open-ended questions. These questions allow employees to share additional context and provide deeper insight.  Because open-ended questions take substantially longer to answer than scaled agreement questions, we recommend including no more than 5 open ended questions at most. 

In particular, we recommend including a set of Start/Stop/Continue Questions:

  • 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?

4. Keep your survey focused on engagement

We define employee engagement as the strength of the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward their work, their team, and their organization.  The purpose of your employee engagement survey is to measure that mental and emotional connection and examine the factors that influence it. 

 

While it might be tempting to use the opportunity to combine multiple employee surveys your organization needs to conduct or dive deep into a particular topic a stakeholder is passionate about, adding other topics to your Engagement Survey can confuse employees about the purpose of the survey and make it more difficult to take action on employee feedback.

Remember: You can launch an unlimited number of Pulse Surveys on any topic in Quantum Workplace. Reach out to your Customer Success Manager to learn more about Pulse Surveys.

 

5. Make sure all categories include more than one question

If you choose to add or delete survey questions, we strongly recommend ensuring that all categories include more than one survey question. Instead of leaving one lone survey question in a category, consider whether you can add that question into an existing and relevant category, add 1-2 more questions to create a more robust measure of that topic, or consider whether that single question is really necessary. 

6. Be mindful of benchmarks

QW provides benchmarks based on company size and industry, which allows you to compare your results to an aggregated set of competitor data. Benchmarks are provided at the question level – that is, you can see how your company performs on a question compared to similar sized companies or those in the same industry. Benchmarks are ONLY provided for our standard survey questions, which means that  custom questions and any questions you create will not have benchmarks. Similarly, if you edit the wording of one of our standard questions such that the meaning of the question changes, you will lose benchmarks for that question. 


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 [insert 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 an 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 hovertip text to a question. Confirm that you would like to use hovertip text with your Customer Success Manager before submitting your Survey Content file. 


We typically get asked this question in regards to the “Trust in Leadership” category by customers who want to ensure that employees know exactly who "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 such we want survey takers to be able to 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