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What do you ask on an employee engagement survey?

Employee engagement surveys are a company's opportunity to find out what percentage of their employees are truly committed to achieving their organization's goals. They are often conducted once a year and are filled with questions that the leadership team hopes will generate good feedback. The problem with this hope is that leadership teams, or HR (depending on who is actually drafting the survey), gets caught up in what questions to ask versus what data are they trying to get out of the survey in the end.

With an engagement survey, start with the end.

If you are planning an engagement survey, or even considering one, put yourself a couple of months down the road and ask yourself a few questions:

  • What areas of the business are you focused on this year?

  • What data will be helpful to you?

  • What segments of the business would you like to compare against each other?

  • Where in the business are you willing to make changes?

By selecting the themes that are most important to your organization, you can hone in your questions. For example, if you are primarily focused on communication and career progression, don't bother asking questions about customer centricity. The extra questions will just take up your employees' time and inflate the amount of data to review at the end. If you thinking your new employees are having a different experience than your long-term folks, be sure to capture tenure as a demographic.

Taking the time to answer these questions up front enables the feedback you are hoping for in the end.

OK, but how do you actually measure engagement?

If you type "how do you measure engagement" into your search engine you will get a variety of answers; everything from research experts like Gallup to a blog post from Snack Nation (I kid you not, that was the third link on the list when I searched). For me, I lean into the leaders of experience management: Qualtrics. They measure engagement as a composite measure of 5 factors. These help organizations to understand intended behaviors like intent to stay, likelihood to go above and beyond what is required of employees, and willingness to recommend a company. These are:

  1. Intent to stay – the likelihood that people will still be with the company in the next 2 years

  2. Work involvement – the psychological and emotional contribution people apply to their work

  3. Discretionary effort – the level of effort above the minimum required that people are willing to put into their work

  4. Pride in the company – the extent to which people feel proud to work there

  5. Willingness to recommend their organization – how likely people are to recommend their organization to friends and family

Each of these items provides a score which, when combined, gives an overall metric of employee engagement.

So, as you are considering your next (or first) engagement survey, be sure of two things:

  1. Focus on what is important

  2. Measure engagement


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