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How to Design an Employee Engagement Survey

5 min read
Use careful thought when designing an effective employee engagement survey to return the best possible results and data. Use our tips and template to create the most effective survey for your organization.

Measuring Engagement

There are many ways to measure engagement, but best practices for a traditional approach will measure the following:

  • Pride in the company
  • Intention to stay with the company
  • Likelihood to recommend the company to friends or family (fast becoming an “ENPS” or “Employee Net Promoter Score”)
  • Motivation to go above and beyond for the company

Identifying Engagement Drivers

When you create your own engagement survey, you’ll want to measure engagement itself (outcome measure), as well as the outside influences (engagement drivers) that may influence engagement in your organization.

Over the years there has been extensive research about what makes an environment engaging. Common themes that impact engagement include:

Autonomy / Empowerment Are people able to act on their own authority and innovate on the job?
Career Progression Are there opportunities for people to grow and develop in the company?
Collaboration Are they able to easily work with other teams or colleagues without barriersand to what extent are people from diverse backgrounds or with diverse opinions able to collaborate?
Communication Are they getting enough info from the company about what’s happening and do they feel they’re being listened to?
Company Leadership Do they believe in and trust their senior leaders?
Pay and Benefits Do people feel they’re fairly compensated?
Quality of Product or Services Do people believe in what they (and/or the organization) provide to their customers?
Recognition Do people feel that they’re recognized and appreciated?
Resources Do they have the right tools (computers systems etc) to do their job and are there enough people on the team for them to achieve a work/life balance?
Strategy Alignment Do they buy into where the company is going or do they even know?
Supportive Management Are managers supporting their teams to be successful (this can also include good performance management)?
Training and Development Do people feel they have the training they need to do their job?

As you explore various engagement drivers, you may decide that all of them are relevant to your organizational needs. On the other hand, you may only identify a handful of factors that speak to your specific needs. Whichever it is, thinking through the broad factors that shape engagement scores is a critical exercise.

Designing Your Own Engagement Survey

Designing your own engagement survey can be daunting, but if you work within the previously outlined categories, the process is not as complex as it might seem. These categories will maintain a balanced and robust measurement of engagement, but the final design is up to you and your organizational needs.

Your goal is for as many employees as possible to understand and act on the results of your engagement survey. Employees will need to understand how to answer the questions and your managers will need to understand how to read the report. Be sure to keep your survey structure simple and intuitive.

The added bonus of designing your own survey is that you don’t have to ask a question in a certain way to fit into a particular model or match other particular questions—every question can be designed to be 100% relevant to your organization, which can help make your survey shorter and easier to digest.

Steps to Designing an Engagement Survey

  1. Determine who will review and approve content. While several people and teams should review content, avoid having more than two leaders approve content. This will help you eliminate lengthy sign-off processes once you have a final question set.

  2. Involve key leaders when prioritizing issues. Solicit opinions and ideas from stakeholders to better understand organizational needs. What do the heads of your business really need from their people in order to be successful?

  3. Review and customize the 12 engagement driver categories previously listed. Remove any you don’t think are relevant to your organization, and add any new ones you would like to include.

  4. Review the questions within each of the categories you have left. Similar to Step 3, adjust the questions to fit your needs. Maintain at least three questions in each category.

  5. Include necessary definitions on your survey. For example, many companies include a definition of “Your Manager”, “Your Team”, “Senior Leadership” and “This Organization” to ensure people use the same frame of reference when responding. These can be shown at the beginning of a survey or, depending on your survey software, as individuals hover over questions.

  6. Send your questionnaire for review and approval. Typically you should expect around two to three rounds of iteration which can take at least two weeks.

Using Our Employee Engagement Template

In line with the industry standard, our survey template uses a 5-point Likert scale:

Agreement Scale: Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree

Rating Scale: Very Good to Very Poor

We would recommend designing your engagement survey in the following way:

  • Engagement – these questions go at the front of your survey, and measure pride in the organization, motivation, advocacy for the organization, intention to stay, and job satisfaction.
  • Core themes – these ask about the conditions that might cause (or detract from) engagement with questions about autonomy and empowerment, career progression, collaboration, communication, leadership, recognition, resources, strategy, management support, and training and development.
  • Additional themes – you can see if any of these themes are critical to your organization and, if so, add them in as well. Avoid throwing them all in, as they will probably make your survey too long, unfocused, and difficult to engage with. Instead, cherry-pick what you need, and use them for shorter surveys in the future, if necessary.

Learn how to enhance employee satisfaction and engagement with our guide to employee experience.

Want extra help designing and executing an in-depth, world-class employee engagement program? Check out our automated XM solution.

Download Our Free Employee Engagement Survey Template