Surveys 101: Asking the Right Questions to Maximize Employee Feedback

Surveys 101: Asking the Right Questions to Maximize Employee Feedback

Happy and satisfied employees are more likely to stay with your organization, preserving success and creating a vibrant company culture. Individually, a single feedback form may not overhaul company culture. On the other hand, collective feedback can drive change both for the organization's good and for employees' professional growth. Whether gathering input on company policies or taking a pulse on company culture, it's crucial that you have a strategy in place for collecting employee feedback.

Employees are the heart and soul of an organization, and valuing their opinions can have a huge payoff. Whether gathering feedback on company policies or taking a pulse on company culture, listening to your employees’ feedback is crucial for employee retention and growth.

Companies that send out regular HR employee feedback surveys are sending a clear message: They care about the voice of their people.

And this is important because employees who feel heard are 4.6 times more likely to perform better than those who don't believe they're listened to.

Just as voting in an election gives citizens the right to stand up and fight for their beliefs, feedback surveys at work allow employees to express valuable opinions about working for your company.

Individually, a single feedback form may not overhaul company culture. However, collective feedback can drive change both for the good of the organization and employees' professional growth.

What is an employee feedback survey?

An employee feedback survey is a list of open-ended and closed-ended questions that ask employees about their experience in working for your company. You can cover vital topics, including

  • and personal growth

Why does employee feedback matter?

Companies collect external feedback to determine customer satisfaction rates, gauge customer experience, and understand how their audience interacts with their brand. Internal employee feedback metrics are just as valuable because they lead to:

  • Improved employee retention rates - 34% of employees reveal managers don't listen to their opinions, and this would contribute to them quitting their job.
  • Increased engagement - 94.7% of highly engaged employees believe their employer takes their feedback seriously.
  • Enhanced employee satisfaction - 68% of employees who receive consistent feedback feel fulfilled in their jobs.
  • Four out of ten employees who receive little to no feedback are actively disengaged from their work.

    "An employee survey is not an HR exercise in employee engagement; it's a life and death trip to the doctor to learn the truth about organizational health." HR strategist, Gonzalo Shoobridge

Connecting with individual team members through employee satisfaction surveys is key to building relationships, working through concerns that may arise, and inspiring excellence.

Individual employee survey questions

  1. If you could change one thing about your role, what would it be? While this may seem like a broad question, it can help managers identify pain points for their team members. Being aware of these pain points will allow managers to adjust and adapt where necessary -- leading to happier employees.
  2. How can I better support you in your role? This question can serve as skill development for managers looking to provide better support to their team. Employees who feel supported by their manager are more likely to offer a better quality of work and loyalty to their organization.
  3. On a scale of 1-10, how achievable do you feel your goals are? While it’s essential to set the bar high for your team members, it’s equally crucial that goals feel attainable to avoid discouragement. Asking this question on a scale rating will allow managers to get an average score and decide if they need to adjust their team goals accordingly.
  4. Do you feel valued at your organization? Feeling valued at an organization can increase employee loyalty and produce higher quality of work. When asking employees questions with a lot of weight to them, be sure to include a text box that encourages them to elaborate on their answers.
  5. Do you feel everyone on your team carries their weight equally? If not, please elaborate. If teams at your organization rely heavily on group collaboration, it may be wise to check in on how team members feel the weight is distributed among the team. The goal of this survey question is not so much to get employees to talk "bad" about other team members, but rather to encourage team transparency where it may be lacking.
  6. Do you feel the work you do is engaging? When an employee enjoys their work, the quality of work they produce tends to reflect it. This question is an excellent opportunity to find out what an employee is passionate about, help them avoid career plateaus, and ensure your organization can feed into their career development.
  7. Is your job in alignment with your career goals? If you have employees who are just starting out in their careers or even veteran employees who have been with your organization for years, it’s crucial to find ways for them to grow internally. Taking the time to talk to individual employees about their career goals will not only make them feel supported, but will also help to keep them engaged.
  8. Do you have the materials needed to do your job effectively? Employees need to be set up for success in order to produce great work. This question is framed to be open-ended, allowing the employee to express whether it’s tangible materials they lack or potentially even intangible items (cross-functional support, team collaboration, etc.).
  9. Do you feel recognized for your accomplishments at your organization? Yes or no? When an employee hits milestones and accomplishments, they may want to be recognized for their hard work. If an employee expresses that they don’t feel recognized for their accomplishments, it may lead to them losing motivation and desire to complete the tasks at hand. Be sure to follow up with employees who answer “no” to this question, and ask them for their feedback on how your organization can better acknowledge their achievements.

Organizational survey questions

Organizational surveys are sent out to individual employees, but aim to gather collective feedback on company-wide concerns such as policies and culture. Your organization may be looking for ways to provide transparency and incorporate employee feedback into company decisions, and surveys can help accomplish that. Here are ten organizational questions that your company should consider incorporating into surveys:

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to refer someone to work for our organization? Many organizations opt to use this single question for NPS and eNPS surveys (employee net promoter score) because it simplifies employees’ buy-in and results into a single, averaged number that can be used to quickly draw conclusions and determine the best way to follow up.
  2. How would you describe our company culture to someone outside the organization? Periodically asking employees about company culture can help you identify cracks in the foundation before they grow more prominent and is an excellent indicator of overall employee satisfaction. It’s essential to know how your company culture is being viewed externally to work on it internally.
  3. Do you feel that our organizational goals are clearly communicated? Misalignment in organizational goals can be detrimental to a company's success. Checking in on organizational goals helps to ensure consistent alignment, especially if your organization has many new team members joining.
  4. Do you feel like your manager is accessible to you? Yes or no? This question is a great way to gauge manager engagement from a higher level. Your leadership team may find these results helpful in guiding manager training agendas and goals.
  5. Do you feel like our organization encourages work-life balance? If not, please elaborate. A significant contributor to company culture is work-life balance. This question is a good indicator of employee experience and allows leadership teams to focus on their employees in and out of the workplace.
  6. Do you feel that our company policies are thought out and fair? If not, please elaborate. As leaders of an organization, it’s essential to strive for a workplace where employees feel policies are respectful and fair to all. Asking your employees to elaborate on their answer will hopefully call out any policies that may need to be re-visited.
  7. Do you feel the leaders at our organization demonstrate integrity? Leaders with the utmost integrity are not only respected by peers, but are often viewed as an example setter for their organization. This question is an excellent opportunity for leadership teams to self-reflect and to make sure they are leading their organization in the right way.
  8. Generally speaking, how would you rate your happiness levels at work? 1, I am not happy at all. 10, I am extremely happy. It’s crucial to take a pulse on happiness in your workplace, as dissatisfaction can frequently lead to turnover. When using a scale rating, we suggest choosing a threshold number where managers meet with an employee below that number for a “check-in,” addressing any concerns they may have.
  9. Do you believe in the organization’s mission? If not, please elaborate. To have a successful organization, all employees must stand behind the organization’s mission. We suggest having a text box attached to this question for elaboration, as it’s essential to know what might be preventing your employees from believing in your mission statement.
  10. Do you feel genuinely cared for by our organization? Yes or no? To feed into retention, many organizations have focused on employee wellness programs and incentives to care for their employees. This question can help to indicate if toxic company culture is brewing within your organization.

Management survey questions

To place the importance of management feedback in a proper context, researchers have conducted several recent studies to gauge management’s impact on a workforce and organizational productivity. As one might guess, managers play a vital role in the quality of employees within an enterprise, engagement levels, and overall efficiency and productivity.

Specifically, better-managed organizations are much more capable of attracting and retaining top talent which, suffice it to say, is a tremendous competitive advantage in a marketplace filled with rival firms all competing for the same candidates. Likewise, the simple act of replacing an underperforming supervisor with one that excels has a more significant impact on team productivity than even adding a top performing employee.

  • Do you have confidence in your immediate manager’s overall effectiveness?
  • Do you feel your supervisor has the expertise and abilities to help both you and your teammates hit performance goals and succeed?
  • Does your manager provide you with regular constructive feedback and insights into your performance?
  • Is your supervisor open and receptive to your ideas, suggestions, and requests?
  • Does management handle disagreements within the team and workplace in a professional manner?
  • Do you often feel overworked?
  • Placing your response on a scale of 1 to 10, how comfortable do you feel providing feedback to the management team?
  • Does your supervisor manage your team with a positive and healthy attitude?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how engaged is your manager with you and your team?
  • In what ways does your supervisor make your responsibilities easier or harder?
  • What could your manager do to better support the performance and growth of you and your team?

Survey questions about engagement

Employee engagement survey questions reveal so much about job satisfaction.

94.7% of employees who self-identify as highly engaged also feel their employer takes their feedback seriously. Disengagement levels impact retention, so this key metric will also tell you if your employees plan to stay with the company or leave in the near future.

  • Do you feel motivated to go above and beyond at work?
  • Do you believe you will be able to reach your full potential?
  • Would you recommend this company to a friend or colleague?
  • Is employee morale high?

Survey questions about team collaboration

Teams that can't work collaboratively are usually unproductive, unhappy, and have high employee turnover rates. A survey of more than 1,600 working adults found lack of teamwork contributes to high volumes of workplace stress. In particular, poor communication is responsible for 39% of stress.

Want to know whether your team is cohesive? These questions about collaboration highlight where the strengths and weaknesses lie and where you need to make changes.

  • Do you feel that your individual goals strongly align with your team goals?
  • Do you feel connected to your coworkers?
  • Are your peers committed to producing quality work?
  • Does the team show respect to each team member?
  • Do you have friends at work that contribute towards a positive work culture?

Survey questions about remote work

There can be ambiguity about what it means to be part of a distributed team for both employees who work from home full-time and hybrid employees.

In a Deloitte "Return to Workplace" survey, 32% of employers consider "maintaining culture" a top concern. If you manage remote teams, your employees should always feel like they are still part of the company culture and have the same opportunities as employees who work in the office. Assess the following:

  • My employer has set clear WFH policies and expectations.
  • It's easy for me to reach teammates and team leaders when I need them.
  • I feel trusted by my supervisors in my remote working role.
  • My employer treats office-based employees and remote-based employees equally.
  • My work environment is set up as a distraction-free space where I feel productive.

Maximize employee engagement surveys

There are basic best practices every organization should follow when creating and conducting employee engagement surveys:

  • Each survey question should be simple, to the point, and guided by your organization’s engagement objectives. Think about your goals in administering each survey. Are there areas of employee engagement that are of particular concern in your organization? Have you made recent changes in incentive programs that you would like to measure the effectiveness of? Knowing what metrics are important for your organization makes survey results that much more valuable. Ideally, you’ll ask the same questions over a period of months or years, so you can assess progress on particular KPIs.
  • You should also be sure to include a few open-ended questions, or the option to leave a comment with a multiple choice answer. Not every respondent will need this, but it provides an opening for employees with concerns to express them.
  • Many companies perform annual surveys, often in connection with performance reviews. This is good practice, but annual surveys alone aren’t enough when it comes to measuring employee engagement. Employees change jobs, and you can’t wait months to find out you have a department-wide problem or someone who’s deeply dissatisfied. Conducting pulse surveys with the right questions on a regular basis lets employees know their concerns matter and keeps you up-to-date on your workforce’s engagement level.
  • Remember to administer engagement surveys anonymously, so your employees can be direct and honest about workplace concerns without fear of reprisals. You may choose to allow respondents to identify themselves if they want follow up, and you can also remind them to use confidential channels like HR for serious issues that require immediate attention.
  • Make sure employees have a quiet, private location to submit their survey responses. They may be less forthcoming in an open office surrounded by peers and supervisors, or if they are expected to complete an engagement survey between regularly assigned tasks or after hours. Set expectations for how long the survey will take to complete.

Increase response rate

Gathering feedback is a challenging feat since people rarely jump on the opportunity to sit down and fill out a survey.

It’s nearly impossible to get a 90-100% response rate, especially with larger companies. In fact, this is also the case with other surveys and questionnaires, not just the employee-based ones. So, what’s actually a good rate to expect here?

In most cases, anything over 70% is acceptable. However, you’ll want to avoid dropping under 50% since you want the changes driven by the survey analysis to apply to more than half of your employee base.

And while getting a high participation rate isn’t easy, attempting to force employees to complete surveys by tying them to rewards or deductions won’t work either; it could compromise the integrity of the results if employees are filling it out for the wrong reasons. Instead, you can consider a few tips and tricks to boost your response rates:

  • Get all management levels on board with the survey’s scope to help promote its importance.
  • Communicate the purpose of the survey and what changes employees could see as a result of engaging.
  • Schedule the survey away from periods of high workloads.
  • Give the employees enough time to complete the survey at their own pace.
  • Make the survey easily accessible and keep it short with an average fill-time of 5-20 minutes.
  • Avoid posing intrusive questions that touch on irritable or private matters.
  • Maintain the right cadence to keep the data updated without overburdening the employees with surveys every week or so.
  • For larger companies, try conducting a focus group to evaluate the survey’s design first.

After the survey

Once you’ve gathered employee engagement details in a survey, you’ll need to analyze the survey results against benchmarks and act to address employee feedback. Remember that employee engagement or disengagement may reveal uncomfortable truths, and acknowledging them is a necessary first step.

Organizations need to respond to feedback to demonstrate that they’re listening. For example, if employees report they don’t see a career path at your organization, managers could identify and promote career development and training opportunities. This helps employees grow and improves your organization’s chances of retaining top talent. Similarly, if employees don’t feel their efforts are appreciated, you should consider implementing a recognition program.

It’s important to share survey results with your company at large, bearing in mind that you will want to preserve participants’ anonymity. Whether you present the results of the survey data and actionable insights in a company meeting to invite additional questions and feedback, or as a shared report that’s distributed and discussed among smaller teams, completing the feedback loop reinforces that you care about honest results and measuring progress.


“Organization responsiveness to employee feedback leads to higher retention rates, lower absenteeism, improved productivity, better customer service and higher employee morale. The simple fact that the organization is conducting a survey can send a positive message to employees that their opinions are valued.” —SHRM

When employees see their organization taking the time to send employee satisfaction surveys and then act on their responses, it makes them feel valued which in turn creates a happier and more productive workforce. And employees who are happy and satisfied are more likely to stay, decreasing turnover and onboarding costs.

So, while it may cost some time and money to do regular satisfaction surveys, they more than pay for themselves when it comes to productivity and retention.

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