How to Create an Employee Engagement Survey: Part 1

We're always getting asked about how to create engagement surveys–and many people first come to us simply because we provide a standard engagement survey that users can configure and edit easily. So what's the best way to create an engagement survey?

This is the first post of a series, by the end you'll have a template for a great, short, engagement survey that you can use as a starting point for your own survey (whether you use Culture Amp or not).

This is the first in a series of six posts - click here for the others (123456)

The first thing to appreciate is that you are designing a survey to gather some data, so you're conducting research. Research always works best when you have an outcome in mind and in our case that outcome is to understand how engaged you are as an organization and, perhaps more importantly, how we might increase our engagement levels. With that in mind our first task is to create some questions to measure 'Engagement' - and this will be our primary and most important outcome measure.

There are many academic and not so academic views on what constitutes engagement and how to measure it but, there are a couple things to consider either way:

  1. More questions are better than one single question because we achieve greater statistical reliability and we can have a broader and more nuanced view of what engagement is
  2. We should aim to use questions that have a history of providing links to the outcomes we are after

In regards to #1 we have to draw the line somewhere and for our purposes I would suggest that three questions is a good compromise between simplicity and reliability for a short engagement survey.

What employee survey questions should we use?

There are many potential questions and ultimately you'll get similar results. No need to go into the statistical details but essentially, it means that there are often many feelings, thoughts and behaviors that can be thought of as indicators of engagement. We just need to pick three that make good sense to us and provide some comparability to best and common practice.

A couple of the key ingredients I am always interested in for engagement is motivation and effort–and these are thought to be central to what we mean by engagement. We can use something like this:

"This company motivates me to go beyond what I would in a similar role elsewhere"

Sometimes this is written as 'I am motivated to go above and beyond what is required in my role' or something similar. However, most people would believe this is true of themselves and using this form of the question will tell you what people think of themselves not how engaged they are with the company.

The next type of question we would suggest using is a 'recommend', or what some people call a 'net promoter', question. We've previously discussed employee NPS in detail. This captures whether people feel so good about working with you that they would promote or advocate others working for you:

"I would recommend this company as a great place to work" Notice we used the term 'great'? We don't want to know if people would recommend the company as an OK or even good place to work for a while, we want to know if this place has some real buzz.

The other type of question we always like to include relates to whether people are mentally here with us and, intending to stay.

Something like this:

"I rarely think about looking for a job at another company"

This is often a great 'reality check' question for many companies. For example some companies have what might be called 'brand haloes'–people like to work there for a while, gain experience and put that brand on their resume. However, something about the workplace is not inspiring in the longer term and talented people will look for more attractive options. Notice we use 'rarely'? This is because using absolute terms in survey questions can lead to excessive disagreement and poor variability.

So there we have it - our brief Employee Engagement Index.

  • This company motivates me to go beyond what I would in a similar role elsewhere
  • I would recommend this company as a great place to work
  • I rarely think about looking for a job at another company

Stay tuned for the next batch! You can also check out our article on 11 tips for writing great employee survey questions to learn more about question design.

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