Writing questions for Employee Surveys



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We spend a lot of time at Culture Amp (internally and with other people geeks) writing, editing and testing out employee survey questions. It is often said that writing good survey questions is both an art and a science.  Perhaps that is true, however, before we start writing those perfect questions it can be useful to step back. Prepare to write survey questions by thinking about broader issues pertaining to our goals and how these might guide us in crafting our questions.

Here are five key things to keep in mind when designing your survey and questions:

These are just the highlights - for a longer discussion see the Survey Design Guide on our academy.

1. Survey length

Our data suggest surveys taking longer than 10 minutes will begin to show rapidly rising abandonment rates. 50 questions is a good guide for the maximum number someone can complete in 10 minutes.

2. Survey User Experience (UX)

Use a response format that doesn't require people to make too many decisions that are irrelevant. Research has shown that for rating scales 5-7 response options is sufficient for good reliability and validity and using fewer response options is going to make responding a lot easier and faster (especially on a phone).

3. Survey outcomes and focus

Try to clearly articulate what you think is the highest level outcome you are trying to get to or improve via your survey. Then try to come up with a range of statements that represent, or would be associated with, that purpose or goal being achieved.

4. Survey coverage

If you want to keep your survey length to some set length then you will need to make some compromises. When you have to decide what to take out focus on anything you think is not truly related to the outcome or things that you wont be able to really change.

5. Survey as conversation starter not conversation ender

Don't get hung up on writing hundreds of perfect and specifically actionable questions and don't get hung up on thinking that your results must tell you the precise and perfect thing to do to remedy a situation.

The best approach is to aim for good questions that form part of an iterative approach that will involve follow up discussions and collecting ongoing data. This is central to all things agile - and surveys are no exception. The days of the behemoth annual survey will soon be behind us. 

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