3 Types of Employee Surveys (And which questions to ask for each!)

5 minutes • Oct 27, 2022

Surveys are the most underutilized yet most valuable tool for improving employee experience (EX) at your company, thanks to their versatility. They give the leadership and HR team key insights to understand what’s going well, what’s not, and how employees feel about working at your company.

Every employee journey is unique— But actually, that's the problem.

When every person has a unique perspective on what it's like to work at your company, that's a lot of noise for the busy HR team to make sense of. Surveys identify the clear patterns of your teams, managers, and company as a whole and reveal what moments are broken or missing from your EX.

One thing seems clear however, employees really don't like taking them.

The comments of this TikTok video revealed two main reasons why employees don't trust employee surveys:

1. Nothing happens after the survey closes

apathetic

This isn't too unlike when a good candidate ghosts a recruiter—never send out a survey and do nothing with the results. It's better to not send out a survey at all then do nothing with the answers. When this happens (and oh my gosh it does...) employees feel taken advantage of and won't take future surveys seriously.

2. Employees worry about retaliation

not annonymous

It's very important to make it clear whether a survey is anonymous or not, and why. When your people distrust the anonymity of these surveys, they tend to answer dishonestly. They'll falsely paint a much rosier picture and HR is left holding the bag, wondering why people are quitting.

3. Employees don't feel leadership will understand

leadership

Authority and empathy go hand in hand. Respecting the experience of others, especially when there's data (survey results) goes a long way with employees. When leadership understands what motivates, gets in the way and keeps them up at night shows employees their opinion counts which is one of Gallup's 12 engagement questions (At work, my opinions seem to count.)

A lot of baggage was revealed from that TikTok video but it became a great blueprint for what to do differently for an organization to become a great place to work.

The 3 Most Common Surveys 

There are several types of employee surveys, each one serving a different purpose. This post explores some of the most common types of employee surveys, how often to send them, and how each can help you build trust with employees and create a feedback culture at your company. 

1. eNPS Survey

eNPS, (Employee Net Promoter Score) is the simplest survey to measure how your workforce feels about working at your company. eNPS surveys are made up of one simple question with a scaled answer, How likely are you to recommend working at our company to a friend?

eNPS

This type of survey is based on the Net Promoter Score, a measurement of customer loyalty pioneered by Bain & Company and Fred Reichheld to measure customer experience. Organizations have used this method to see the value of their products and services for decades. Now, they can also use it to measure the internal popularity of the company. It has higher participation rates than other surveys and is an easy metric to evaluate. 

Pro of eNPS

  • It’s quick, only one scaled question.

  • It has higher participation rates than other surveys and is an easy metric to evaluate. 

Con of eNPS

  • It won’t tell you precisely what needs fixing in your employee experience—just a general sentiment of how everyone feels about working at your company. 

Best practice: 

  • Send 1-4 times per year

2. Pulse Survey

The pulse survey, well, keeps a pulse on how everyone is feeling. It’s a quick, 1-3 question check-in survey to measure on specific engagement drivers. You can get more specific details on an issue identified in your last engagement survey or measure employee satisfaction to a solution you recently implemented.

For example, a pulse survey question can look like this, with 1-3 statements including a slider scale:

In the last engagement survey, many of you said you didn’t have the necessary tools to do your job well. How have your feelings changed?

  • I am satisfied with our new project management tool, Trello.

  • I understand how to use Trello.

  • I am satisfied with our new home office stipend.

Pro of Pulse Surveys

  • They're quick

  • They allow for candid, open responses for the employee to give more detail 

Con of Pulse Surveys

  • Employees won’t always regularly take them since they happen more frequently

Best Practice:

  • Send monthly

  • Keep it to 1-3 short, specific questions

  • Include an 'Anything else you'd like to add?' open-ended response

3. Employee Engagement Survey

This deep-dive employee survey is your gold mine. It measures the motivations, hopes, fears, and pitfalls your people feel by working at your company. Because it's more comprehensive by design, you'll get an incredibly detailed level of insight into the current state of your EX.

Similar to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Gallup came up with a thorough methodology to create your employee engagement survey. Think of it like the Employee hierarchy of needs. They studied over 2.7 million employees from over 100,000 teams to get this formula.

Hierarchy of employee needs

These are the 12 questions you should ask to get a useful employee engagement measurement:

Each question should include an open-ended response for employees that want to add more context. 

Pros of Employee Engagement Surveys

  • If enough employees participate (30-40%), you have the roadmap of where to spend your energy as an HR leader possibly for the rest of the year.

  • The data can reveal problematic employee moments you had no idea were an issue.

Cons of Employee Engagement Surveys

  • It takes longer for HR to sift through and find the patterns in the data.

  • Generating employee participation can be difficult, as it’s a longer more time intensive survey.

Best practices:

  • Explain to your employees why you’re sending this survey (ie: it helps you, help them)

  • Remind employees via verbal, visual and written format.

  • Take 1-2 days to really get into the uninterrupted headspace of analysis.

  • Send annually or bi-annually, but never more often.

Key Things To Get Right with Employee Surveys 

Anonymous Vs. Not

Not all surveys are, nor should they be, anonymous. It all depends on your goal. Anonymous data is valuable because employees feel more freedom to express the truth. However, non-anonymous surveys can also be beneficial, as they can help you drill down to specific issues by department or area of work (or maybe you just need to know t-shirt sizes?) Either way, just know you're sacrificing a lot of the actual story if you're not using an anonymous format.

Over Communicate

Studies have shown that people need to hear a message at least seven times before it sinks in. This same principal can be applied to your surveys. HR should hold a regular spot at the company All Hands to discuss the latest survey results and solutions, and tease the upcoming pulse survey. Send a Slack or Microsoft Teams reminder, write an email, record a video of yourself talking about the "why" behind the survey, and remind managers to bring it up in their 1:1s with their team. Get creative!

Thank and Close the Loop

Remember, this is all about building trust with your employees. They're skittish or apathetic because they've been and they've been burned or disappointed in the past. They'll only begin to trust this process if you take action from the data they were vulnerable enough to share with you. 

When you close a survey, set aside time to analyze the data in detail and hopefully find patterns among the answers. Then, take the results paired with your recommendations for improvement to the senior leadership to decide how they will handle these shortcomings in your employee experience. Close the loop by thanking employees for their responses and explain next steps or new solutions to be implemented from their valuable feedback.

Then, send a pulse survey to measure satisfaction on your solution. You'll be able to see if employees are satisfied with what you did, or if you need to come up with a different idea.

Viola.

Now do that several months in a row and you'll create some serious survey momentum. In the end, a good employee experience is a mix of trust, thorough strategy, and transparency. You want to reinforce your employees’ confidence in their leaders and the organization they work for, and surveys are your best bet to help you do this.

No more feeling around in the dark for ideas to solve for disengagement. The answers are all with your people, you just have to ask.

Connect your people now with Pingboard

Sign up for a free trial today

Get Started for Free
No credit card required