Culture HR Essentials

How to Conduct an Employee Engagement Survey

October 3, 2022 · 10 min read

Best practices from our HR experts

Are you aware that only 36% of employees are actively engaged in the workplace?1 What’s more is that 51% of employees are disengaged while another 13% are actively disengaged, meaning they go out of their way to spread negativity within the workforce.2 This is not an ideal situation for any organization, especially small to medium-size businesses (SMBs). Conducting regular employee engagement surveys can help you better understand how your workforce is feeling.

What is an employee engagement survey?

Employee engagement surveys aim to measure several different facets of employee experience. They include a variety of questions that allow SMBs to gather feedback on employee satisfaction, motivation, wellbeing and security. Engagement surveys also give business owners a chance to better understand how their workforce views leadership behaviors and operational performance. They give executives a chance to view their company from the employee’s perspective and make changes to improve the employee experience as needed.

The importance of employee engagement surveys

Remote work used to be rare, but the shift in operations during the pandemic allowed businesses to see its value. Today, 16% of global companies are fully remote.3 It’s estimated that about 22% of the American workforce will be 100% remote by 2025.4 While many businesses cite increased productivity, remote work can also create a disconnected office culture. Lack of interconnectivity makes it difficult to know how employees are feeling within their role. An engagement survey can help measure employee experience for both in-office and remote individuals, so business owners can work on closing the gap between the two.

This is important for businesses of all sizes, since disengaged workers carry a high price tag. According to a recent study, disengaged employees have 37% higher absenteeism, 18% lower productivity and can cost employers 34% of their salary, or $3,400 for every $10,000 they make.5 Measuring employee engagement will give you a better understanding of these numbers and provide you with direction on how to improve them.

When to use different types of surveys

Proper timing is one of the most important aspects of gathering useful information from surveys. However, timing varies based on the type of employee survey you administer.

Employee pulse surveys are short and deployed at regular intervals to collect employee opinions about specific topics. They’re a good option when you need to collect real-time feedback on how employees currently feel about their job or if there are any barriers or concerns that need to be addressed to create a better work environment. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that pulse surveys shouldn’t replace annual engagement surveys which aim to look at big-picture trends and themes.

Employee engagement surveys should be deployed separately from any big events that occur within your organization. You should also consider the time of year you administer them. When employees are stressed or feeling anxious, the results may not be indicative of organization-wide issues. Try to time surveys so that they’re deployed under normal working conditions. Avoid administering them outside of working hours, as this may lead to low response rate, skewed results or frustration regarding work-life balance disruptions. Many organizations administer at least one in-depth employee engagement survey per year. Further engagement surveys can be scheduled as needed.

Best practices in questionnaire development

In order to develop an employee engagement survey that provides useful insight, it’s important to curate the questionnaire based on your company. One of the reasons many organizations don’t receive the results they want from engagement surveys is that they don’t plan them well. Planning helps to define what you want to achieve and makes for less stress when analyzing the survey results. Consider the following factors when planning your survey.

Should you use a vendor or create your own?

Third party vendors can help improve the results of your quantitative research but creating your own employee engagement survey allows you to customize the questionnaire. The best option is finding a vendor that communicates with you to understand your needs and create an objective, unbiased employee engagement survey.

How many questions should you include?

This depends on whether you’re using pulse surveys or longer forms. Surveys that are too short may not give you the information you need, while those that are too long can decrease employee response and honesty. If the surveys are too long or include too many confusing questions, survey fatigue may occur. Survey fatigue occurs when respondents either get bored, uninterested or tired of answering questions. It can lead to disingenuous responses, low-quality data and several wasted resources. If you’re administering a pulse survey, limit the number of questions to between five and 15. If you’re administering a longer survey, you should include 50 to 75 questions, as long as it doesn’t take longer than 20 minutes to complete.

Which rating scale should you use?

There are several options for scaling systems when administering employee engagement surveys. In addition to the traditional Likert scale that ranges from “very dissatisfied” to “very satisfied,” you may opt for open-ended questions. Likert scales can also be formulated so they’re balanced or unbalanced. Balanced options tend to have a midpoint that communicates neutrality, while unbalanced options are more skewed to one end. Visual Likert scales are another option and include facial expression emojis, stars or other measurements. You can also incorporate yes/no questions, include opt-out responses like “prefer not to say,” or add agree/disagree questions. Choosing the right rating scale depends on the objective of your survey, time restraints and your overall survey size.

Should you include open-ended questions?

Many businesses prefer the Likert scale format, which uses a five- to seven-point scale that allows individuals to express how much they either agree or disagree with a statement. However, the specific wording of the question may not apply exactly and may miss getting to the heart of an issue. Open-ended questions provide a good alternative to get richer information from the survey respondent. Be aware that the more open-ended questions there are, the harder it may be to score. Those interpreting the results may interject their own opinions or bias into the rating process, which doesn’t happen when using a Likert scale. In addition, too many open-ended questions may make your survey cumbersome. Limit them to one per every 15 scaling questions.

How do you write your own survey questions?

The first step in writing survey questions is to consider the topic you want to address. Surveys should be as clear and simple as possible. This makes it easier for the respondent to answer each question. Each question should also only incorporate one concept as too many variables can quickly become confusing. A well written question should imply one single action. For example, “I have the resources and encouragement to do my job well,” implies two separate actions. An employee may feel like they have more than enough encouragement to perform well, but not all of the resources. This makes it difficult to answer. Instead, separate them into two and always keep the wording positive. The previous question would become the following two: “I have the resources to do my job well” and “I have the encouragement to do my job well.”

Consider testing a sample group

While you may think that your questions are clear, concise and representative of your goal, they may not be perceived as such. After you’ve developed an initial draft of the questions, send it to a sample group of people who are similar to the ones who will be taking the survey. This allows you to check for any errors, receive feedback on the question structure and clarity and make sure that everything is working correctly before sending it to a larger audience. Use the feedback to make adjustments as needed.

Building anonymity and confidentiality into the process

Obtaining responses from employee engagement surveys should be done in a confidential manner. Doing so builds trust within your workforce and helps to give employees a voice. Since they’re confidential, you’ll receive honest feedback without fear of retribution. Using a third-party vendor can help increase anonymity and confidentiality.

10 common employee engagement survey questions

Questions vary depending on the focus and goal of your employee engagement survey, but there are certain strategies to follow in the process. Using a mix of questions can help you get the most out of your efforts. To get started, consider some of the most frequently asked employee survey questions:

  1. Do your supervisors value your feedback?
  2. Do you feel that work is evenly distributed in your department?
  3. Do you find your work to be meaningful?
  4. Do you understand how your job supports the overall goals of the organization?
  5. Does [company name] provide you with adequate opportunities for career development?
  6. Do you have the tools you need to do your job well?
  7. Are you happy with your work?
  8. Are your job responsibilities clearly defined?
  9. Do you feel recognized for the contribution you make to this organization?
  10. Do you feel a sense of belonging at this organization?


If you’re using the Likert scale format, consider some of the following statements:

  • I would recommend [company name] as a great place to work.
  • I see myself working at [company name] in three years’ time.
  • I have the resources to do my job well.
  • The systems and processes in place support me to perform my job effectively.
  • I know what I need to do to be successful in my role.
  • I believe there are good opportunities for career development at this company.
  • I am satisfied working for this organization at this time.
  • There is a strong feeling of collaboration in this organization.
  • Information in this organization is communicated well.


These questions and statements are just a basic guideline to show you format and direction. Specific employee engagement survey questions should be curated based on your goals.

Best practices in deploying employee engagement surveys

How you choose to administer employee engagement surveys can have an impact on responses, so try to be cognizant of your tactics. Before you actually administer the questionnaire, clearly communicate the goal and purpose of the survey with your workforce. Giving them notice and an understanding of the big picture may help increase an employee’s commitment to quality responses. Make sure to announce that the survey is anonymous and confidential (if it is!) and answer any questions regarding this upfront. Find a good time to administer the survey and give your employees enough time to respond without disrupting their responsibilities.

Once you’ve administered the survey and collected all of the responses, share the results with your workforce. This allows you to practice transparency and give your team a better understanding of how others are feeling about a topic. You should have actionable steps to address survey results ready to share with your team during this update. When you involve your team in the entire process, it may improve feelings of inclusiveness and employee loyalty or motivation. To help you get the most out of employee engagement surveys, reach out to TriNet. TriNet is a PEO that offers customizable employee engagement surveys, so you can make informed decisions on issues within your company.

To help you get the most out of employee engagement surveys, reach out to TriNet. TriNet is a PEO that offers customizable employee engagement surveys, so you can make informed decisions on issues within your company.

By TriNet Team

Best practices from our HR experts