These research-backed employee survey questions reveal what employees really think of their experience and help you create a high-trust workplace culture.
Having a listening strategy is an essential part of creating a positive employee experience. Leaders need to be able to hear employees’ feedback and respond to their needs to build a company culture where employees feel valued and find purpose in their work.
Employee surveys are one of the most powerful tools in any listening strategy because they:
- Provide quantitative data that can guide action planning
- Uncover inconsistencies in experience between different groups of employees
- Enable organizations to objectively compare their employee experience to the experience at other organizations
Measuring employee satisfaction vs. engagement vs. employee experience
A common goal of employee surveys is to measure employee satisfaction – in other words, to gauge whether employees are satisfied with their situation at work. For example, a company may want to know if employees are satisfied with their compensation and benefits, or if they have issues with their manager.
Another potential goal is to measure employee engagement, or the extent to which employees feel motivated and excited by their work.
A more insightful view, however, is to measure employee experience: a holistic view that considers the concepts of satisfaction and engagement to be closely linked.
For example, an employee might be satisfied with the amount of paid time off (PTO) they get, but still struggle with work–life balance because their manager expects them to stay connected even when they’re supposed to be offline. This practice usually leads to burnout.
A survey that only measures whether employees are satisfied with their PTO benefits would miss the burnout issue because the employee would report that they’re satisfied. However, a survey that simply measures employee burnout might miss that additional time off is not the right solution. It’s only through a comprehensive approach that we can see the full picture and address the root cause.
And rather than viewing employees’ relationship with management as a binary “satisfied/dissatisfied,” an employee experience survey seeks to understand things like how management’s leadership style impacts employees’ perceptions of fairness. Or whether certain practices are undermining employee well-being.
5 questions to ask in an employee experience survey
1. Does management try to connect with employees on a personal level?
When it comes to employee experience, it’s essential that you build a high-trust relationship between management and employees. Trust, however, is a deeply personal feeling – it’s nearly impossible to earn someone’s trust without establishing a personal relationship of some kind.
The first step in building that relationship is for management to show that they care about their employees as people, not just what they’re able to bring to the table from a professional standpoint. Answers to this question reveal the quality of your employee-management relationships.
2. Does management recognize outstanding work or effort?
This question measures two critical pieces of a high-trust relationship between management and employees:
- How much management shows recognition in a way that resonates with employees (essential for making employees feel valued, appreciated and cared for).
- How much management is perceived as impartial: Is the recognition tied to the work people do, or do certain people get recognition more easily?
3. Does management listen to employees’ ideas?
It’s difficult to trust someone if you don’t feel that they trust you, so management should constantly seek out opportunities to make employees feel trusted. One great way to do that is to listen and respond to employees’ ideas – it shows that managers respect and value what their people think and feel.
Encouraging managers to be receptive to employees’ ideas also makes employees more comfortable sharing feedback about their experience at work. This gives you more valuable information that you can use to further improve your employee experience.
It’s difficult to trust someone if you don’t feel that they trust you, so management should constantly seek out opportunities to make employees feel trusted
4. Are people treated the same regardless of their background or personal characteristics?
When measuring employee experience, it’s essential to not only look at the big picture, but also understand that different groups of people may have very different experiences at the same workplace.
Questions like this one help measure how employees feel about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) within their workplace, and can point leaders in the right direction as they expand their DEIB efforts.
It’s especially useful to break out the results to DEIB-related questions by demographic group (for example, by gender) so that you can identify and analyze any differences in experience across groups.
5. Is it a psychologically healthy workplace?
Employees need to feel psychologically and emotionally safe to have a positive experience at work. Measuring these forms of safety is an important function of an effective employee experience survey.
If a company is doing everything else right, but employees feel burnt out, feel trapped in a toxic culture, feel uncertainty or feel they can’t get the support they need, it can severely impact the overall employee experience.
On the flip side, when employees do feel psychologically healthy, they’re much more likely to be willing to extend trust to management, which means other attempts to build trust are more likely to succeed.
Asking the right questions is key to understanding employee experience
With meaningful survey data in hand, leaders can put their organizations on the right path to building a better employee experience. This in turn will lead to employees being more productive, less likely to quit and more likely to generate winning ideas.
Eliot Bush is a Culture Coach at Great Place to Work®. He is an expert in data-driven analysis of employee experience. In intensive one-on-one Culture Coaching sessions, Eliot uses Great Place to Work’s survey platform Emprising™ to help companies identify their culture’s unique strengths and areas of opportunity. Eliot also helps companies understand how to create a company culture honored on our Best Workplaces™ lists.