The Do’s and Don’ts of Employee Engagement Surveys

While financial reports help illustrate the economic health of a business, they only reveal a fraction of the full story. In order to get a more comprehensive understanding of the overall condition of an organization, employers have to look much deeper. Most notably, companies should focus heavily on their most valuable asset: Their people. The knowledge, creativity and ideas of the people within an organization are where much of a company’s real value lies. With that being the case, how can companies effectively assess the state of the human component of a business?

One strategy is to ask workers directly via an employee engagement survey. The surveys measure employee commitment and passion. They can identify what a company is doing right when it comes to employee relations and also areas for the business to improve. Employee engagement surveys can also offer early warning signs when morale is on the decline, giving employers a chance to act before top performers walk out the door.

In far too many cases, valuable employee feedback is gathered at the wrong time, typically during exit interviews. Many companies ask questions about engagement and culture as a worker departs when it is far too late to turn things around.

However, many businesses simply do not know where to start when it comes to conducting effective employee engagement surveys. Therefore, here are a few do’s and don’ts.

Do: Hire an external survey group.

While conducting a survey in-house is likely less expensive, the resulting data may be less useful. Most employees are more likely to provide truthful responses when they feel their answers are confidential and will not be used against them at a later date. In addition, external surveyors have the expertise to develop questions that will elicit valuable responses that employers can act upon.

Don’t: Ask questions about things the company is not willing to change.

While asking employees several questions about scheduling or the office environment certainly makes sense, a company must be willing to act when survey data reveals significant problems. Requesting employee input on an issue that the company is not willing to address can raise the risk of workers feeling that management does not listen, or lacks the will to follow through.

Do: Measure employee engagement at all levels.

Be sure to ask employees for feedback at every level of the company. For example, one powerful line of questioning is to focus on each worker’s personal engagement with the overall mission of the organization. Other questions might delve into worker interactions with their direct supervisors and also executive leadership. Another line of questioning might ask about relationships with coworkers or other team members. It is important to remember that employee attitudes about work are affected by many things including their happiness, wellness, job satisfaction, sense of achievement, recognition for hard work, work-life balance and relationships at the office.

Do: Survey employees when they have time to provide thoughtful input.

While the end of the calendar year may seem like a good time to ask employees about the prior 12 months, it can also be a hectic time when workers are attempting to complete projects before leaving for the holidays. Instead, companies should survey employees when they are facing limited deadlines. Also, give workers several chances to respond. Furthermore, managers should advocate repeatedly for staff to take part and make sure employees have time during the workday to complete the survey.

Don’t: Focus only on the bad things.

Companies should be sure to ask questions that allow for a range of positive and negative responses about working for the organization. After all, the goal of an employee survey is to build on successes and identify and address an organization’s shortcomings or failures.

Do: Be prepared to be surprised.

While many company leaders may think they can predict what their employees will say, few are correct. Surveys are conducted anonymously to illicit truthful responses. If the leadership team were already aware of any problems that exist, there would be no point in conducting a survey.

Do: Plan follow-up communications, no matter the results.

Even in extremely rare cases where survey results demonstrate a high level of employee engagement at all levels, companies should have follow-up communications with staff. The advice is the same when results are negative. These discussions, which are preferably verbal and allow for feedback, should highlight both the good and the bad. Most importantly, company leaders should share detailed plans to address problem areas, including effective measures for determining if the identified issues have been addressed.

Don’t: Stop what you are already doing to gather employee feedback.

While employee engagement surveys are helpful in identifying successes and challenges within a company, other avenues where employees can provide input daily remain crucial. A survey cannot replace the need for day-to-day informal feedback at all levels of the organization.

Rick Gibbs is a performance specialist with Insperity, a trusted advisor to America’s best businesses for more than 31 years. The company provides an array of human resources and business solutions designed to help improve business performance. Insperity® Business Performance Advisors offer the most comprehensive suite of products and services available in the marketplace. Insperity delivers administrative relief, better benefits, reduced liabilities and a systematic way to improve productivity through its premier Workforce Optimization® solution. Additional company offerings include Human Capital Management, Payroll Services, Time and Attendance, Performance Management, Organizational Planning, Recruiting Services, Employment Screening, Financial Services, Expense Management, Retirement Services and Insurance Services. Insperity business performance solutions support more than 100,000 businesses with over 2 million employees. With 2016 revenues of $2.9 billion, Insperity operates in 61 offices throughout the United States. For more information, call 800-465-3800 or visit

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