16.10.2019

Best Practices For Effective Employee Engagement Surveys: Advice From Your Peers

Employee engagement surveys help employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX) pros keep a pulse on how employees feel about the company and leadership, their jobs and career paths, tools and training, and their roles in delivering a great customer experience. Recently, we hosted a discussion where we brought together EX and CX leaders to collaborate and share best practices on what they think make for the most effective surveys. Here’s a look at some of the key insights that these leaders shared with each other during our session.

  • Include open-ended questions. Open-ended questions provide verbatim commentary that adds context to otherwise generic responses and can surface issues that the survey didn’t know to ask about. For example, one attendee shared that new themes bubbled up in the open responses. The team created questions in subsequent surveys to quantify those themes and prove them out.
  • Also include questions that get at behavioral outcomes. Attendees shared several examples of effective questions that gauge employees’ likelihood to recommend the company as a place to work, to recommend the company’s products and services, and to stay at the company in the future. Best practice: Combine with open-ended questions to help you understand why they responded that way. And link these self-reported outcomes to actual outcomes, such as the number of referral applicants for positions and the average tenure of employees.
  • Augment annual surveys with targeted pulse surveys. Pulse surveys provide real-time data on granular topics that can provide more action-oriented insight. One participant, for example, fields quarterly pulse surveys of 3–5 questions total and targets specific topics such as innovation and parental leave. Another attendee has even replaced the annual survey altogether with pulse, or “spotlight,” surveys exclusively. These spotlight surveys target a subset of employees and have drawn high response rates.
  • Refine survey questions for clarity. As with any survey, wording is a tricky thing to get right and may take some trial and error. One attendee discovered in follow-up focus groups that terms used in the engagement survey such as “Manager” weren’t clear to respondents because it’s both a title level and a function. Clarifying the question to reflect “your manager” instead can solve the problem on subsequent surveys.
  • Only ask questions that yield data you can act on. It may be tempting to get at morale and general happiness through questions such as “Do you have friends at work?” But you can’t help employees make friends if it turns out they’re not. It’s better to replace those questions with ones that are actionable.
  • Don’t rely on surveys exclusively. Use other voice-of-employee methodologies such as onboarding, exit, and stayer interviews to gain additional insight into the full employee experience. One attendee has been piloting “Jam Sessions”: several-day virtual events during which select employees are invited to weigh in on specific topics during one-hour sessions. Another participant is using data and verbatim reviews from Glassdoor to complement survey data.
  • Socialize the action you are taking based on results. Be transparent by sharing out key themes, what actions you are taking, and which ones take priority to ensure that everyone knows that you are using the data to make change. Several participants said their most-senior executives report out on the data, key themes, and action items to the company and then cascade the results down by business area for more granular action.

Forrester’s Leadership Boards connect you with an exclusive network of peers, analysts, and advisors to help you accelerate results while navigating risk. To learn more about the top challenges your peers face today, visit the Leadership Boards product page.

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