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Employee Satisfaction Surveys: What They Are and Why They’re Important for Your Business

Businesses spend a great deal of resources evaluating employee performance, trying to work out what workers can do to perform better. It’s a way of asking employees: “How can you help our business succeed?”. But what employers are appreciating more and more is the need to turn that question around and instead ask: “What can we do to make you happier?”.


It’s a strategy designed to boost employee engagement, which can lead to increased productivity. And one of the best ways to measure employee happiness is with well-designed questionnaires or surveys.


Employee engagement surveys measure workers’ feeling of contentment and empowerment. They ask questions about how employees feel about company culture and recognition by superiors. Surveys can be accessed via an internal online link and are usually anonymous so that workers feel uninhibited when expressing their views.


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Benefits of a happy workforce

Evaluating the needs and desires of workers is critical to boosting employee engagement and productivity. According to a study by the University of Warwick, happy employees were 12 per cent more productive than unhappy employees on average and this productivity stretched as high as 20 per cent above a control group.


Organisations that can crack the happiness code can actually gain a competitive edge.At the same time, employers that fail to improve workplace engagement can suffer from reduced productivity, low employee retention, low morale, a reduced ability to recruit good talent and negative interactions between employees and customers.


What to measure in an employee engagement survey

Employee engagement surveys vary from company to company, depending on their size and type of business. But overall, they should measure worker happiness and feelings of empowerment, as well as attitudes towards:


  • Getting work done
  • Communication and instruction
  • Support of employees
  • Distribution of workload
  • Appreciation and recognition by management
  • Company culture
  • The company’s mission
  • Working with team members
  • Opportunity for advancement.


Offering anonymous surveys helps to generate honest responses, but companies can choose methods that are most suitable for their workforce. For example, managers can verbally ask questions to employees in small groups or conduct exit interviews of departing workers.


Designing effective employee engagement survey questions

Remember that surveys are designed to elicit honest, genuine responses. Therefore, the questions should be straightforward and easy to understand. Companies should create questions that are open-ended, rather than appearing to elicit a particular response. The tone of the questions should be conversational and straightforward, so avoid corporate jargon. Answer choices should usually offer an option that reflects no emotion (“It doesn’t matter to me”), no knowledge (“I am not familiar with this topic”) or no certainty (“I’m not sure”).


There are some important areas that just about every survey should cover. Answers may be given as a combination of multiple choices and narrative writing. Here are some sample questions that aim to measure employees’ feelings about their overall job satisfaction; a company’s mission and culture; workers’ passion for performing well; being appreciated and supported by management; and working with other employees.


Overall job satisfaction On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate how you feel about your job overall? Please explain your answer.
The company’s mission How do you feel about the company’s vision and mission? Would you say that it’s extremely important, important, neither important nor unimportant, unimportant or extremely unimportant?
Company culture Would you describe the company culture as one that is welcoming to all people regardless of their backgrounds? (Answers can be “yes”, “no” or “not sure”.) Please explain your answer.
Passion for quality work What best describes your feelings about doing your job well, generally speaking? Passionate, good, so-so, bad, disgusted.
Being recognised/appreciated by management When I perform a task to the best of my ability, my manager gives me supportive and helpful feedback as much as I need; it’s sometimes helpful but I could use more support, I need a lot more support than I am getting.
Feeling informed and supported For most of my tasks, I feel that I receive all of the information I need to perform my job well ____ per cent of the time.
Working with other employees I feel that most/nearly all/some/almost none/none of my colleagues communicate with me in a respectful way.


Follow-up is critical

Once the survey data has been collected and tabulated, companies have valuable information on what they’re doing well and what needs to change to boost workplace engagement. The worst thing to do with this data is nothing. Administering these surveys is not simply an exercise to allow employees to feel “heard”. There must be an appropriate and timely follow-up so that workers believe management cares about their needs.


Companies that give workplace engagement surveys should be prepared to:


  • Be transparent. Report the results of the surveys to workers across the company.
  • Plan for meaningful change. In reviewing the data, identify patterns of dissatisfaction and sensible requests for change that would benefit the company overall.
  • Involve employees in making changes. Designate employee committees that will give input as the company moves forwards towards making changes.
  • Follow up with more surveys. Once changes have been implemented, survey employees again about how they feel about them.


If companies give employees surveys with a sincere desire to evaluate workplace engagement and determine what changes will make employees happier, employers can be rewarded with increased engagement and productivity. Furthermore, as trust grows, employees are likely to continue to provide honest input to businesses that can lead to a mutually beneficial relationship.


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