Ready to launch your latest (or first) employee engagement survey? Awesome – but before you do, make sure you have a solid set of survey questions. 

[clickToTweet tweet=”When conducting an employee survey, the questions you ask determine whether the survey is a success.” quote=”When you’re putting together an employee survey, the questions you choose to ask will determine whether the survey is a success.”] And by “success,” I mean scientifically valid. The types of questions presented and the number of responses you receive will affect the results, and you’ll need to have confidence in the results in order to put your engagement plan into action.

I asked David Youssefnia, Ph.D. and I/O Psychologist, for his tips on building a scientifically valid employee survey.

5 “Musts” When Crafting Your Employee Survey Questions

At their core, surveys seem simple — ask a question, get an answer. But the kinds of questions you ask can nudge people toward a certain answer, or away from what they really mean. While many of the specifics will vary by company, there are several things to keep in mind when crafting questions for your employee engagement survey.

  1. Remember your goal. The goal you set will help you establish your survey questions. If your want to boost retention, ask questions about whether people feel they have a future at the organization and what they hope to achieve. If you want to boost performance, ask questions about whether they have the tools they need to do their jobs. Don’t ask questions that veer outside of what you’re looking for.
  2. Ensure possible answers match the question. A question that asks, “On a scale of 1 to 5, how happy are you at work?” should have an answer range of 1 to 5, with “not happy” and “very happy” clearly marked. Do not ask yes/no questions, such as “Would you recommend working here to a friend?” and then offer a 1 to 5 scale, as that’s confusing.
  3. Avoid double-barreled questions. This survey question is problematic: “On a scale of 1 to 5, how well do your managers and teammates communicate?” It’s not clear whether it’s asking about how well managers and teammates communicate with each other, or whether it’s asking about how they communicate with the survey participant. Review your questions carefully to make sure that each one is as clear as possible.
  4. Avoid jargon. Don’t use mushy business terms that hide exactly what you’re asking about. Rework “Do you feel your contributions help leverage corporate successes?” to “Do you feel your work fits into the company’s larger mission?” or “Do you feel your work contributes to the company’s bottom line?”
  5. Understand the purpose of open-ended questions. These feedback questions, which ask people to provide their own thoughts about a topic, should be used carefully. The answers can provide insights you might not have thought to ask about. On the other hand, they cannot be scored or tracked objectively as a whole. Use them to get ideas from employees, but don’t try to assign values to the answers.

Validate Your Employee Survey Questions

You may see the term “validated” in connection to survey questions. A validated question is measuring what it’s supposed to measure.

Understanding the drivers of engagement, such as feeling like there’s a future at the company or that employees would recommend working there to someone else, will help you write questions that measure the engagement levels at your company. Questions like “How do you feel about our office space?” will generate data, but are not validated to measure engagement. Try making that question more specific to the engagement goal you’re after: “Does our office encourage an environment of productivity?”

Check Your Survey Response Rate

An acceptable response rate will depend on the size of your company, and the rate you get back from employees will vary from survey to survey. The best way to get a large number of responses is to ask about things people feel connected to. Questions about organizational culture tend to get high response rates, while topics like benefits or facilities get lower rates of participation.

To further avoid a low response rate, look at the survey’s user-friendliness. Is it easy to complete? Is the link to the survey working? Do participants who were invited via email have regular access to email and computers while working? If people have to jump through hoops to complete the employee survey, they might drop out – or never attempt to complete it in the first place – at a higher rate.

At Talmetrix, we have worked with municipalities and manufacturers who have had workforces with limited to no access to technology. In these cases and to ensure full participation, we crafted, implemented and executed a number of unique systems and processes. For one customer, we were able to set-up proxies to coordinate iPad survey completions at scheduled locations and times. For another, we conducted paper-based surveys to ensure participation. And when necessary, we also developed services that aided literacy issues among workforce populations to ensure that all employee feedback was captured effectively.

Employee Engagement Question Samples

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the science of statistics and surveying. But understanding the basics in the science of engagement will help you develop a successful employee engagement survey. To help you get started, try including some of these questions from Talmetrix’s validated question library.

Employee Engagement Questions

“I am fully committed to performing my job duties at the highest level of performance.”

“I get excited thinking about new ways to do my job more effectively.”

“My job is a major source of personal pride.”

Employee Embeddedness Questions

“My job utilizes my skills and talents well.”

“I have a lot of freedom on this job to pursue my goals.”

“I do not plan to look for another job in the next 12 months.”

Employee Communication Questions

“I know how my work helps the company meet its goals and objectives.”

“I have a solid understanding of our company’s strategy and vision.”

“I feel well informed about important company matters.”

Open-Ended Questions

“What is the most important thing that keeps you at this company?”

“What one thing would you change to make this a better place to work?”

“What should your team start, stop, and continue doing?”

Capturing employee feedback is very important and a critical skill required to fuel a culture of high performance. Don’t let fear of the unknown or of possible negative feedback slow your efforts down. Download these FAQs to discover the Art and Science for Conducting Effective Employee Surveys.   


“Talmetrix does not offer a one-size-fits-all solution. As a rapidly growing company, we initially partnered with Talmetrix to help us measure and manage employee engagement, now our needs have changed and we have a flexible solution that can change with us. We are not forced to adapt to a prescribed set of engagement questions, but instead can use a variety of validated or custom survey questions, send unique pulses as needed, or use the social feedback tool to capture sentiment on a variety of topics. This enables us to quickly adapt our employee feedback needs as they occur. We love the flexibility!”

Kim Chapman, SHRM-CP
Senior Director, Human Resources


Download our guide to employee engagement




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