You might think that employee surveys don’t suit the vibe of your small business. When you’ve only got a few team members that you see every day, you may assume you can count on your friendly workplace culture and an open-door policy to bring in regular employee feedback.
But employee surveys can complement your existing feedback processes. Even if you have excellent relationships with your staff members, they may still have issues they’re uncomfortable raising. Besides, there are always areas of improvement in any workplace and your employees may have insights that can take your business to the next level.
So, check out our comprehensive guide to employee surveys, which includes:
- The advantages of writing surveys for your team
- What to consider before you write an employee survey
- The most popular types of surveys
- Five steps for effective survey writing
- 30 questions to use in your own questionnaires
- The best survey tools to use for your small business
The benefits of employee surveys
Conducting employee surveys lets you perform a general checkup on how your business is doing internally, which can have a knock-on effect on other areas. Here are some of the benefits you may see:
- Solving little problems before they snowball. Employees may bring an issue to your attention that you hadn’t noticed before. That means you can address it sooner before it escalates and costs you money or drives away staff.
- Optimizing workflows. Your employees may have noted certain problems or considered opportunities to do certain tasks more efficiently, which would save everyone time, money, and effort.
- Making employees feel seen and heard. Surveys let your team members know you’re interested in their opinions. But that’s only as long as you act on their feedback. If you don’t, your surveys may come across as performative.
- Having a healthier company culture. All the above benefits can contribute to more efficient business practices and happier employees. This can boost your team’s job satisfaction and improve their relationships with each other.
- Enjoying better employee retention rates. In turn, higher job satisfaction leads to fewer employees leaving your business in the long term.
- Improving your hiring practices. If your employees consistently complain about aspects of their jobs that are fundamental to the business — say, working late nights in a bar — that’s a sign you’re hiring people who are a poor fit for your team. Using this information, you can re-evaluate how you attract new hires and who you choose for open positions.
- Performing a turnover spot check. Employee surveys also indicate how many staff members plan to leave soon, which gives you more time to plan for hiring.
What should I consider when creating an employee survey?
While employee surveys are a great way to discover what your team needs to thrive, you have to put some thought into them to get the results you’re looking for. Consider the following:
Craft your questions intentionally
There are many excellent examples of employee surveys online. And while it’s a good idea to take inspiration from them, resist copying them entirely. You need to tailor your questions to your specific business’s context.
As you write your questions, target them toward your staff members. Ask about practices that are relevant to your business and industry. If you include too many high-level questions that are more applicable to large organizations than small businesses, you won’t get many actionable insights.
Plus, employees may pick up on generic questions and feel like your survey is just a box-ticking exercise for management. In that case, they’ll be less likely to take it seriously and put effort into answering.
Strive for high employee participation rates
No matter how much time you spend crafting your employee survey, it won’t work if no one actually takes it.
Experts agree that a good response rate for employee surveys is between 70-80%. Any less, and your feedback probably won’t be a fair representation of how your entire team is feeling. Encourage as many employees to take the survey as possible by:
- Explaining the importance of the survey. If your team sees the potential benefits of filling out employee surveys, they’ll be more enthusiastic about doing so.
- Sending the survey with an instant messenger like Homebase’s team chat app so it stays safe. Print-outs get lost and damaged in your staff members’ bags.
- Letting employees take the survey on company time so they don’t resent having to do unpaid work.
- Respecting your staff’s time with small sets of clear, concise questions.
- Sending employees a couple of reminders to nudge them for their contributions. Employees may forget about the survey.
- Making it anonymous so everyone feels like they can answer honestly without creating an awkward situation at work.
- Offering incentives like a gift card or free lunch. Don’t forget to thank your staff for their participation!
Choose your survey format wisely
Before you write your survey, consider what you’re planning to do with the results. Otherwise, you may struggle to turn your team members’ answers into concrete plans.
For instance, if you want to monitor progress over time, you’ll likely need quantitative data and a digital survey. That way, you can analyze your results over longer time periods to discover trends and patterns.
But if you want feedback about a specific context or situation — perhaps during the onboarding or termination process — you probably need to ask open-ended questions for more detailed insights. Doing so will give you the specific information you need to support your team or solve underlying issues. An interview setting may be more appropriate, too.
The 7 most common types of employee surveys
Another point to consider is what type of employee survey you’ll use for your small business. You don’t need to restrict yourself to just one — you can mix and match. But always choose survey formats that are well-suited to your business needs and objectives.
Here are some popular types of employee surveys to consider:
- Employee engagement surveys assess how connected your staff feel with their work. They check motivation levels and how aligned your employees are with your business mission and values.
- Employee satisfaction surveys check how happy employees are with areas of their work like compensation, flexibility, and work-life balance.
- Employee onboarding surveys measure how well you’re helping your new hires adapt to their roles and show how you can improve your onboarding process.
- Exit surveys explore the reasons why an employee has left your business, so you can analyze them and take action to improve retention rates.
- Employee performance reviews explore each of your team member’s areas for improvement and opportunities for growth.
- Employer improvement surveys are an opportunity for team members to give feedback to management. They can include questions about how well leadership communicates ideas, recognizes good performance, and considers employee input.
- 360-degree feedback lets you get multiple perspectives on individual employees’ performance. You can ask one of your staff member’s coworkers, customers, and managers for input, which gives you a complete picture of how they’re progressing within your business.
4 steps to writing your own employee survey
Now you’ve got a broad overview of employee surveys, let’s get into some finer details. Below, we’ve created a four-step guide that you can use as a template for writing your own and included some tips on how to tweak it for your own business.
1. Define your objectives
Conducting an employee survey just for the sake of it won’t yield good results. To get deep, valuable insights into your team, you need to set a survey objective first. So, start by laying out your expectations and defining its purpose. For example, are you looking for ways to improve internal communication? Or do you want to fix your high turnover rate?
Remember, you don’t have to stick to one survey type. You can combine them or conduct more than one over the course of the year. Just don’t do them too often, or your employees may get “survey fatigue” and stop participating.
2. Consider your business context
Decide what’s realistic for you to put into action and what’s not. Ideally, your survey results should lead to different improvement plans and initiatives. So there’s no use asking for feedback on areas of your business you can’t do much to change right now.
You should also be cautious about your questions accidentally setting expectations for your staff. Suppose you don’t have any money in your budget for raises this quarter. Asking your employees whether or not they’re satisfied with their current pay may build their hopes up. Then, when nothing comes of the survey, they’ll become frustrated.
3. Choose your question types
Depending on the questions you choose, you’ll get different responses from your staff. These are the main question categories to be aware of:
- Closed vs. open-ended questions. In other words, do you provide a series of potential responses to the question, or can respondents say anything they want? Closed questions are easier to quantify and analyze, but open questions let you get more specific, detailed information you might not have predicted otherwise. As there are pros to both formats, choose whichever one suits your needs best or use a mix of the two.
- Anonymous vs. confidential vs. identified questions: In an anonymous survey, none of the questions give away the identity of the respondent. Confidential surveys ask some demographic questions about roles or working hours but don’t make the identities of your employees obvious. Identified questions, as the name suggests, ask for your employees’ names. Decide which type to use based on factors like how openly your team usually communicates with each other or whether you’re asking for sensitive information.
- Questions vs. statements: Many surveys present statements like “I look forward to going to work” followed by categories (like agree or disagree) or rating scales. This can reduce evasive answers because you’re posing the question as someone else’s opinion and asking respondents to what extent they agree. That way, employees will be less worried about giving feedback that won’t be well received.
- Standard questions vs. Likert scales: The Likert format uses questions or statements followed by numbered or labeled scales. For example, you could ask, “How much do you look forward to going to work?” followed by the numbers 1-5. This is another survey method you can use to reduce the mental load on your employees and make your questions easier to answer.
Caption: Presenting statements and Likert scale answers to employees can help them feel more comfortable providing honest feedback.
4. Check for common pitfalls
While you’re writing, be mindful of these common traps that can confuse your team or skew the answers to questions.
- Leading questions like “Do you prefer working shorter shifts?” encourage a specific response — in this case, that short shifts are better. Instead, ask, “How do you rate working short shifts?” or prompt them to rank, “I prefer working short shifts,” on a scale of 1-5.
- Vague or non-specific questions, for example, “What do you think about our current scheduling system?” This leaves too much room for interpretation and requires a lot of effort for employees to answer.
- Missing options in closed questions, which can affect responses. Say you have an employee who works one day a week. They can’t answer a question about whether they have enough time in between their shifts. In this case, it would be a good idea to include a ‘not applicable’ option.
- Double barrel questions accidentally combine two statements into one. For instance, you might ask, “How do you rate our policy on paid time off and sick leave?” but this covers two separate areas staff members might have differing opinions on.
- Questions that give overlapping answers like asking, “How many hours do you work on average?” and giving the options ‘4-8 hours’ and ‘8-20 hours.’ Make the boundaries clear by using options like ‘0-4 hours’ and ‘5-8 hours’ instead.
30 example questions for your employee surveys
Grouping employee survey questions into categories like ‘work environment’ and ‘professional development’ — like we’ve done below — can help you assess different aspects of the employee experience in a more structured way.
The following thirty questions are all commonly asked in employee questionnaires — just tweak them to suit your business.
Questions about the work environment
A positive business culture is critical to a thriving workplace. According to research, the number one reason why employees leave their jobs is a toxic work environment.
You can build a comfortable workplace for your team by conducting regular checkups. Ask questions like ‘How much do you look forward to going to work?’ to get a read on their overall happiness. Then, include some open-ended questions about what support or resources they need to improve their satisfaction, fix problems, and overcome any obstacles.
- Would you recommend our company as a great place to work?
- How much do you look forward to going to work?
- Do you feel as though you’re treated with respect and fairness?
- Do you have enough peer-to-peer interaction?
- What resources would make your work-life balance easier?
Questions about communication
Communication is key to any successful business and must always be kept in check, so be sure to ask questions that uncover and measure the effectiveness of your current approach to it.
But communication comes up in a wide variety of scenarios. That means you need to ask questions that assess logistical factors, like whether or not employees have adequate access to information and get regular updates. You also need to find out about interpersonal factors, like if staff trust management and feel listened to. The following questions should give a broad overview of how effectively people communicate at your business.
- Do you get information that’s critical to your role when you need it?
- Do you feel comfortable talking to your coworkers?
- How well do managers communicate with team members at our business?
- Do you trust managers to make decisions that benefit you?
- How do you typically get information about the business?
Questions about leadership
According to a recent Homebase survey, leadership is the top thing that candidates consider when applying for a job. The current labor shortage also means it’s more important than ever to keep a pulse on how worker-manager relationships are going.
Giving managers feedback — no matter how fair or constructive — is a nerve-wracking experience for employees. So it’s a good idea to include those kinds of questions in an anonymous survey. You can also add open-ended questions to understand what managers can do to support employees.
- Do managers have good relationships with your team members?
- How often do managers give you constructive feedback on your work?
- Does your manager motivate you?
- How can management show they value your opinion?
- How else could management support your team?
Questions about compensation and benefits
With the ongoing labor shortage, businesses everywhere are boosting wages and benefits packages to attract job seekers. So, it’s wise to check that your team is happy with what they’re earning.
But phrase these questions carefully. If you ask whether staff would like to be paid more, nobody’s going to say no. Instead, ask whether your employees think their wages are ‘fair’ or ‘competitive.’
- Do you believe you’re paid fairly for your work?
- Do you have a clear overview of the benefits package your company offers?
- How satisfied are you with your current benefits package?
- Are your current benefits competitive with those offered by other businesses?
- Are there any benefits we don’t offer, but you’d love to have?
Questions about employee recognition
Recognition for a job well done motivates employees to succeed in their roles and makes them happier at work. But a survey by Gallup revealed that 81% of managers don’t make recognition a priority at their workplace.
Make sure you’re in the 19% of managers who are doing things right by asking your employees whether they get enough praise and feedback. Your survey questions should focus on how often employees receive recognition, who gives the feedback, and how it makes them feel. Consider sharing these questions with team members after you’ve tried new ways to praise team performance to test their efficacy.
- How much does leadership encourage employees to give recognition to one another?
- Do you feel that if you do a good job, you’ll be recognized?
- How happy are you with our business’s recognition process?
- How happy are you with the employee rewards and perks we offer?
- How would you prefer management to recognize excellent performance?
Questions about personal and professional development
During performance surveys, you need to assess whether or not your approach to professional development is helping employees fulfill their potential.
These kinds of questions should check whether you offer sufficient learning and growth opportunities, the quality of the training and mentorship you offer, and if team members have the chance to put their new skills into practice.
- How satisfied are you with your professional growth opportunities?
- Does our company offer quality job-related training?
- Do you feel you’ve improved as a professional due to the training we’ve provided?
- How often do you receive opportunities to apply your skills and knowledge?
- What other training courses would you like to receive?
The best employee survey tools to use
You have the option of paying for a service like Culture Amp or Workday for your employee surveys. But if you don’t have the budget for that, here are some free survey sites.
- SurveyMonkey: The free option allows you to conduct unlimited surveys with up to ten questions a piece and 40 responses.
- Google Forms: A free, basic tool that gives you the ability to customize surveys with photos and logos.
- Typeform: Typeform’s platform has a minimalistic design that works on virtually every device.
- SurveyPlanet: The free version comes with ten customizable themes and allows unlimited questions and responses.
How Homebase helps you keep a pulse on your team’s happiness
Employee surveys come in a range of shapes and sizes — like the businesses the respondents work for. So, always tailor your questionnaires to your context while following the core best practices we covered in this article.
Homebase’s employee communication tool gives you more time to think up ways to collect meaningful employee feedback by taking care of tasks like sending surveys and reminding people to fill them out. Not only that, but Homebase also stores your internal documents so you can easily refer to them as you write your questions and read your employee’s responses.
Overall, employee surveys are a great tool for getting helpful feedback from your team and Homebase can help you make them a success.
FAQs about employee surveys
What does an employee survey do?
An employee survey assesses different aspects of a business by asking staff members questions. Using the feedback, managers can:
- Identify internal issues and get to know employee preferences
- Make changes that boost employee happiness, engagement, and satisfaction
- Work on employee retention strategies
- Optimize tasks and processes to save the entire team time and effort
- Make processes like hiring and onboarding more efficient and effective
What is the best way to survey employees?
The best way to survey employees depends on your business type and model. But some good practices are to:
- Keep your survey objectives in mind
- Tailor your questions to your specific business context
- Encourage high participation rates with incentives
- Explain the importance of the survey
- Choose the right questions
Are employee surveys effective?
Employee surveys can be an effective way to discover your staff’s concerns and ways to improve your business. And if you act on your survey results, you can make your business more efficient, boost employee morale, and reduce attrition. But if you do surveys too often or never act on them, it can have the opposite effect and cause resentment.