Ask these 9 questions in every employee engagement survey

Organizations should focus on key performance drivers, not just feel-good platitudes.

9 employee survey questions

“Do you receive enough recognition?”

“Does your manager care about you as a person?”

“Do you have a best friend at work?”

Sentiment-based questions such as these are common on the formal annual or bi-annual surveys that organizations use to gauge employee engagement, and the responses reveal some of what employees feel about their jobs and workplace. Such questions aren’t especially effective, however, at determining whether employees feel motivated to put energy and effort into their work beyond the minimum level required—and to what degree, therefore, they will be productive.

Many organizations are exploring new ways, such as pulse surveys and real-time analytics, to measure employee engagement, but most—74 percent in 2019—plan to keep using formal, large-scale surveys to gauge employee engagement.

Insights gleaned from these surveys are especially crucial as trends in business and technology continue to change the way employees work—where, when, why and with whom. And 80 percent of senior leaders believe good employee engagement is an important part of achieving business objectives.

When organizations do conduct traditional surveys, the problem is that managers at all levels—from senior executives to regional product managers—have grown so accustomed to the status quo that they don’t question whether or not the survey data provides insight into business outcomes. The key is to ask the right questions.

Focus on performance drivers

It’s important to focus the survey on questions that help organizations improve employee performance. “Companies should focus their employee engagement surveys on specific drivers of performance,” says Iliyana Hadjistoyanova, senior principal, research at Gartner.

These three employee performance drivers are key, and can be tested with employee engagement surveys:

1. Understanding of and connection to company goals. To succeed in their jobs, employees have to understand how they fit into the organization. It is crucial that survey results show whether employees understand their firm’s goals and the link between their own work and the organization’s strategic objectives. Questions should also reveal whether employees try to get their job done “despite the strategy” or in a way that intentionally contributes to strategic goals.

2. Commitment to co-workers. High-performing employees learn from and teach each other. The changing and ever more global work environment means employees must be as comfortable working with someone on another continent as they are with the person in the cube or office next to them. Survey questions should help you understand whether employees are part of multidisciplinary, collaborative teams that help them complete their best work and whether they and the teams they work with have the complementary competencies, values and working styles needed for strong team and individual performance.

3. The right capabilities. Capability—which consists of an employee’s comprehension, agility, network, direction and expectations—is especially important to measure during periods of significant change. Survey questions should check whether employees are aware of and confident enough to make use of the tools, information and people that can help them navigate change.

Top nine survey questions

Ask these questions to uncover the kind of meaningful engagement that can improve employee performance:

1. Do you understand the strategic goals of the broader organization?

2. Do you know what you should do to help the company meet its goals and objectives?

3. Can you see a clear link between your work and the company’s goals and objectives?

4. Are you proud to be a member of your team?

5. Does your team inspire you to do your best work?

6. Does your team help you to complete your work?

7. Do you have the appropriate amount of information to make correct decisions about your work?

8. Do you have a good understanding of informal structures and processes at the organization?

9. When something unexpected comes up in your work, do you usually know who to ask for help?

A version of this post first appeared on the Gartner blog.

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