Cartoon of people participating in employee engagement surveys with workers holding giant emojis indicating whether they are happy, sad, angry or ambivalent.
Image: © girafchik/

How to get the most out of employee engagement surveys

2 Apr 2024

Employee surveys can be a big part of finding out how engaged your staff is. But how effective are they if you don’t communicate the results?

The awkward thing about employee engagement surveys is that they can tell employers things that they might prefer to ignore – such as workers being unhappy with certain aspects of company culture or having difficulties at work.

It can be very tempting to pull out damage control and sweep the bad and the ugly underneath the carpet while proclaiming only the good feedback.

But, consider the reason for doing employee surveys in the first place. Companies cannot improve their culture – much less know what’s wrong with it – if they don’t consult their staff. Listen to any employer that cares even an iota about their workers and they will tell you that their biggest asset is their people – and it’s true. If staff aren’t happy, productivity suffers and so does business.

To be honest, it might feel counterintuitive if there are things workers aren’t happy about, but that’s what employee engagement surveys are for – finding the problem and finding a way to deal with it. Often, employees can have good, workable suggestions for how to deal with culture issues. They are the ones affected, after all.

When doing employee engagement surveys, it’s best to be transparent and view any criticism as an opportunity for the whole team to improve together.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of employee engagement surveys.

You don’t have to blow the budget

If you’re a small company with a tight budget, doing employee engagement surveys might sound a little bit out of reach. Think again. You don’t have to spend money on complex software to find out how your team members think.

A good survey depends on what you ask and what you do with those answers. You can do a decent survey on Microsoft Forms and circulate it via email or Teams. The same with Google Forms and Gmail. Or you can use software like SurveyMonkey, Jotform, SurveySparrow and QuestionPro.

Stick to a central theme

To avoid overwhelming everyone, stick to a core issue and ask a couple of questions about it. There is no point in trying to tackle everything at the same time. You can point out at the end of the survey that you are working on a set of company culture questionnaires and this is the first of, say, five.

You might choose to survey remote staff’s working experience, their work-life balance and tech stack satisfaction, for example.

Encourage honesty

Let staff know that their responses matter and that they are going to be listened to, no matter how harsh they may be. Most employees want to give constructive criticism, so be mindful that they don’t necessarily mean to attack company values – they are just giving their point of view.

With this in mind, always include plenty of opportunities for workers to give their feedback in writing. You’ll learn more that way compared to tick-the-box responses.

Organise in-person sessions

Online surveys are a great invention, yes, but you also have to ensure that you are taking the time to engage with staff in person. You can get a feel for how people are doing by organising off-site sessions, town-hall meetings, focus groups or one-on-one check-ins – or a combination of all of the above.

Town-halls are more formal discussions with a specific goal in mind, whereas others, such as off-sites, can involve fun group activities that encourage team members to bond and forget about work for a while. Focus groups are a good way of involving employees in addressing issues in company culture and working together to build a strategy. Remember, in-person events are a great way to take action informed by survey results.

Follow up, follow up, follow up

There is little point in doing one survey and then forgetting about it forever. You have to show your staff that you’re serious about making an effort to improve company culture, and that you will do what it takes. If you don’t have a big HR team, organising regular surveys and subsequent town-halls, off-sites and check-ins can be an onerous task, but it will reward you in the long run with employee loyalty.

Celebrate your wins

Sometimes, there might not be any big issues or problems revealed in employee surveys. Take that as a win, but don’t get too confident. Keep up the good work and keep checking in on team members because people’s circumstances change and what makes them happy or unhappy at work changes, too.

If your surveys yield good results, say so, but don’t be complacent – and let your employees know that they can always flag something if they need to.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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