How to Design an Employee Survey 101

Designing Employee Surveys

If you’re looking for employees’ feedback on your company culture (and you should be!), it’s important to ask the right questions. Social scientists, who often use surveys as a research tool, have done studies on designing a survey to give you the most accurate, clear, and reliable results. There’s way more to this topic than can be covered in a blog post, but here are a few pointers that may help you create employee surveys about your company culture.Want to take your employee surveys to the next level? Our free eGuide walks you through testing, implementing, and following up on surveys. Get the guide here.

1) Start with the end in mind

Before you start creating your employee survey, think about what you want to find out. It seems obvious, but explicitly defining your goal ahead of time will help you ask the right questions, so you can get the most helpful results. This could be something like:

  • I want to find out what the most severe pain point is in our culture right now. Or:
  • I want to find out what to focus on to improve our company’s communication.

Then break your goal into smaller components, which will form the basis for your survey questions. Asking employees “how is the culture here?” probably won’t get you useful information, so it’d be better to ask about particular aspects of culture, like collaboration between teams, learning new skills, or being held accountable for actions.Once you know what you want to measure, it’s time to start writing your questions!

2) Use clear language

Employees can’t answer something they can’t understand, so write your questions with comprehension in mind. Use everyday language (no SAT words here!), but not slang or idioms. Look out for words with multiple shades of meaning, and either replace them with something more precise, or specify which meaning you intend. If there’s any doubt as to whether survey takers will understand a word or a concept, adding a definition to the question can be helpful.

3) Ask one thing at a time

Many survey designers inadvertently combine two questions or concepts into one, causing confusion both when taking the survey and when interpreting the results. Two words to look out for here are and and or:

  • My workspace is safe and comfortable
  • Do you think our town hall meeting was well-run, or was it a waste of time?

In both of these examples, two concepts are included, which can muddy the results. A workspace can be safe but not comfortable, or vice versa, or both safe and comfortable, or neither. The results of the above question won’t tell you which.Look out for this same issue when creating your answer options, too:

  • Do you think our town hall meeting was well-run?
    • Yes, I enjoyed the topics.
    • Yes, it was efficient.
    • No, it was a waste of time.
    • No, the topics covered were not interesting to me.

These answer choices introduce concepts not covered in the original question, and should be rephrased to refer only to how well the town hall meeting was run.