Culture Crash Course Lesson 5: Building Your Culture Survey

There’s no doubt that your organization’s culture is unique, so your culture survey should reflect that. Even if you are using a standardized culture assessment, you should customize the language, answer choices, and objective to gain the best insight into your company’s culture. To ensure you receive the highest quality feedback, keep the five areas below in mind when building your culture survey.

5 Tips for Creating a Culture Survey

1. Use Meaningful Demographics

In addition to getting an overall sense of your company culture, you’ll want to zoom in to understand the various subcultures throughout your organization. Including demographic information (either in the spreadsheet or demographic questions directly in the culture survey) is a simple way to gather robust data and identify distinct areas of opportunity.

culture survey


The most common demographic categories are:

  • Location
  • Department
  • Tenure

Other options to consider are:

  • Full-time/part-time
  • Level (Individual contributor, manager, director)
  • Business unit
  • Manager


When creating your survey, only include the demographic categories that are valuable to your organization and ditch any fillers. For example, if your organization has twelve different office locations with varying work environments it may be helpful to look at results based on location. In this example, it’s important to include questions about work environment in the survey.

*Too many demographic questions can make employees feel exposed and uncomfortable, which might deter them from participating in the survey. You’ll want to have measures in place to protect the anonymity of employees (for example, CultureIQ never displays fewer than five responses at a time). When distributing the survey, outline the anonymity protocol and explain how you will be using the demographic information.

2. Think About the Intent of Your Questions

The reason you’re sending a culture survey is to gather unbiased employee feedback and make better decisions, so make sure the questions included in your survey help you accomplish that goal. You should be able to answer the question “what do I intend to learn from this question?” or “will this question help me make better culture decisions?” for each item on your survey.

Here are some other guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Avoid leading and limiting questions. For example, instead of asking employees to agree or disagree with: “We have a great process for communicating internal changes,” ask: “Please rate our process for communicating internal changes.”
  • Ensure each question has a “None of the Above” option so employees are not forced to choose an answer they do not feel applies.
  • Allow employees to explain their answers or leave addition feedback by adding a comment box to any questions that are not open ended.

3. Ask Questions You Can Act On

Ask your employees for feedback around topics you can take action on. For example, if your office is a bit cramped, but you’re locked into a five year lease, don’t ask your employees if they are satisfied with their office space. Instead, ask them what you can do to make the office environment better. Try not to clutter the survey with questions about things that cannot be changed, and instead, focus on getting feedback you can turn into action.

4. Make It Personal

Your survey should be personalized to fit the language and feel of your organization. This will ultimately make the survey a clearer and more comfortable experience for employees. Some ideas to do that:

  • Add a customized message from your CEO at the beginning of your survey.
  • Include questions about ongoing initiatives within your organization.
  • Reference your company values.
  • Ensure the terminology used in the questions reflects company norms. For example, if you call employees, “colleagues” or “team members” use that language in the survey.

5. KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid)

Thanks to the U.S. Navy for this tried and true principle! Your survey shouldn’t be complicated and employees should understand the questions the first time. Deciding on their responses should be a quick and easy process.

  • Avoid words with multiple meanings, so questions cannot be interpreted in different ways.
  • Ask about one topic at a time. Do this by splitting up any questions that use “and” into separate questions. For example, do not ask “My leader is supportive and responsive.” Instead, ask “My leader is supportive.” and “My leader is responsive.”
  • Keep it short and sweet. Gathering feedback should be an ongoing process so no need to dump every question in at once!

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