Employee surveys are being done all wrong.

I keep mentioning how instead of a lengthy survey once a year, you should break down the surveys into smaller, more digestible formats.

Maybe separating employee surveys by topic would be an interesting idea. It also gives some context to the user about what they’re about to answer.

One important thing for me to mention is that employee surveys aren’t a silver bullet. Surveys are just a data collection method, it’s up to you to figure out how to use that data to improve your company culture.

I actually get angry when I see consultants or survey vendors recommending that clients do surveys once a year. That’s way too long, and won’t give you a real picture of what to do.

Remember that the most important thing about an employee survey is what you do after the survey. According to research from Towers Watson, this is the biggest reason why surveys fail.

I think the action planning on more focused surveys could become easier too, because you’re focusing on one single thing.

For example, if you conduct a wellness survey, and find out that employees are eating unhealthy lunches, then what you should do to fix it becomes very obvious.

There are a lot of employee survey topics that you could potentially use, but I’m going to break down what I personally think are the right topics to focus on.

Employee Recognition Survey

According to research, 77% of employees are starved for recognition.

According to research from Deloitte, companies that scored in the top 20% for building a “recognition-rich culture” had 31% lower voluntary turnover rates.

Deloitte also found that recognition means more when it comes from your peers.

It’s important to find out if your employees are getting recognition, but also if they’re giving it. If you can encourage them to give it more, everyone will be happier and more productive.

Here’s an example question that you could ask:

Have you received praise in the last 2 weeks?

Employee Feedback Survey

Feedback is different than recognition, in the sense that feedback is meant to be slightly negative, and is meant to help an employee improve whatever they’re doing.

Feedback is a very sensitive issue though, since some people are more receptive to it than others.

For example, according to research, people that are new to a job and don’t know everything yet are less receptive to feedback, because they’re still scared and still learning.

Experts on the other hand, are much more receptive to feedback, because they want to get better at what they do.

Again, it’s important to find out how much employees are both getting and giving feedback. Feedback is important for collaboration, and you should be encouraging employees to give each other feedback.

Here’s an example question that you could ask:

The last time you received feedback, was it specific?

Relationship With Managers Survey

In a workplace study by the American Psychological Association, up to 75% of respondents said the most stressful aspect of their job is their immediate boss.

It’s important to find out things like how often managers and their employees communicate, and what is the quality of those communications.

One of my favorite examples of a question to gauge the relationship between an employee and a manager is inspired by a Zappos interview question.

If you were stuck in an airport with your manager, how would you feel?

Employee Happiness Survey

Of course measuring happiness is important, as happy workers are productive workers.

In fact, according to research, they’re 12% more productive.

This is a perfect example of why employee surveys need to be done more frequently than once per year.

Imagine that almost every day of the year I’m depressed, but it just so happens that the night before the survey I got lucky with a girl, so I’m in a great mood.

According to the survey results, you would think I was a very happy employee, but that’s not the case. That’s why it’s important to spread the results over time, to get a more accurate picture.

Here’s an example question that you could ask:

On a scale from 0-10, how happy are you today?

Personal Growth Survey

When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute. – Simon Sinek

What really connects people to your company is the purpose behind your company, and how they see themselves aligned with it.

Even without looking at data, I can tell you from personal experience as an employee, the number one reason for motivation is a sense of progress, no matter how small.

If an employee is growing in your company, they will be engaged.

Dan Pink’s famous TED talk about motivation summed it up perfectly, when he talked about Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose being what truly motivates people at work.

In a short, simple survey, you could find out if employees have enough autonomy, or if they believe in the purpose.

Here’s an example question that you could ask to test Autonomy:

If there were no managers at your company, would you still know what to do?

BONUS: Employee Net Promoter Score

Probably not enough to warrant its own survey, but the 2 questions that you could ask here are the most powerful way to tell if an employee actually likes working there or not.

The 2 questions you ask are:

On a scale from 0-10, how likely are you to recommend working here?
On a scale from 0-10 how likely are you to recommend our product/service?

Pro-tip: If you want to really get some quality feedback ask an open-ended “why?” after each of these questions.

What Other Employee Survey Topics Can You Think Of?

Let me know in the comments!