How to Write Employee Survey Questions that get Great Results

Excited to start getting useful feedback from your staff, but don’t know what to ask? Here’s how to write employee survey questions that inspire valuable responses.

Listening to the comments and concerns of your staff is the sign of a good leader; however knowing what to ask them can be tricky. Nowadays time is previous, you and your staff don’t often have opportunities for evaluation. This makes it all the more important to be asking the right questions.

Employee feedback surveys have been around for a long time now. Many offer general, pre-written questions that work for most businesses, but perhaps you want something different. Maybe your industry is unique, your staff work under irregular conditions or there’s something in particular you would appreciate feedback on. Whatever your reasoning, it’s important to understand the best way to write employee survey questions.

Keep the survey length to less than 10 questions

Surveys are a well-known research method, having been used for years all over the world. With this many people conducting surveys, inevitably there became an art to it. Much research and time has gone into deciphering the optimal survey length – it’s around 10 questions.

The GreenBook Research Industry Trends Report (GRIT) found that our brains are able to maintain peak concentration levels for around five minutes. To get the most out of your participants, you don’t want to be exceeding this.

Producing the right amount of questions means your staff have the best opportunity to answer them well. When staff are engaged with what you’re asking, their responses are going to be all the more valuable.

“To be able to ask a question clearly is two-thirds of the way to getting it answered.” – John Ruskin

Questions work better when they are short.

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘short and sweet’ – well it’s true, shorter is sweeter. As we spoke about above, we all have short attention spans. The quicker your staff can read, understand and answer your questions the better.

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Shorter questions are easier to understand. Limiting your question length makes every word more considered, so you’ll end up getting better responses. Condensing your survey questions mean you’re more likely to ask something valuable

Related article: How Employee Pulse Surveys Can Benefit HR Managers

Don’t ask leading questions

Asking leading questions completely negates the point of taking the time to write employee survey questions. They’re defined as ‘a type of question that implies or contains its own answer’. These are often asked in cases where individuals don’t wish to accept other answers and are a notable method of persuasion.

An example of a leading question may be, “Don’t you love the new staff car park?” A better question is, “What do you think about the staff car park?”. This phrasing doesn’t put words in a participants mouth and encourages an honest response. Much more worthwhile.

If your questions already have an implied answer, staff will feel coerced and self-conscious about responding with their true feelings. They will likely just agree, making results invalid. The time you spend writing questions and aggregating responses will ultimately be for nothing. Open ended and neutral questions will always deliver better results, so make sure you’re not accidentally asking leading questions.

How to Write Employee Survey Questions that get Great Results

Credit: @nikarthur

Make sure the question is easy to understand.

This is an obvious point, though many people get it wrong. Remember to always keep your questions clear and concise. If your staff have to read it twice, your point probably isn’t obvious enough. The following are some helpful tips on how to make sure your questions are easy to understand:

  • Keep your questions short – don’t waffle (one sentence is often enough)
  • Make sure your question serves a purpose – why do you want employee feedback on this?
  • Avoid industry jargon
  • Answer the questions yourself and evaluate how easy it is to respond to them

Hopefully, with these simple tips your questions will be easy to understand and answer. Your staff need to know what you’re asking them when you write employee survey questions.

Avoid double barreled questions

Double barreled questions are often confusing, this is why we recommend avoiding them. Asking a question that introduces more than one issue while only allows for one answer is tough and they’re likely to frustrate participants.

An example of a double barreled question is: “Do you believe we provide a friendly service to our customers in a hygienic environment?”. This question askes two separate things, ‘Do we provide a friendly service to our customers?’ and ‘do we work in a hygienic environment?’ It’s difficult to answer two questions at once and your staff will end up confused.

Separating these questions into two means they are easier to understand and answer properly. While you may be tempted to try and find out as much information possible, your data will be more valuable if participants are able to answer correctly.

“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” – Tony Robbins

Ask specific questions

Addressing specific topics with targeted questions, is a great way to evoke deeper thought on a subject and gives more potential for an honest answer.

Make sure you’re being specific when you write employee survey questions. Be straight to the point and encourage staff to answer in a similar fashion. Don’t be asking double barreled or leading questions.

Addressing specific topics with target questions is a great way to evoke deeper thought on a subject and gives employees more potential for an honest answer. Questions should be direct and articulate exactly what you’re looking for. By doing so, you and your respondents will be on the same page and answer accordingly.

Related article: Common Mistakes of First-Time Managers

In Summary

Generating your own survey questions is an opportunity to receive specific feedback from your employees. It’s important to dedicate time to creating the best questions possible, in order to get valuable results. Remember:

  • Keep the survey length to less than 10 questions
  • Questions work better when they are short.
  • Don’t ask leading questions
  • Make sure the question is easy to understand.
  • Avoid double barreled questions
  • Ask specific questions

By following these recommendations, you’ll be able to write employee survey questions that get great results.

Lauren Clarke

Lauren Clarke

Lauren writes for 6Q and a number of other blogs from her home office in Australia. She spends her time writing, reading and changing US to International English on many articles that she edits.