Advanced Guide to Employee Surveys

8 min read
Oct 20, 2017


A quick look at magazines like Inc. and Entrepreneur, and it’s easy to think that employee engagement is the next new approach to growth-hacking the competitive workplaces of modern day.

But, employee engagement isn’t as shiny and new as you might think: it’s been almost a hundred years since the first employee surveys started appearing in industrial centers across the United States, and in the 1950s, a TON of research was done into trying to recapture the high-morale and high levels of productivity that the United States had seen during WWII.

With nearly a hundred years of results, and some trial and error, survey best practices are not so much the shots in the dark that they might have been back in the day. Instead, modern employee engagement surveys are usually the product of intensive study and optimization, to give you the best and most accurate results. 

Here at TINYpulse, we’ve got experience and expertise to share, as well as advice from some of the biggest industry leaders. 



You may be wondering why so many companies even bother with the time and financial commitment of surveying their employees. Or perhaps you understand the premise, but your small 15-person company seems like it’s just fine without surveys, since you have an open-door policy.

But, many employees may still be too intimidated to provide feedback in a face-to-face setting. Moreover, research shows that surveying employees can unveil great opportunities for growth or positive changes in developing businesses. Ultimately, companies in which employees are encouraged to participate and contribute to decisions, small and large, exhibit better organizational agility and higher staying power.


With over four million surveys delivered, and over 250,000 lives touched, we have a ton of data on what works and what doesn’t. As the leading experts in employee engagement surveys, we’ll walk you through the survey-process from inception, through implementation, into the follow-up and re-administering stages. And we’ll talk about why each of these stages is important—for instance, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to administer a company-wide survey and then do nothing with the feedback!


So lean back, dig in, and if you’re looking for employee engagement strategies, consider reading our Guide to Employee Engagement as part of your next steps.



Step 1: Have a clear goal

Step 2: Include leadership in your initiatives

Step 3: Measure your starting conditions

Step 4: Ask fewer questions, consider just one

Step 5: Make feedback an ongoing process

Step 6: Read and respond to feedback promptly

Step 7: Make an action plan for big priorities

Step 8: Communicate successes back to the team



Implementing a survey can feel like a big win in and of itself. But after it has come and gone, how are you going to measure the success, if you never decided on your success parameters?

Make your goal something that you can measure after the survey period is over. If your goal is to reveal sentiment towards organizational changes, then it’s important to write that down and re-evaluate that criteria after some time has passed. Sure, surveys will also give you some unexpected information to act on, but don’t let that sideline your initial goals when it’s all said and done.

For ongoing pulse surveys, it’s easy to get stuck in the mindset that participation is your success parameter— defining those other goals in advance will save you from this trap! If your goal for a survey was to decrease attrition, why would you rate the success later on participation, rather than your attrition changes?





Ultimately, what surveys are trying to do on some level is understand employee sentiment, and then improve it. If you don’t have leadership buy-in, that second step becomes almost impossible.

Employee engagement is directly related to the trust, the shared values, and the vision of a company—all things that are determined by leadership. When you get feedback through a survey that people are really struggling with identifying with the leader’s ‘vision for the future’, then you know that leadership is going to need to take the initiative on making those things clear or accessible to the employees—or they might need to be open to hearing feedback on why it’s such an unpopular direction that they’re headed in.

Now imagine having a leadership team that is on autopilot, and not invested in strong culture: what you get is large ship moving in the wrong direction, with a captain unwilling to change the course. As Mike Myatt -- CEO of “Leadership Matters” -- put it: “you cannot transform a culture you do not understand.”




Setting a goal doesn’t help as much, if you don’t have a baseline to measure any improvements by. If that goal for lower attrition doesn’t include some statistics about your current attrition rate, then you won’t know if it’s changed!

Similarly, if you have more broad goals like “increase employee happiness”, it’s important to take a baseline measure for where you’re starting at. Questions like “How happy are you with your job?” offered at regular intervals can measure the change over time in responses, to see the trajectory of your employee engagement and satisfaction.

Sending out a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey company-wide can be a good way to measure what people think of the company, before you implement the rest of your survey and follow-up strategy. For people using pulse surveys, the first one will often be a little bit longer to establish some key starting metrics.




Survey fatigued is real, and usually results from asking too many questions, or when respondents are asked the “same question in different ways throughout the same survey”. Worse yet, statistics show that the amount of time people spend responding to a survey drastically decreases with every additional question over the first one that gets asked.

In order to get the highest quality, and most thoughtful answers from those being surveyed, try asking just one question. One-question pulse surveys mean that you have the subject’s full attention when they answer the question, and that the responses you get will be more accurate.

The “annual employee engagement” survey model that so many of us are familiar with ends up being one of the worst possible ways to collect feedback, when you look at the cost and the value of the information that comes in.




discussion-2822066_1920.jpgAccording to Gallup, “pulse surveys provide valuable data to companies that want the ability to respond quickly to change or increase employee feedback as company initiatives evolve.” Since one of the biggest issues with annual surveys is the time it takes to administer and process the data in them, quick solutions with real-time computing are changing the landscape for receiving feedback.

Receiving real-time data also means that you change the relationship between management and employee, because you are reinforcing that your desire for feedback and the exchange of ideas is ongoing, rather than something that only gets precedent once a year. Companies with strong channels of communication like this are often more agile and growth-minded—a recently released email from Elon Musk to employees at Telsa is a great example of a company where leadership is making the investment in more open channels of communication, with growth in mind.




We’ve written so much about the importance of prompt follow-up to employee surveys. But this is a point that we cannot state enough times. To put it simply: If you survey your employees, and then you do nothing to follow-up with their responses, you are killing your employee engagement.

There are even a few posts on our blog how you can approach responding to negative feedback. Often, it’s the negative sentiment which makes these sorts of comments so hard to tackle.

Since this particular section is so rich with advice and best practices, we’ll stick with the further reading rather than trying to cover it all here. Needless to say, this is the easiest mistake to make, and the hardest mistake to fix. 




Once you’ve collected feedback, and responded to the ones in need of the most immediate response, you can start to make a game plan to tackle the long game.

 Perhaps you heard a few complaints that all seem in the same vein but will need a more involved handling from leadership to tackle. Or maybe there are a few simple requests that seem like they can make for quick wins, but require running a few errands.

office-1209640_1920.jpgBreak these down into “problems I can solve today” and “problems that will take longer to resolve”. Finish the ones that can be done in one day with a trip to the store, or some quick research to answer a question. Ask that icebreaker question at the beginning of stand-up that everyone misses. If something doesn’t take much work to implement, do it fast, and check it off the list as soon as possible.

For the long tail goals that can’t be done in a day or in a week, make sure that you build out a plan for how you’ll accomplish them, and what you need to do so. If the complaint is compensation, figure out what the solution is—maybe it’s not raises for everyone, but an extra vacation offering, or a candid conversation about where the company is at, and how everyone can work together to get to that goal within a certain timeline.




Sometimes the best leadership still fails at engaging teams, and often, it’s because of communication breakdown. Maybe you surveyed sentiment, made a plan of action, and delivered on it—but does your team know?

It’s important to think about how you’re going to present your survey results, and how you are going to let the people you surveyed know that you’re still accountable now that the data has been collected and analyzed.

If your team sees that survey participation led to immediate results, they are more likely to feel satisfied with the way that you handled the process, and more likely to participate in the future.




If you’ve read all these tips, and you’re still not sure how to go about implementing your employee survey-- or you’re looking for the right tools to do send it your survey, TINYpulse is an amazing piece of software, which will automate most of this process for you.

We want to make sure that you’ll be able to create a feedback loop that is satisfying and productive for people on both sides of the conversation. We can also help guide you with benchmarks and data about how other companies in your industry are doing, and even how all TINYpulse users are doing.

If you’d like to start a conversation or get a consultation about what implementing TINYpulse would like at your organization, we’d love to help. Just sign up below to start your free trial today!

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