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The Three Most Important Employee Survey Questions

Think about some of the more complicated surveys you’ve taken. They probably look something like the following:

Q1: Was the employee onboarding process helpful?

  • Yes
  • No

Q2: Why do you say that?

Q3: If you responded "No," what are the reasons it did not make sense?

  • I didn’t understand the contract/offer letter
  • I didn’t understand the 401k plan
  • I didn’t understand the medical plan options
  • The dental/vision options were not fully explained
  • It didn’t cover company policies
  • It didn’t cover our intranet

Q4: How many meetings would you want to have during the onboarding process?

  • 0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4 or more

Surveys like this become complicated to analyze. And even worse, you’ll lose your employees’ attention quickly.

Successful surveys don’t require SPSS integration, skip patterns, or other challenging programming. To field an engaging, effective survey you need only rely on three types of questions:

1) Binary, 2) Scale, and 3) Open Ends.

Question Type Example Purpose Best Used When…
Binary* Yes or No: Do you have all the tools you need to be successful in your role? Offers a simple, quick read on general employee sentiment A manager needs to quickly tease out if there is a serious problem
Scale* On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you at work? Helps measure attitudes with more subtlety than a binary question A manager is looking for nuance in general sentiment
Open End What is the most common customer complaint you hear from our clients? To gather deeper thoughts and richer examples A manager is looking for more thoughtful feedback and solutions

*We always encourage asking "why" after a binary or scale question. While the questions alone are great for top-line reads on employee sentiment, asking “why” probes deeper and helps provide the tangible facts you’ll need to act on that feedback.

While it might be tempting to just use open-ended questions to get deep responses, they do take longer for employees to complete and can lead to survey disengagement if asked too frequently.

The best way to use these questions is to switch them up. If you do pulsing-type surveys, which are weekly or biweekly one-question surveys, make sure that you vary which type of question you use. If you’re doing a short four- to six-question survey, include a combination of question types. Adding variety helps keep employees engaged and interested, helping you get better survey feedback.

Client: A publicly traded regional bank
Challenge: Identifying what professional development tools or programs to invest in

Story: Sometimes managers don’t know what they don’t know. But they trust their employees to inform them. One TINYpulse customer wanted to encourage professional development but wasn’t sure which types of classes, programs, or training his employees would most prefer.

Our client served the following open-ended question to his employees to begin sourcing ideas:

What the manager saw was a consistent request for additional mentorship of junior employees to better train them on more complex tasks.

While he had a hunch this might be the case, it was only after seeing several employees offer the same responses that he knew this was the right course of action to take.

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