Designing your employee survey

This is the eighth blog in our series and explains how to design your employee survey. You can read all our previous blogs here.

Once the aims and objectives have been set and a general approach agreed, the next move should be to design your employee survey. There are four main steps in this process:

  1. Develop an agreed topic list. This lists the areas to be investigated (for example, communication, benefits, training, management style and values).
  2. Conduct qualitative research. Talk to a sample of managers and employees in focus groups or face-to-face interviews. This will help to ensure that you cover topics important to everyone.
  3. Finalise the topic list. You may decide to enlarge, reduce or change the original list.
  4. Design the questionnaire. This can have as much influence over the response rate as the method of completion.

The elements of a good questionnaire are as follows:

  • Each question should directly relate to your survey objectives;
  • Questions should provide relevant and actionable information to the organisation – avoid giving the impression there is a hidden agenda;
  • Confidentiality should be guaranteed; it should not be possible to identify individuals from their responses;
  • Nevertheless, collect basic demographic data such as length of service, job grade and location to give the data meaning and context;
  • It should take about 10-15 minutes to complete;
  • Employees should be able to answer all the questions;
  • Questions should be unambiguous and address only one point per question. For example, don’t include a statement such as “My training for this job was relevant and effective.” Use only one of the two terms.
  • It should strike the right balance between addressing the needs of employees and the needs of your organisation;
  • Questions that allow comparison of results with other external organisations can be useful at the reporting stage;
  • Questions that allow employees to provide suggestions for improvements are also useful.

Survey completion

Online surveys can generally be completed in a ‘one to two’ week timeframe, although participation should be monitored to decide when to send reminders and thereby maximise response.

Allow a ‘two to three’ week period for paper-based completion, with an additional week set aside (but not advertised internally) for the inevitable late returns. This will allow time for employees who are away from the office to participate in your survey.

You should also consider whether employees on maternity leave, sickness absence and contract/agency staff should be invited to participate in your employee survey.

If a paper-based survey is being administered, then the distribution method needs to be carefully considered so that the maximum response rate is achieved. There is no right or wrong answer to this; the most suitable method will depend on the organisation, its structure and culture.

Find out more about how we can work with you to maximise the potential of your employee survey.