What Employers Ask, What Employees Say
The questions that organizations ask on employee surveys may be different from the questions that employees wish they would ask. In fact, when we looked at employee survey data gathered over six years, we came to the conclusion that this is often the case. We tallied the ten most frequently asked questions and then tallied the ten questions that get the most negative responses. We found that none of the "most negative" questions were on the list of "most frequently asked." For that matter, neither were the ten most positive.
Top Employee Survey Questions
Since 1999, we've been tracking employee responses to 86 key employee questionnaire items out of a total of 700 questions in our database. These 86 items have been administered to as many as 80,000 people on 160 survey administrations. We track them because they represent the issues organizations have most often wanted to investigate during the nearly twenty years we've offered employee surveys. The organizations are from commercial industries, such as telecommunications and consumer goods, and non-commercial industries, such as government, schools, and nonprofits. About 20% of the response data is from multinational locations of U.S. corporations.
Some questions are asked of all or nearly all the respondents in the Employee Feedback Database, either because we recommend it to our client or they request them. Here's the "Most Frequently Asked" list:
Ten Most Frequently Asked Employee Survey Questions
"Considering everything, I am satisfied working for this organization at the present time."
"I see myself working for this organization three years from now."
"I am clear about what I need to do and how my job performance will be evaluated."
"My manager sets clear goals and objectives."
"I receive the training I need to do my job."
"I have the resources I need to do my job."
"My manager takes a supportive role in my professional growth and development."
"Employees are encouraged to offer their opinions and ideas."
"People are encouraged to try new ways of doing things."
"There is a strong feeling of team spirit and cooperation in this organization."
If the purpose of an employee survey is to diagnose organizational challenges, we also need to look at the items that are consistently challenging to all organizations. Noticeably missing from the list above are communications, management, and compensation. For instance, communications is represented three times on the following list of the ten least favorable items in our database:
Ten Employee Survey Questions Receiving the Most Negative Response
"Overall, information in this organization is communicated well."
"This organization listens to the ideas/opinions that employees contribute."
"I am kept up-to-date on any organizational changes in policy or practice."
"This organization pays well compared to other organizations."
"I am satisfied with the benefits package this organization offers."
"I feel secure about my continued employment at this organization."
"I believe my career aspirations can be achieved at this organization."
"I feel recognized for the contribution I make to this organization."
"I get the cooperation I need from those outside my department."
"Management is supportive of its employees."
This simple discovery is a potent reminder of how an employee survey should be written. Organizations must always be willing to listen for the most sensitive issues and ask questions that will help them constructively address the problems. We have to be willing to ask the questions they wish we would ask. The survey instrument, to be credible, has to have something in it for both the employer and employee.