Improving employee engagement: actionable tips from client success

Improving the experience of your people

Understanding employee engagement surveys


Employee surveys are widely used to help organisational leaders and HR practitioners understand how their staff are feeling and thinking. The central concept to these employee surveys has traditionally been employee job satisfaction. However, simply measuring and improving job satisfaction does not go far enough to significantly impact business performance. Employee engagement and more recently employee experience show greater links to organisational performance, profitability and growth.

Many organisations approach an employee engagement survey as a “tick the box” exercise and are surprised and disappointed with their employees’ lack of interest and participation in the process. These organisations miss the point that running an employee survey is a great opportunity to boost employee engagement in itself.

Below you will learn:

  • To understand employee engagement surveys (and why your organisation needs them?)
  • 8 simple engagement survey tips you should know
  • 12 great engagement survey questions you should ask
  • How to engage employees in your engagement survey process
  • How to avoid engagement survey pitfalls

What is employee engagement?

A satisfied employee is not necessarily a loyal and productive employee.

Above and beyond job satisfaction, Insync considers an engaged employee to be an individual who would feel a strong sense of commitment to their organisation, possess a consistently high level of enthusiasm for their work, and consistently contribute positively to the organisation.

Links between employee experience and numerous business performance metrics have been studied and found that a highly engaged workforce lead to:

  • lower turnover costs
  • stronger financial performance
  • improved employee well-being and safety
  • higher customer satisfaction

While employee engagement survey measures vary from research company to research company, most of the existing measures show three essences of an engaged employee:

  • Connection to the organisation – an engaged employee genuinely wishes to remain a part of the organisation
  • Passion for work – an engaged employee doesn’t just do the job, they possess a persistently higher level of drive, energy and belief in their work
  • Going above and beyond – an engaged employee has the good of the organisation at heart and goes beyond their basic duties to help the organisation succeed

Insync’s model of employee engagement has been developed on these three themes.

Employee engagement framework

Insync defines employee engagement as the extent to which employees are engaged in a personally meaningful, mentally active and productive manner at work.

Employee engagement consists of three inter-related components:

The heart

The extent to which an employee is emotionally engaged with the organisation, comprising job satisfaction, pride in and commitment to the organisation.

The head

The extent to which an employee carries a positive frame of mind at work, comprising the appetite for work, belief in the importance of contributing to the success of the organisation, and resilience when facing challenges at work.

The hand

The extent to which the employee exerts discretionary effort towards the benefit of the organisation, comprising the intention to go above and beyond basic role requirements, altruism towards colleagues, and willingness to share knowledge and experience.

Employee engagement survey planning tips

Get the most out of your employee engagement survey by planning it properly. Here are some things to think about.

  1. Endorse the employee engagement survey with visible buy-in from senior management. Get them to talk about the forthcoming survey with their management team and all staff. This demonstrates that your organisation is taking the survey seriously to gauge employee experience.
  2. Keep your employee engagement survey design simple
    .The simpler the survey, the chances are the more quickly and accurately respondents will provide their feedback. This will not only encourage participation but will also simplify and speed-up results delivery.
  3. Provide assurance that employee engagement survey results are confidential. Your results report should be provided to you in an aggregate format. This type of reporting style helps managers identify trends, but respondents cannot be singled out.
  4. Keep the number of open ended responses in your employee engagement survey to a minimum. Use radio buttons, drop down lists or click boxes where possible. This will ensure that the survey is as quick and unobtrusive for respondents as possible. It also makes survey analysis easier.
  5. Ensure your employee engagement survey has confidentiality guidelines at the outset. This will help to encourage participation of respondents who might not otherwise be forthcoming.
  6. Make your employee engagement survey online rather than paper wherever possible. This ensures that results come in faster and data is captured securely. Paper surveys can often go missing, fail to get posted, get lost in the post, etc, and are more time-consuming to collate for analysis.
  7. Send out survey reminders. Employee engagement survey reminders boost response rates and also reinforce the importance of feedback and your organisation’s commitment to making improvements through discussions with your staff.
  8. Follow up on promises in a timely manner. The employee engagement survey results will help guide initiatives. Communicate and act on those initiatives to show your commitment and that the feedback was valued. This will also ensure participation in subsequent surveys.

12 important employee engagement survey questions you should ask

Your employee engagement survey can be a quick pulse survey to gauge employee sentiment at a particular point in time, or it could be a larger annual survey to really deep dive and uncover engagement issues that are detrimental to organisational performance. Either way, here are 12 important questions you should ask.

  1. Our senior leadership team has a vision for [organisation name] that inspires me
  2. The person I report to is trustworthy
  3. I happily do extra work to help [organisation name] succeed
  4. Our senior leaders are good role models
  5. I am proud to be working here
  6. We have a culture of “no surprises” where bad news is promptly shared with management
  7. [organisation name] is committed to high standards of performance
  8. My skills and talents are used to their full potential
  9. Resources in [organisation name] are allocated fairly
  10. [organisation name] cares about and is committed to me
  11. I am paid fairly for my current role
  12. The person I report to is interested in my job satisfaction

These questions serve as the backbone of well-structured employee engagement surveys and exit interviews.

Engage employees in your engagement survey process

Below are some tips to avoid employee engagement survey pitfalls so that the journey to high performance has well and truly started before you send out your employee survey.

1. Brand your program

Consider branding your engagement survey and any subsequent actions, outcomes and improvements driven by survey results. Powerful catchphrases such as “Your voice”, “We hear you” and “Ignite” portray openness, positivity and action.

Think about words that can be embedded into your cultural jargon so the employee wellbeing survey becomes an expected and welcome event on the annual organisational calendar.

2. Gain trust by using an external provider

Some employees can be quite sceptical about surveys and don’t believe they are truly private and confidential. They may feel that “big brother” is watching and fear that their managers will identify their survey responses and comments.

Using an experienced, proven and trusted third party to administer your survey, and clearly communicating that this is the case, will help employees feel comfortable in responding to the survey. Investing in a trusted external provider also shows that your organisation is serious about improving performance.

3. Consider the timing

Employee engagement surveys are often driven by KPIs, metrics, budgets and directions from senior management. However, employees will be more engaged and more willing to participate in the process if you are conscious of other events such as public and school holidays, other organisational surveys, month/quarter/year end requirements etc., which are also claiming their attention.

If you can find a period that is as free from conflicting priorities as possible, you should experience a higher participation rate.

4. Give them a reason

One of the best ways to increase employee response rates is to tug at their heartstrings. Beyond the standard communications that explain how employee feedback will be used for new initiatives for improvement, we also suggest offering an incentive for completing the survey, such as a donation made on their behalf.

Imagine how employees will feel if by taking only 10 minutes of their time, your organisation will donate money to a children’s charity, a wildlife fund or the fight against cancer.

5. Communicate, communicate and then communicate some more!

There can never be enough communication throughout any survey process. Make use of internal newsletters, message boards and intranets to talk about the survey and its benefits as early and as often as possible.

Emails from the CEO and/or senior leadership team also add weight to the importance of the task and demonstrate that the entire organisation is in it together. The impact of a thank you email to all employees during the survey period can never be underestimated.

Immediately after the survey has closed, it is wise to provide a summary to the organisation of response rates plus a commitment as to when and how results will be shared with the whole organisation.

6. Close the loop

One of the most common things we hear from employees in pre and post survey focus groups is that they never receive any detail of the results of the survey. They feel that if they are not informed, the organisation is either hiding something or the employee survey has been a tokenistic exercise. When the survey comes around again, these employees are unlikely to complete it and the survey response rate drops further.

It is extremely important that you communicate results to all employees as soon as possible after you receive the data. Also, keep the survey at the forefront of employees’ minds through ongoing and regular updates on improvement initiatives implemented throughout the year that can be linked back to the survey results. This will entrench the idea that employee feedback is crucial in shaping organisational strategy and your employee value proposition.

Click here for more information that outlines the framework of employee alignment and engagement  and consulting, including many references to current research to support Insync model of high performing organisations.

Insync Testimonial
Insync offers a highly professional and detailed employee engagement and alignment survey. We have used them for several years now and cannot fault the product or level of customer service.
Amy Ridley

Manager – People, Performance and Culture
Care Super

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