Did you know that fifty-two percent of exiting employees say their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving? Let that sink in. 

Over half of your voluntary separations could have been prevented. The cost of employee turnover is estimated at 33 percent of the employee’s base pay, including direct and indirect costs—so this is an expensive problem to have.

Surveys are a great way to gather employee feedback and act on it before it’s too late, so you can create a strong employee experience that helps your company retain talent.

Consider running a comprehensive employee engagement survey annually, biannually, or quarterly to get a broad view of employee sentiment. Then learn more about problem areas and track your progress with shorter, more frequent Pulse surveys. 

Sample employee survey questions you can ask:

1. On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend a job at [company] to a friend or family member? 

This is an adaptation of the Net Promoter Score question used in marketing. Allow each employee to choose a number between one and 10, and then ask, “Why did you give that score?” 

Employees who answer “9” or “10” are promoters: satisfied employees who are most likely to refer people in their networks. Those who answer “7” or “8” are passive; they’re satisfied, but unenthusiastic. Those who give a rating between one and six are detractors—unhappy employees who may be damaging your employer brand through word-of-mouth or public employee Glassdoor reviews.

Employee referrals are a coveted candidate source, and your employer brand can be the difference between someone accepting a role at your company or with your competitor. Strive to get those higher scores, and to understand why each score was given so that you may improve. 

Use the data from the open-ended question (i.e. Why did you give us that score?) to identify trends and create pointed follow-up questions for Pulse surveys. For instance, if you learn that people don’t like their physical work environment, dig deeper to learn if it’s their personal workspace, common spaces, noise level, lighting, or something else that could be improved.

2. Do you feel that you have the opportunity to grow at [company]?

Lack of career development is a common reason for employee turnover. Learn whether your employees feel they have opportunities to grow at your company. 

If not, it may be a good time to implement career mapping and an employee development program (or to remind managers of the importance of executing them).

Follow up in later surveys by asking:

  • Have you and your manager reviewed your potential career paths within the organization?
  • Have you and your manager created your professional development plan together?
  • Which of our employee development programs do you find most useful [tuition reimbursement, mentoring, Lynda subscription]?
  • Which employee development programs would you like to see in the future [conference reimbursement, job shadowing, leadership coaching services]?
  • Do you feel that promotions are given fairly?

3. Do you feel that you are paid fairly? 

Compensation is another common reason for employee turnover, and often goes hand-in-hand with career development. Employees want to progress in their careers, and expect their compensation to match their value to you. 

Employees also want to be paid fairly in relation to their peers. 

If you score low in this area, some follow-up questions to ask include:

  • Do you feel your compensation is appropriate for your contribution to the company?
  • Do you feel you are compensated fairly in relation to your peers?
  • Do you feel your compensation is competitive?

4. Do you feel that you have clear goals, and know where you stand on progress toward those goals?

Employees tend to be more engaged when they know what’s expected of them, and where they stand in relation to their goals. It’s a best practice to set early goals during the employee onboarding process, and discuss progress during regular manager one-on-ones.

If your company isn’t doing well in this area, try following up via a Pulse survey to ask:

  • Did you and your manager set goals during your employee onboarding period?
  • Do you meet regularly with your manager to discuss your progress toward goals?
  • Do you and your manager set new goals as you achieve older ones?
  • Do you feel you’re working toward the next step in your career?

5. Are you happy with the amount of recognition you receive from your manager? 

Only 45 percent of employees are satisfied with the amount of recognition they receive, and those who don’t feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit within a year. 

Employees say the most memorable recognition comes from their manager (28 percent), followed by a high-level leader (24 percent), their manager's manager (12 percent), a customer (10 percent), and peers (9 percent).

If you need some work in this area, find out where you stand and how you might improve your employee recognition program:

  • How often are you recognized at work?
  • Who usually recognizes your efforts at work?
  • Who would you like to receive more recognition from (i.e. your manager, peers, company leadership, customers)?
  • How do you like to be recognized for your efforts (i.e. public recognition, private recognition, thank you note, small gift, monetary reward]?

6. Do you have a good relationship with your manager?

There’s a 70 percent variance in employee engagement caused by managers, and one in two employees have left their job to get away from their manager. 

A strong employee-manager relationship is a crucial component of the employee experience—and retention. 

You can learn more about this important dynamic by asking follow-up survey questions like:

  • How would you describe your relationship with your manager? 
  • Do you trust your manager?
  • Does your manager involve you in setting goals, tracking progress, and creating your development plan?
  • Do you feel your manager treats you fairly?
  • Do you feel supported by your manager?

7. Have you ever been discriminated against, harassed, or bullied at work? 

Almost half (45 percent) of U.S. workers have experienced some form of discrimination or harassment in the past 12 months. 

Fourteen percent of U.S. workers have been bullied at work, and managers were the biggest culprit. Fifty-seven percent of people who were bullied at work said they were bullied by their manager. Another 33 percent said they were bullied by peers, and 32 percent by company leadership. Further, 66 percent of workers would pursue a new job because of bullying.

If this is an issue in your workplace, find out more by asking:

  • Have you ever felt discriminated against because of your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, or any other reason? 
  • If yes, was it by a manager, peer, company leader, customer, or other?
  • Have you been a victim of workplace harassment?
  • If yes, was it by a manager, peer, company leader, customer, or other?
  • Have you ever experienced bullying in the workplace? 
  • If yes, was it by a manager, peer, company leader, customer, or other?

8. If you were to accept a job opportunity at another company, what would the main reason be?

Multiple choice options might include: no career progression, noncompetitive compensation, poor team dynamics, poor manager relationship, lack of diversity and inclusion, lack of recognition, poor communication, other. Include options you frequently hear during exit surveys, and in the “other” field. You may also ask your employees to rank up to three reasons, as there probably isn’t a single factor for such an important decision.

This question can give you important insights around where to focus your efforts. 

9. What do you like most about working here?

Leave this question open-ended to allow your employees to share the best parts of their jobs. This can give you a sense of which People Ops programs are making an impact on the employee experience so you can continue them—or expand them.

10. What do you like least about working here?

Leave this question open-ended to allow your employees to share constructive feedback. Look for patterns so you can focus on making strategic improvements to your employee experience. 

It could be interesting to see if there are any disparities between teams. For instance, if one team likes the upbeat office environment, but another finds it distracting to their work. If you see higher turnover for the latter team, perhaps some office updates or remote work options are in order to accommodate different working styles.

11. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

An open-ended question at the end is a great way to capture feedback that you didn’t directly ask in your employee survey, or to allow employees to expand on important points.

Final thoughts on employee survey questions

Each company has a unique culture, team dynamics, and office environment—and employee survey questions should vary to accommodate those differences. For instance, a company with a dedication to workplace diversity should ask more questions around inclusion, company culture, and pay equity. A nonprofit may ask about alignment with the company mission instead of compensation. 

There’s a lot of room for creativity with employee survey questions, but they should be well thought out. You need to collect useful feedback without creating a tedious survey that employees abandon before it’s complete. It’s also important that you’re ready to implement changes that are a direct result of employee feedback. This is the best way to avoid survey burnout so you can continue to gather important feedback, improve your employee experience, and boost retention.


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