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Employee Satisfaction Surveys: What They Are and Why They’re Important for Your Business

Businesses spend a great deal of resources on evaluating employee performance, trying to figure out what workers can do to perform better. It’s a way of asking employees, “How can you help our business succeed?” But what employers are appreciating more and more is the need to turn that question around and instead ask, “What can we do to make you happier?” It’s a strategy designed to boost employee engagement, which can lead to increased productivity. And one of the best ways to measure employee happiness is with well designed questionnaires or surveys. Employee satisfaction surveys measure workers’ feelings of contentment and empowerment. They ask questions about how employees feel about company culture and recognition by superiors. Surveys can be accessed via an internal online link and are usually anonymous so that workers feel uninhibited expressing their views.


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Benefits of a happy workforce

Evaluating the needs and desires of workers is critical to boosting employee engagement and productivity. According to a study by University of Warwick in Coventry, England, happy employees were 12 percent more productive than unhappy employees on average and that productivity stretched as high as 20 percent above a control group. Organizations that can crack the happiness code can actually gain a competitive edge. As it turns out, a majority of Canadians are not engaged at work, according to a 2016 poll. At the same time, employers that fail to improve workplace satisfaction can suffer from reduced productivity, high turnover, low morale, reduced ability to recruit good talent and negative interactions between employees and staff and customers.


What to measure in an employee satisfaction survey

Employee satisfaction surveys vary from company to company, depending on their size and type of business. But overall, they should measure worker happiness and feelings of empowerment, as well as attitudes toward:


    • Getting work done.


    • Communication and instruction


    • Support of employees


    • Distribution of workload


    • Appreciation and recognition by management


    • Company culture


    • Company’s mission


    • Working with team members


  • Opportunity for advancement


Offering anonymous surveys helps to generate honest responses, but companies can choose methods that are most suitable for their workforce. For example, managers can verbally ask questions of employees in small groups or conduct exit interviews of departing workers.


Designing Effective Employee Satisfaction Survey Questions

Remember that surveys are designed to elicit honest, genuine responses. Therefore, the questions should be straightforward and easy to understand. Companies should create questions that are open-ended, rather than appearing to elicit a particular response. The tone of the questions should be conversational and straightforward, so avoid corporate jargon. Answer choices should usually offer an option that reflects no emotion (“it doesn’t matter to me”), no knowledge (“I am not familiar with this topic”), or no certainty (“I’m not sure”). There are some important areas that just about every survey should cover. Answers may be given as a combination of multiple choice and narrative writing.

Here are some sample questions that aim to measure employees’ feelings about their overall job satisfaction; a company’s mission and culture; workers’ passion for performing well; being appreciated and supported by management; and working with other employees.


Overall job satisfaction On a scale of one to five, how would you rate how you feel about your job overall? Please explain your answer.
Company’s mission How do you feel about the company’s vision and mission? Would you say that it’s extremely important, important, neither important nor unimportant, unimportant or extremely unimportant?
Company culture Would you describe the company’s culture as one that is welcoming to all people regardless of their backgrounds? (Answers can be ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘not sure’). Please explain your answer.
Passion for quality work What best describes your feelings about doing your job well, generally speaking? Passionate, good, so-so, bad, disgusted.
Being recognised/appreciated by management When I perform a task to the best of my ability, my manager gives me supportive and helpful feedback as much as I need; it’s sometimes helpful but I could use more support; I need a lot more support than I am getting.
Feeling informed and supported For most of my tasks, I feel that I receive all the information I need to perform my job well ____ percent of the time.
Working with other employees I feel most/nearly all/some/almost none/none of my co-workers communicate with me in a respectful way.


Follow-up is critical

Once survey data is collected and tabulated, companies have valuable information on what they’re doing well and what needs to change to boost workplace satisfaction. The worst thing to do with that data is nothing. Administering these surveys is not simply an exercise to allow employees to feel “heard.” There must be appropriate and timely follow-up so that workers believe management cares about their needs. Companies that give workplace satisfaction surveys should be prepared to:


    • Be transparent. Report to workers company-wide results of the surveys.


    • Plan for meaningful change. In reviewing the data, identify patterns of disgruntledness and sensible requests for change that would benefit the company overall.


    • Involve employees in making changes. Designate employee committees that will give input as the company moves forward toward making changes.


  • Follow up with more surveys. Once changes are implemented, survey employees again about how they feel about them.


If companies give employees surveys with a sincere desire to evaluate workplace satisfaction and determine what changes will make employees happier, employers can be rewarded with increased engagement and productivity. Furthermore, as trust grows, employees are likely to continue to provide businesses with honest input that can lead to a mutually beneficial relationship.


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