How to conduct an employee experience survey to source top talent

By Michael Higashi
Employee experience survey - woman in red tank top writing survey responses in notebook
In today’s competitive job market, employee experience surveys are an important tool for attracting and retaining top talent. Why? Because in a world of social media, internet job sites, and crowd-sourced company ratings, employee experience (EX) is no longer an internal matter––and potential new hires are scrutinizing EX as an essential part of your offer. 

Like it or not, employee opinions of your company culture are on public display and they matter.

If your EX and general workplace culture earn high ratings, that’s great news. But if there are trouble spots showing average ratings (or worse), it will give top talent pause. And this is true even if your job posting is amazing. In fact, some 55% of workers say that negative reviews stop them from applying for a job entirely. They won’t even give you a chance to provide perspective.

Compounding companies’ hiring and retention struggles, top talent is increasingly selective, because it can afford to be. McKinsey & Company shares that top candidates are 50% to 800% more effective than average employees, and this is the kind of juice that every company craves. 

To attract these next-level producers, your brand needs to be equally exceptional, starting with great reviews that read like fire, with a tone that’s believable, relatable and earned. It’s a tall order. And it’s something that HR professionals recognize as crucial, while knowing EX impact is still somewhat undervalued by company leadership.

Today’s human resources professionals have a tremendous challenge, with huge potential to significantly impact any brand’s bottom line by boosting EX from the inside. And it all starts with employee experience surveys.

Differentiating between EX surveys vs. employee engagement surveys

What does an ‘employee experience survey’ really mean—both the definition and its applicability to a business—and how does that differ from an employee engagement survey? These terms are often used interchangeably and shouldn’t be. 

An EX survey measures employee experience at each touchpoint in the employee lifecycle—from hiring and onboarding to performance reviews, requesting vacation time, and all of the day-to-day company interactions. 

Whereas an employee engagement survey seeks to capture and measure how employees feel about their jobs on a deeper level. 

Employee engagement survey questions measure how much employees care about the success of the company and how aligned they are with the company’s mission or core values. A positive employee experience can support engagement, and a negative experience can undermine engagement, but the two are not equivalent. 

Start by identifying EX areas that need to be addressed and work to improve each one. Employee experience needs to be improved before engagement can increase. Once employee feedback shows a positive experience at every stage of the employee lifecycle, then shift your focus to employee engagement.

A few general employee experience survey questions to ask:

  • Are current systems friendly and welcoming, or cold and impersonal? 
  • Is the intention of each system clear, and does it incentivize participation in any way?
  • Is information gathering easy to complete or unnecessarily difficult? 
  • Are you finding information you’d expect and want to find right now?

The successful execution of transmitting relevant, helpful information at these touchpoints is critical, as the way employees experience these milestones will determine your ratings as an employer. The part that moves us beyond experience to engagement hinges on how employees describe their experiences as they progress through these stages because this feedback will undoubtedly find its way into your public company reviews.

Let’s see how to maximize your employee experience surveys to capture the intel you need to inspire employee engagement by generating positive emotions and goodwill at each phase in the employee life cycle.

How to use employee experience surveys to maximize engagement

Measuring various aspects of the employee experience can encompass a wide range of tactics. The surveys can be broad, spanning several employee touchpoints, or they might drill into one specific touchpoint in the employee lifecycle.

For example, you might start with a survey that measures one aspect of EX, like onboarding. More specifically, you may want to focus on efficiency around the following identified challenge areas – and plan to revisit each at various touch points throughout the life cycle:

  • Did the overarching onboarding process meet your needs? Was it straightforward, challenging, frustrating? What words would you use to describe it?
  • How long did onboarding take? Did the time feel sufficient, overdone, or incomplete? Detail ways it works and ways it does not. What would you do differently?
  • Were meetings with new team members organized and efficient? Did they help clarify your role, welcome you, and energize you around your place in the team? Did these meetings generate new questions and were these questions answered?
  • How efficient is the tech stack in helping you understand your job? Have you been trained on required software and applications and understand when and why to use each? Do any feel unnecessary or redundant? Do you have others to suggest we consider using in addition or instead?

Once you’ve identified areas that need to improve, your next employee experience survey could address one of those in even more depth to both show that you’re listening and to affect real change. 

What employee experience surveys shouldn’t be, though, are monstrous questionnaires that attempt to catalog every part of the employee experience in detail. Either go wide or drill into specifics. Attempting too much at once has the exact opposite effect and creates a poor employee experience all on its own!

Key questions for employee experience surveys

The right questions for an employee experience survey can be tricky to nail down, as bias can be easily introduced unintentionally depending on how a question is worded.

Think carefully about what you want to know and what you’re seeking to change as you begin to formulate your questions. These metrics and benchmarks should act as guideposts in your survey creation. 

And wherever your focus lands in the employee life cycle (where you can maintain a clear focus), be sure to return to the structure below to craft employee satisfaction questions that elicit the most useful answers. 

To summarize, you’ll want a variety of clear questions that objectively present a scenario and request unbiased responses. This is easier said than done.

Rating ease of use

Questions about the difficulty of common tasks can prove instructive. When completing onboarding paperwork or communicating with team members, there should be few, if any, barriers overcomplicating these functions. 

Employees often feel they’re the only ones experiencing challenges or may be hesitant to critique legacy systems used to perform day-to-day functions. Capturing as much information as you can around ease of use issues your employees might encounter can reveal previously undiscovered ways to significantly, and sometimes very simply, enhance EX. 

A scale from 1 to 5 asking targeted questions provides quantitative data against which you can measure improvement over time!

Satisfaction ratings

Employee satisfaction questions target how employees feel about a given experience. They seek to measure general job satisfaction across a broad swath of essential areas. Companies can have employees rate organizational culture, work-life balance, and career development opportunities, among other important areas.

These ratings can be numerical or open-ended. Each reveals different pieces that may be missing from your employee experience puzzle.

Scaling feelings, from 1 to 10

Scaled questions can help identify disconnects between employee perception and business outcomes. These questions help quantify employee morale and career path potential and how each changes with time. 

Respondents can rate the company as an employer on a variety of carefully worded questions, designed to approach the same question from a variety of different avenues. The challenge to overcome in the design of these questions (and with any questions, in fact) is the tendency for creator or respondent bias to muddy the survey waters. 

It’s also important to share that ratings will remain anonymous, as employees will be reluctant to share honest feedback otherwise, skewing your results.

How likely are you to …

Having yes or no, or likely or unlikely questions offers quick bites of intel about your brand as an employer. For example, you can ask how likely employees are to

  • Recommend the company as an employer to others.
  • Remain with the company for another six months.
  • Remain with the company for another two years.
  • Suggest new ideas or processes to management.
  • Share personal successes or struggles with peers.
  • Discuss how to overcome a competitive advantage you unexpectedly discovered. 

While they might or might not predict actual behavior, the questions do offer a useful picture of the current state of your EX and how connected, inspired, and integral to the team they feel.

Open-ended questions

The answers to open-ended questions aren’t quantifiable, but they can offer surprising insight. Use these questions as an opportunity to expand your understanding of not only your team but of your offering, as many customer-facing employees are bursting with incredible insight but lack an outlet. 

Create a space for ideas, suggestions, and concerns to flow freely, and use employee experience surveys as the conduit to capture these items, at least initially. And be prepared to address their answers in some fashion, as the undertaking is for naught without action.

Plan for action and continuous improvement

Following up on what you learn in your surveys is critical. If you don’t act on the results, no one will take your surveys seriously and they’ll stop putting effort into answering them. This will result in your lackluster EX further deteriorating––likely at a faster pace, as you’ve now added insult to injury.

If you’re serious about improving EX, don’t settle for annual surveys. Good employee experience management requires regular check-ins as part of a cycle of continuous improvement. 

Creating and maintaining an authentic and transparent feedback loop shows employees that you’re committed to their well-being––and that it is integral to the company’s overall success. 

Even if you’re just beginning your investment in EX as essential, the dedication you show in your initial efforts has the power to improve goodwill and lower employee turnover.

How Simpplr intranet can help

Most companies know that understanding EX is essential for continued success, as employee retention skyrockets when they know that the company cares. 

So, why is this such a gray area at many organizations? Because employee experience is challenging to measure, so those struggling with EX typically adopt a sporadic approach and hope for the best. They relegate a gargantuan task to an overburdened HR team, resulting in correspondingly patchwork results.

Companies that win the EX game partner with a platform like Simpplr. We combine a modern intranet with AI-backed intelligence that improves EX in onboarding, communications, HR interactions, job productivity, and more. There’s also in-the-moment feedback to stay ahead of trouble spots, course-correct, and celebrate with unprecedented finesse.

If you’d like to revolutionize your EX initiatives, reach out for a Simpplr demo of our real-time employee experience platform and explore the possibilities!

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