The best staff survey questions

Staff surveys are a brilliant way to gather feedback but when the NHS is the biggest employer in Europe employing over 1.3 million staff, that is a lot of opinions, a lot of data and a lot of questions to get right!

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Before we highlight some of the strongest questions to include in your employee surveys, let’s cover some of the essentials first. 

The 15 dos and don’ts of staff surveys 

Staff surveys are a hugely valuable method of gathering information from employees but there are many things to consider for you to maximise what you achieve. 

1. DO have a clear goal for your survey 

Ensure you know exactly what you want the survey to achieve. Do you want to measure employee engagement? Do you want to gather opinions on a new internal comms initiative? Do you want to better understand learning and development requirements? Whatever your reason, keep it in mind throughout your survey creation ensuring every question relates to the outcome you want to achieve. This will keep it focused and provide higher quality results. 

2. DO NOT send a survey without the relevant leadership team agreeing to its value, goals and output 

The leaders of whichever teams you are sending the staff survey to need to understand its purpose, benefit and outcome to ensure they promote it effectively to their teams. Any doubt or uncertainty will reduce the number of people that take part and potentially influence how they answer the questions. 

3. DO have a clear understanding of what the employee survey results will contribute to 

Will the output from the survey be the conclusion for a decision? Will it contribute to other opinions and/or research? While having a goal is a starting point you also need to be clear as to how the survey will contribute to that goal. This also needs to be known and agreed upon by the relevant managers and leaders. Any confusion or disagreement will hamper the effectiveness of the results. 

4. DO NOT send a survey without your staff knowing exactly what it is for 

To maximise survey participation you need to explain why your staff should take time to fill in the survey. This is your time to “sell” the survey. Include your goal, how the results will be used and expected timescales for the results to be actioned. 

5. DO stick to one purpose 

So often staff surveys end up covering multiple goals. As a result, they either become very long or don’t ask sufficient questions to get a conclusive result. By having a single goal for every survey you and your employees will have a much clearer picture of what its purpose is. 

6. DO NOT exclude staff from taking part in the survey 

While you may not intentionally exclude people from answering the survey if they do not have direct access to the survey their opportunity will be limited. Either find a survey tool that can be sent and filled in via a mobile device or hold sessions in which those employees can have access to the survey. Without this inclusive approach, your results will never be accurate. 

7. DO be consistent 

If your staff survey will be repeated set specific times for the survey. We are naturally creatures of habit so this familiarity will help with completion rates. If relevant, also include any influence or change that has happened as a result of the previous survey. The reiteration of how the results were used will further build confidence that their time spent filling in the survey will be time worth spent. 

8. DO NOT overcomplicate your survey 

Keep your questions to the point. Unnecessary or confusing words in a question will increase the effort required to complete the survey. Avoid using any jargon and keep your wording as simple as possible. Make sure there are no double negatives and ensure every question only asks for one thing. 

9. DO mix your questions up 

Ensure your questions are varied enough to keep your staff interested. While you may want to ask five questions to really drill into what they think about one thing, your employees are likely to lose interest. Also, use a variety of answer choices such as multiple choice, radio buttons and sliding scales. This encourages the recipient to keep focused. 

10. DO NOT include too many open-ended questions 

While these are useful to give staff an opportunity to expand on a specific point, they also require more effort to answer. As such, many people are likely to skip the question or abandon the survey. They also make it more difficult when analysing the results of the survey. Due to the manual element of needing to review each answer, open-ended answers can become overlooked. 

11. DO keep your staff survey questions neutral 

Perhaps one of the hardest things to achieve because you are naturally thinking about how the responses will be used. But effective surveys ensure that every question is neutral. Leading questions that demonstrate opinion will influence the results. People will answer the question how they think it should be answered rather than giving their true opinion. For example, instead of asking “How would you rate the success of our management team?” ask “How would you rate the performance of our management team?” 

12. DO NOT miss out answers in your multiple-choice questions 

If using multiple choice take a step back from the question and ensure you include all potential answers. Think of it on a scale from worst to best and include a mid-way response that enables the employee to be neutral. If it isn’t clear cut include a ‘none of the above’ or ‘other’ option. As a survey participant there is nothing more frustrating than not having the option to select the answer you have in mind. 

13. DO ensure you and/or colleagues have the time to analyse the results 

Recent research found that only 28% of those responsible for sending employee surveys are completely satisfied with how the survey results are used. Typically, this is often due to a lack of resources or time to fully delve into the results. It is also caused by a lack of buy in from leaders in the business who don’t listen to the insight gained from the survey. Therefore, ensure you have the time to tease out every bit of insight from your survey and ensure point 2 is fully completed before you embark on the survey. 

14. DO not forget to communicate the results of the survey and the actions that will follow 

The moment staff think survey results aren’t used or listened to is the moment your employee survey participation rate plummets. Once you have analysed the results ensure your share these with your staff and include the outcome of the results. What will happen next? What will change? What are the timescales? 

15. DO consider the user experience 

A survey that is clunky to complete or visually unappealing will increase abandon rates. You need to make it as easy and as pleasant an experience as possible. The right employee survey tool should do a lot of this for you but always take a moment to fill the survey in as an employee to ensure it engages you and flows naturally. 

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The best staff survey questions

Staff surveys can cover a vast array of topics from learning and development to cultural alignment. To help you get the most out of your staff survey we have selected questions for the five most common types of staff surveys; professional development surveys, staff satisfaction surveys, employee wellbeing surveys, employee engagement surveys and company culture surveys. All of the questions listed have been chosen because of the quality of the output they generate.

For each closed-ended question consider your pre-defined answer set. Some may benefit from multiple choice answers while others may be better suited to a scale. This consideration combined with the dos and don’ts listed above will help ensure you gather highly valuable insight from your staff.

Questions for professional development staff surveys

Whether you want to understand what your staff need and expect to progress their careers with you, or you want to assess how effective your learning and development programmes are, these questions will help you get the answers.

  • Do you feel you have the knowledge and support necessary to successfully do your job?
  • Are your tasks and responsibilities clearly defined and achievable?
  • Does our organisation support you in your career progression?
  • On a daily basis, how challenged are you at work?
  • Can you visualise a career path at [organisation]?
  • How invested is your line manager in your success?
  • Do you see yourself working here in two years?
  • How well does your manager support your career development?
  • Do you utilise all of your strengths in your role?
  • What would you change about our learning and development programme?

Questions for staff satisfaction surveys

These are the questions to ask if you want to gauge overall staff satisfaction. They will collate the views, attitudes and perceptions of your staff. A staff satisfaction survey is often used if you suspect an element of dissatisfaction because the results can help to define what that dissatisfaction is.

  • How satisfied are you with your job requirements and targets?
  • Does your line manager value your opinion?
  • If you could, what’s the one thing that you would change about your job?
  • When was the last time your manager recognised your achievements at work?
  • How satisfied are you with your current compensation and benefits?
  • Do you feel your role impacts the future success of the NHS?
  • Do deadlines and workloads regularly cause you stress?
  • How effective do you think our leadership the management team is?
  • Are you confident the right decisions are made by our leadership team? 
  • Hypothetically, if you were to quit tomorrow, what would your reason be?
  • If you were given the chance, would you reapply for your current job?
  • Do you look forward to starting work each morning?

Questions for staff wellbeing surveys

The following questions will help you understand the level of wellbeing  whilst also identifying if there are any opportunities to improve your wellbeing initiatives.

  • How would you rate your work-life balance?
  • How valued do you feel at work?
  • Do you have all the tools and equipment you need to fulfil your role adequately?
  • How comfortable do you feel providing feedback to your manager?
  • Does your physical workspace fulfil your needs?
  • How connected do you feel with your colleagues?
  • When something unexpected comes up in your work, do you usually know who to ask for help?
  • Do you believe you’ll be able to reach your full potential here?
  • Do you feel comfortable and relaxed at work?
  • How could your work environment be improved?

Questions for staff engagement surveys

These questions will help you understand employee engagement by delving into the levels of commitment and drive each employee has for the work they do at your organisation.

  • How transparent is our company when communicating updates?
  • Are you proud to work for the NHS?
  • How inspired are you by our vision and values?
  • How likely are you to recommend the NHS as a good place to work?
  • Do you look forward to coming to work each morning?
  • How empowered do you feel at work?
  • How can we improve your engagement at work?
  • Do you believe we are achieving our goals?
  • Are we a better organisation now than we were six months ago?
  • Within your role, do you believe you have a positive impact on the NHS?

Questions for culture surveys

Is the way that your staff view their work environment aligned with your company culture vision? These questions will find out by helping you measure the effectiveness of your corporate values.

  • How comfortable do you feel contributing ideas and opinions at work?
  • Without looking them up, can you recite our values?
  • How comfortable do you feel asking for help?
  • What three words would you use to describe our culture?
  • Do you believe we are achieving our company values?
  • Does the NHS adequately addresses discrimination and inequality?
  • Do you think the NHS is socially responsible?
  • To what extent do colleagues respect one another?
  • How well does the management team listen to your feedback?
  • What can we do to improve the culture?
  • Do you think the results of this survey will positively impact the future of the NHS?
  • In your opinion, how does the NHS define success?

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Rachel Stidworthy

Marketing Manager

With over 15 years’ experience in communications I have seen first-hand the difference strong internal communications can make. I am passionate about helping organisations reap the rewards of an engaged workforce and feel privileged to work for an organisation that has this same passion. We can achieve more when we work together towards the same goals. 

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