The different types of employee surveys

Microsoft, a $1 trillion market cap, approximately 163,000 employees and ever evolving business model. It all sounds like a unicorn success story. However, in 2019 VP of computing devices, Brett Ostrum, noticed they had a growing problem – employee morale

Ostrum and HR struggled to diagnose the issues until eventually, with the right survey designs, they uncovered the catalysts. Some employees were spending 27 hours a week in meetings of up to 20 people. When not in meetings they were isolated and never truly had the chance to feel heard and the long meetings meant longer hours. Those who moved laterally in the company were much happier but internal policies made this very difficult to do. 

Job satisfaction was on the decline so sweeping alterations were needed. The following were just some of the resulting changes made possible by successful surveys:

  • All unnecessary meetings were eliminated
  • Employees now block out time midweek to be productive rather than weekends or evenings
  • Lateral movement obstacles were lifted

Morale and productivity shot up and absenteeism and turnover dwindled. Fortunately almost every job has the right tool and depending on your needs from employees, there are 3 main categories under which employee surveys fall – Employee Engagement, Employee Experience and Employee Effectiveness. 

  1. Employee Engagement Surveys

Engagement is currently the hottest topic in the world of human resources. Companies like Google famously pour millions into ensuring a positive workplace culture with the hope of augmenting employee engagement. 

What is employee engagement?

In simple terms, employee engagement is the level of connection employees have with the company they work for. How motivated and enthusiastic your team are, how willing they are to go the extra mile in pursuit of company aims and how committed they are to staying long term. On a deeper level, engagement reflects how employees feel their personal career aspirations are satisfied by their current employment opportunity

Why conduct an engagement survey?

Engagement surveys allow leadership to take a real time check on how individual or full company teams feel their needs are met. Commitment, morale, job satisfaction, psychological safety, skills optimization, sense of purpose and feeling heard are all potential areas of exploration. Engagement surveys are quite often where unrest and discontent are diagnosed allowing for positive action to improve workplace wellness and productivity. 

What are the Different Types of Engagement Survey?

Pulse Survey

Every day, when Amazon employees arrive at work and switch on their computers, they are met with one or two question surveys to take a quick check on how they are, what they think about management, meeting lengths or feedback loops. This type of consistent check-in is known as a pulse survey

While daily surveys are uncommon, pulse surveys take a screenshot in time of how engaged employees are feeling a few times a year and may be limited to individual departments or full work teams. They often show trends of when employee morale and engagement dips or begins to decline allowing for pinpointing of potential issues.

Annual Surveys

Annual surveys are likely the most familiar and popular of any employee survey. Typically conducted company-wide, annual surveys look at the year in full and how overall rates of job satisfaction improved or declined. Most companies will investigate the results under the scope of developing company culture and positively or negatively impacting factors on employee wellness with regard to company performance. 

Gallup Q12 Survey

Gallup are considered to be the premiere employment analytics firm in the world. They lead engagement with their patented Q12 survey which was based on a study involving 2.7 million people. Conducting the Q12 survey investigates engagement based on 12 facets of the employee experience including: 

  1. Employment expectations 
  2. Support
  3. Opportunities 
  4. Recognition 
  5. Sense of belonging 
  6. Developmental encouragement
  7. Feeling heard
  8. Sense of purpose
  9. Team commitment to quality
  10. Friendships 
  11. Progression 
  12. Growth opportunities

2) Employee Experience Surveys

Experience surveys explore a particular area of the employment lifecycle in order to enhance hiring processes or find out reasons for employee turnover. While they are less common than engagement, they have the potential to vastly improve recruitment and retention of staff. 

What are the Different Types of Employee Experience Surveys?

Employee Exit Survey

Exit interviews can have a tendency to feel a little staged and awkward especially if the associate is departing out of displeasure with the employer. Exit surveys allow for information gathering with less interpersonal tension and can provide invaluable feedback.

Primarily they focus on the experience working for the company, reasons for departing the role and where they might be going. Intuitive exit surveys have the ability to understand metrics affecting loyalty, engagement, employee churn and job satisfaction and avoid regrettable job losses. The eNPS (Net Promoter Score), while applicable to each type of survey, is especially useful in exit surveys as it inquires how likely a former employee is to recommend the company to others as a place to work. 

Onboarding Survey

Up to 20% of new hires leave their roles in the first 45 days for a plethora of reasons including poor onboarding processes, confusing orientations, scope creep and more. 

Onboarding surveys give the new hire an opportunity to feel heard and valued right from the beginning. Surveying a new employee is more likely to retrieve honest answers as it is less intensive. Furthermore, an onboarding survey shows how satisfied the employee was with the process, what could improve and what was frustrating. In turn, this allows the employer to boost that particular employees onboarding while also eradicating disharmony for future applicants. 

Pre-Hire Survey

Candidates applying for different roles are on the receiving end of your marketing efforts intended to fill various positions. Often when the pool of applicants is slim, it is due to using the wrong channels, wording or platforms to reach your audience. By surveying candidates pre-hire, employers can see what language works, what attracts people to your company and how to develop a targeted hiring campaign. 

3) Employee Effectiveness Survey

Employee effectiveness surveys allow employees, leadership and employers to gather insights through the eyes of the people being surveyed. Occasionally they can diagnose incongruence within teams or between employees and management allowing for a process of arbitration and healing. Most often they are used to enhance processes, set goals and improve cohesive unity.

What are the Different Types of Employee Effectiveness Surveys?

Management Feedback Survey

Perhaps obvious but a management effectiveness or feedback survey will pursue the opinions and feedback of employees on their managerial figures. Sometimes this has the potential to create conflict but if done carefully, it actually creates opportunities for growth and collaborative problem solving. Employees are allowed to express thoughts, ideas and concerns for leadership teams to consider and act upon. 

Leadership and management get an insight into the needs and experiences of the employee base paving the way for culture shifts and further training. 

Employee Development Surveys

Microsoft leveraged their results to reimagine the whole employee experience introducing frictionless devices and equipment for remote teams, digitally assisted work days and empowered employee journeys. 

Employee development surveys give employees the opportunity to express their needs as part of their greater view of career success. This extends to accepting areas of skill deficiency, further training requirements and personal development in the long run. 

Employee and Team Effectiveness Surveys

Employee effectiveness surveys require considerable care so as not to alienate or upset any team members. Effectiveness surveys typically procure honest responses regarding proficiency. They are not used as a judgement tool but as an opportunity to identify areas of potential professional development and where the employee or team currently excels.


Surveying employees is far from a new trend but still remains vastly underutilised in diagnosing internal issues and exposing new opportunities. Most of the biggest brands on the planet have employed a carefully thought out survey as part of their process to solve company problems.

Survey uses go beyond problem solving and actually permeate deep into the unity and engagement of the workforce. By soliciting feedback from the team, employers get a fair and honest insight into the internal processes from each stakeholders standpoint while employees get to have their voices heard.

Team surveys can be carefully crafted to improve company culture, hiring processes, reduce employee turnover, boost productivity and so much more and all by simply harnessing the knowledge of your greatest asset, your employees.

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