The 45 Questions Your Employee Engagement Survey Needs

Employee engagement surveys are about more than employee satisfaction. Our research has identified 14 drivers of employee engagement, each supported with a dedicated question set. Read on to learn more.

This article was updated to reflect new information on August 1, 2022.

If your organization is considering introducing a regular employee engagement survey, it likely already understands the correlation between high engagement and business success. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer Spring Update showed that 40% of the 33,000 people surveyed ranked employees as the most important ingredient to long-term company success, compared to the 37% who said customers. More than ever, employee engagement, company reputation, and success are directly linked.

That’s why the way your company measures employee engagement is crucially important. 

The quality of your data will depend heavily on the questions you ask, as well as how each engagement survey is delivered. Without a robust methodology, you increase the likelihood of your results being unreliable and difficult to translate into meaningful action, and without automated and continuous employee engagement surveys, you risk adding hours of unnecessary labor for your human resources (HR) team. Then, without a means of benchmarking your employee engagement survey data against your competitors and the wider industry, marking your progress and success as a company can be difficult. 

Below are the 45 core questions used in the Workday Peakon Employee Voice platform to measure overall employee sentiment—including employee engagement—followed by an explanation of why we use them. By being transparent about the methodology at the backbone of our engagement survey software, we aim to provide a strong educational resource to help explain how to measure employee engagement while also providing further insights into the psychological studies and research behind our engagement platform. 

What Is Employee Engagement?

First, it’s important to establish what we mean by “employee engagement.” Measuring employee engagement without providing a shared definition of engagement can lead to confusion among employees and poor-quality feedback. Before gathering data, you should always explain to employees what employee engagement is and why they’re being sent a questionnaire.

At Workday, we define employee engagement as the extent to which employees feel a connection with their company and its culture. That covers everything from how often they see their work reflected in key results, how much help they receive from colleagues on major projects, and the opportunities they have to provide feedback on wider business practices and strategy. Engaged employees will consistently go above and beyond, not out of obligation but because they truly believe that the success of the wider organization mirrors their own. In turn, that boost in creativity and commitment translates into better customer experiences.

40% of the 33,000 people surveyed ranked employees as the most important ingredient to long-term company success, compared to the 34% who said customers.

But engagement isn’t just about work and performance. It also covers basic requirements, such as whether an employee has the tools and resources necessary to complete their job, whether they see themselves reflected in the company’s diversity efforts, and even whether they have friends within the office. If you’re looking for a more detailed definition of employee engagement and how it’s different from employee experience, then see our article: “What Is Employee Engagement?”

Employee Satisfaction Survey vs. Employee Engagement Survey

It’s further important that we define the distinction between employee engagement surveys and employee satisfaction surveys, since the two are often used interchangeably. While there is a conceptual overlap between the two, employee satisfaction is best seen as the emotional component of employee engagement. 

  • An employee satisfaction survey only gathers feedback around one element of engagement—how satisfied or content your employees are. While it functions as a good proxy measure for engagement, it does not measure the full scope of an employee’s experience, including the level of long-term dedication they feel toward your business or their belief in overall company goals.

  • An employee engagement survey provides a full understanding of your organizational climate. It’s possible to be satisfied in a job without necessarily feeling particularly engaged, such as when an employee’s workload is low or they have good social connections. Conversely, an engaged employee feels completely connected to their work, their colleagues, and the wider business.

How Employee Surveys Increase Employee Engagement 

The wider industry recognition that employee experience (EX) is of equal importance to customer experience (CX) has brought greater attention to employee engagement. But what’s the relationship between employee engagement surveys and engagement scores? And how does gathering feedback help increase employee engagement?

First and foremost, you can’t seek to improve what you can’t measure. Without accurate, regularly updated data and feedback from your employees that covers the whole employee life cycle, identifying potential problem areas is nigh on impossible. Increasing employee engagement requires gathering employee sentiment with a smart, real-time methodology. 

A tool such as Workday Peakon Employee Voice also provides additional support to managers. By enabling managers at every level of the business to have greater oversight on teams and their changing sentiments, you open up space for constructive feedback. More than that, thanks to the recommended actions Workday provides automatically, you can help your managers take meaningful steps toward change. 

When you collect employee feedback you also implicitly signal to your people that their voices matter. While there are several factors that influence employees’ feelings of self-worth at work—opportunities for career development, remuneration, and recognition chief among them—often what employees desire most is to be heard. Giving employees space to provide honest feedback, listening to that commentary, and then taking action is the only way to consistently help improve engagement.

How We Measure Employee Engagement at Workday

Asking your employees the right employee engagement survey questions is a good first step, but it’s important that the responses to those questions are measured accurately and reliably. There are several schools of thought on how best to measure employee engagement from those results. This is ours. 

Our employee engagement survey platform, Workday Peakon Employee Voice, sends out surveys at a regular cadence—typically either weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Our question algorithm calculates the correct number of questions to send out based on that cadence, rotating the questions an employee receives during each survey to ensure that the smallest number of questions are deployed to each employee at any one time, therefore reducing survey fatigue. If an employee scores particularly positively or negatively in one area, the algorithm will automatically add a related follow-up question to provide richer details.   

Each of those survey questions are answered on a scale of zero to 10, giving businesses the flexibility to either measure engagement and its drivers as a mean score out of 10 (to one decimal place), or to instead use the employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) scoring system. Many organizations like to use eNPS scoring as an alternative way of viewing data, especially if they use a similar methodology for customer satisfaction measurement. 

This allows responses to the “advocacy” question below to be divided into promoters (9-10), neutrals (7-8), and detractors (0-6) to gauge employee sentiments and behaviors around advocacy for the organization, which is a key component of engagement. 

Workday Peakon Employee Voice allows users to instantly switch back and forth between mean score and eNPS scoring for engagement (or any other survey questions) to gain an alternative viewpoint. A mixture of both of these scoring methods is often the most powerful. To survey employee engagement, we calculate a mean score based on an average of the four questions listed below. However, eNPS scoring is based solely on the first question. 

  • “Advocacy” outcome question: How likely is it you would recommend [company name] as a place to work?

  • “Loyalty” outcome question: How likely is it that you would stay with [company name] if you were offered the same job at another organization?

  • “Satisfaction” outcome question: Overall, how satisfied are you working for [company name]?

  • “Belief” outcome question: How likely is it that you would recommend [company name]’s products or services to friends and family?

Going Beyond Measuring Employee Engagement

Measuring employee sentiment isn’t as simple as asking employees how engaged they are at work. Our research shows that to survey employee sentiment properly, you have to provide your employees with a far more extensive series of questions—45 of them, in fact. 

The Workday question library used in our survey software includes the four previously mentioned questions to measure engagement—one of which (advocating for the organization as a place to work) can also be used to calculate eNPS—plus 14 driver questions and 27 subdriver questions. The rest of this article will break those questions down into topics, explaining the research and reasoning behind their usage.  

As you will see, each question prompts an employee to consider one facet of their working life and whether their feelings toward it are positive or negative. That way, the mean scores you gather are easily categorized and aggregated. However, in order for a more nuanced picture of employee sentiment it’s important to enable employees to provide written feedback.

In Workday Peakon Employee Voice, respondents can use the comment boxes provided to elaborate on the score they have given. These answers are always confidential. Not only can managers read and respond confidentially, but our natural language processing technology further enables instant comment analysis and automated translations in over 20 languages, dynamically creating focus topics based on your employees’ responses. In any instance, ensuring that your employees can provide further color to their responses—both positive and negative—is essential. 

How “Drivers” Drive Employee Engagement Surveys

When we discuss employee engagement, we do so under the wider umbrella of EX. Organizations have to consider how every aspect of that experience can impact engagement, from the shared company culture, to the educational resources available for training, to how HR teams collect data and feedback for their people analytics program.

A 2021 study by PwC found that 83% of employers thought the shift to remote work had been successful.

The following 41 employee engagement survey questions help companies to determine what is influencing their employee engagement. The nature of an “intelligent listening system” means that these questions appear at intervals, rather than being asked in one employee engagement survey.

The basis for these employee engagement questions are 14 psychological categories—including autonomy, reward, and growth—that represent employee sentiment across a range of different experiences, job and role characteristics, cultural factors, and motivators. These 14 categories have been shown to strongly correlate with employee engagement outcomes across a range of cultures and industries, and are hence termed “drivers” of engagement. Each driver has an overview question and most also include “subdrivers,” designed to unearth more granular feedback.

1) Survey questions to measure “accomplishment”: These questions measure the amount that each employee feels they achieve on a daily basis, enabling feedback around both accomplishment and challenge. Competence is one of three motivational needs alongside relatedness and autonomy, as defined in Deci, Olafsen, and Ryan’s self-determination theory

  • Driver question: Most days I feel a sense of accomplishment from what I do.
  • “Challenging” subdriver question: I have the opportunity to do challenging things at work.

2) Survey questions to measure “autonomy”: This part of the employee engagement survey concerns an employee’s ability to get their work completed on their own terms and without extensive oversight. Autonomy is core to many theories on motivation and engagement, including Mary Parker Follett’s organizational theory, and William Kahn’s employee engagement theory.

  • Driver question: I’m given enough freedom to decide how to do my work.
  • “Flexibility” subdriver question: I’m satisfied with the amount of flexibility I have in my work schedule.
  • “Remote work” subdriver question: I have the option to work remotely when I’d like to.

3) Survey questions to measure “environment”: This section of the employee survey concerns the impact of physical workplaces on engagement. A 2021 study by PwC found that 83% of employers thought the shift to remote work had been successful. Simultaneously, 87% of employees said the office was important for collaborating with team members and building relationships. As the way we collaborate in person continues to evolve, the questions below are only growing in pertinence. 

  • Driver question: My physical work environment contributes positively to my ability to do my job.
  • “Collaboration” subdriver question: I can easily find space away from my desk for conversations and collaboration with others.
  • “Informal” subdriver question: When I need a break, my workplace has spaces to chat and relax with others.
  • “Equipment” subdriver question: I have the materials and equipment I need to do my job well.

4) Survey questions to measure "Freedom of opinions”: These driver questions reveal the extent to which employees feel they are free to express their opinions without fear of retribution. The focus on freedom of opinions in our employee engagement survey stems from the intrinsic need for psychological safety.

  • Driver question: At work, my opinions seem to be valued.
  • “Manager” subdriver question: My manager cares about my opinions.
  • “Team” subdriver question: My co-workers welcome opinions different from their own. 

5) Survey questions to measure “goal setting”: Without a way for employees to understand their performance and what qualifies as a success, anxiety around how others perceive them can erode their capability for self-expression. These questions aim to establish how employees feel about the work they are given from their managers and what is expected of them.

  • Driver question: At work, I know what I’m expected to deliver.
  • “Alignment” subdriver question: I understand how my work supports the goals of my team.

6) Survey questions to measure “growth”: These questions relate to how employees perceive their level of opportunity in the workplace, both in terms of personal and career development. Growth features in almost every theory on motivation and engagement, and with good reason. Our “Employee Expectations Report 2022” found that 8% of employees’ comments in 2021 were related to growth. 

  • Driver question: I feel that I’m growing professionally.
  • “Career path” subdriver question: I see a path for me to advance my career in our organization.
  • “Learning” subdriver question: My job enables me to learn and develop new skills.
  • “Mentoring” subdriver question: Either my manager or a mentor encourages and supports my development.

7) Survey questions to measure “management support”: While all of the drivers in Workday’s employee surveys are heavily influenced by managers, management support focuses specifically on the quality of the relationship between employees and their direct managers. Rather than an opportunity for teams to critique their managers, this should be seen as a safe space for dialogue between the two.

  • Driver question: My manager provides me with the support I need to complete my work.
  • “Caring” subdriver question: My manager cares about me as a person.
  • “Openness” subdriver question: My manager communicates openly and honestly with me.

8) Survey questions to measure “meaningful work”: These questions focus on whether employees consider their work to be valuable—to themselves, to the company, and to the end customer. Meaningfulness was formally conceptualized in Kahn’s employee engagement theory as the feeling that one’s work was worthwhile, useful, and valuable.

  • Driver question: The work I do is meaningful to me.
  • “Fit” subdriver question: At work, I have the opportunity to use my strengths every day.
  • “Significance” subdriver question: I see how my work contributes to positive outcomes for customers or people I provide services to.

9) Survey questions to measure “organizational fit”: Organizational fit first came to prominence in the 1980s as part of person-environment fit theory (French, Caplan, and Harrison), wherein research showed that an individual not only influences their environment but is equally influenced by it. This part of the employee engagement survey focuses on the extent to which employees believe the culture and values of the organization match their own.

  • Driver question: [Company name]’s values provide a good fit with the things that I consider important in life.
  • “Support” subdriver question: [Company name] really cares about my mental wellbeing.
  • “Health” subdriver question: Working here, I feel that I can live a physically healthy lifestyle.
  • “Equality” subdriver question: People from all backgrounds are treated fairly at [company name].
  • “Response” subdriver question: If I experienced serious misconduct at work, I’m confident [company name] would take action to rectify the situation.

10) Survey questions to measure “peer relationships”: These questions establish the 10th driver of engagement: The health of employees’ relationships with others in the organization. That can cover everything from how an employee views their colleagues professionally to whether they feel that there are adequate social opportunities within the office. 

  • Driver question: I can count on my co-workers to help out when needed.
  • “Friends” subdriver question: I see [company name] as the kind of place where I could make friends.
  • “Quality” subdriver question: My co-workers are committed to doing quality work. 

11) Survey questions to measure “recognition”: This segment of the engagement survey reveals how strongly employees believe that their work is valued by the organization and that good performance will be recognized. Recognition is a strong component of both Deci, Olafsen, and Ryan’s self-determination theory and Hackman and Oldham’s job characteristics model

  • Driver question: If I do great work, I know that it will be recognized.
  • “Performance” subdriver question: I get enough feedback to understand if I’m doing my job well.

12) Survey questions to measure “reward”: These questions reveal how satisfied employees are with their total compensation. Equity theory states that employees are motivated when their inputs are matched by outcomes: pay, bonuses, benefits, and recognition from managers. Ensuring your staff feels that their performance is adequately compensated is essential. 

  • Driver question: I am fairly rewarded (e.g., pay, promotion, training) for my contributions to [company name].
  • “Process” subdriver question: The processes for determining pay in our organization seem fair and unbiased.
  • “Discussion” subdriver question: I can have well-informed and constructive conversations with my manager about pay.

13) Survey questions to measure “strategy”: The penultimate driver of the Workday employee engagement survey covers the degree to which employees understand and agree with an organization’s overall strategy. Without the proper tools and resources in place to promote positive workplace communication, it’s easy for strategy scores to decline. 

  • Driver question: The overall business goals and strategies set by senior leadership are taking [company name] in the right direction.
  • “Communication” subdriver question: Our organization does a good job of communicating the goals and strategies set by senior leadership.
  • “Mission” subdriver question: I’m inspired by the purpose and mission of our organization.

14) Survey questions to measure “workload”: The final question in our engagement survey (though these questions are asked in multiple different orders and time frames) examines whether employees feel the amount of work they’re responsible for is reasonable. Psychologists Maslach, Schaufeli, and Leiter (2001) cite engagement as the positive antithesis of employee burnout.

  • Driver question: The demands of my workload are manageable.

Custom and Open-Ended Employee Engagement Survey Questions

When reading the above questions, it can be tempting to envisage how you might tweak them to fit your specific circumstance. However, the major benefit of our question set is its universality.

Research from Gallup shows that businesses with engaged workers have 23% higher profit compared with business units with actively disengaged workers.

Our core employee engagement survey was created using robust research. Asking the questions as they were intended prevents individual bias from influencing an organization’s choice of questions. Furthermore, by asking the same questions as thousands of other global organizations, companies are able to accurately benchmark their results against their peers. 

Regardless, sometimes businesses need to adopt a more targeted or bespoke approach. At Workday Peakon Employee Voice, we’ve formulated a series of open-ended questions that organizations can send to selected employees, such as those in the crucial onboarding process. For example:

  • As someone who has recently joined, what aspects of our onboarding process worked well for you?
  • Considering the expectations you had about your role and the company before you started, how do you feel they’ve been met so far?

Similarly, we’ve formulated open-ended questions for employees who are about to leave. These “separation questions” help companies better understand their attrition rates going forward, in much the same manner as an exit interview. Example questions include: 

  • Do you feel the responsibilities for your role changed since you were hired?
  • Would you say that you had adequate resources to do your job to the best of your ability?

The open-ended format works in instances such as these because the questions are being sent to a small, selected number of employees. In these scenarios, a written response is of more use than a numerical one, and benchmarking isn’t as important. 

Workday Peakon Employee Voice further enables companies to compile their own custom question sets, specifically for investigating themes or one-off events that are unique to them. And while these don’t allow for benchmarking, they do provide potentially essential insights.

Engaged Employees Are the Key to Business Performance

Your employee engagement strategy should be considered when creating any key business goals. Gathering data and feedback is important, but what’s more important is what you do with that data after you collect it.

Employees aren’t assets. An engaged employee is valuable because they see their relationship with the business as reciprocal—rather than a subordinate, they’re a full-fledged partner. Providing employees with the correct resources to carry out their work and a positive working environment is a good first step, but high engagement is fundamentally built on a two-way relationship. In turn, a higher rate of engaged employees has consistently been shown to help improve other key performance metrics. 

There’s a wealth of research to support this. In the “Total Economic Impact™ Study” conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Workday, Forrester Consulting estimates Workday Peakon Employee Voice clients achieved a 244% return on investment. The “State of the Global Workplace” 2022 Report” from Gallup further shows that businesses with engaged workers have 23% higher profit compared with business units with actively disengaged workers. 

By enabling your employees to provide feedback about the issues that matter most to them—from career development to the help they receive around wellbeing—you turn data collecting into an opportunity to improve engagement in itself. Then, when all of your employees are turned toward the same goal, you’ll start to see incremental but meaningful changes to your overall culture. Honesty. Transparency. Constructive feedback. These are at the heart of a successful business.

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