A Guide to Employee Engagement Surveys

Low engagement levels have negative consequences for both employees and employers, including excessive absenteeism, higher burnout levels, and overall lackluster performance. 

In today’s world, people-first companies perform better. HR professionals and company leaders know that keeping employees happy and engaged is the secret for success. That’s where employee engagement surveys come in – they’re like a backstage pass to understanding daily productivity levels and long-term retention.

Employee surveys aren’t just a nice-to-have; they’re the cornerstone of a smart employee engagement strategy. If you’re on the lookout for a no-nonsense guide to mastering employee engagement surveys, you’re in the right spot.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is one of the most common terms in the world of workforce talent. Do a quick Google search. You’ll get results in the hundreds of millions. That’s because employee engagement means a lot of different things to different people.

Employee engagement refers to the emotional and psychological connection employees have with their work, their colleagues, and their organization. Signs employees are engaged include those who feel committed to their jobs, motivated to do their best, and invested in the success of their employer.

Energage, the research firm behind the Top Workplaces survey, defines employee engagement as follows:

Engagement is a positive psychological state where employees feel an emotional commitment to the organization and its goals. Organizations with higher employee engagement have better productivity, performance, and happier, healthier employees.”

Employee engagement statistics

Over the years, Energage and Top Workplaces have studied over 70,000 organizations. Research shows that organizations with a Top Workplaces award have a 68% engagement rate, while average organizations only have 31%.

Furthermore, the top tenth percentile of Top Workplaces celebrates 83% engagement across the board. Because high engagement levels boost productivity, performance, recruitment, and retention, these Top Workplaces likely enjoy better competitive advantages and profitability. On top of having happier employees. 

What is an employee engagement survey?

Employee engagement surveys are a valuable tool company leaders use to capture candid employee feedback about their work experiences. Survey insights identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement and develop actionable plans for increasing engagement and building a people-first culture.

Related: Benefits and Importance of Employee Engagement Surveys

What do employee engagement surveys measure?

Trusted, research-backed surveys measure several workplace culture themes to identify the key drivers of employee engagement. The Energage Workplace Survey assesses the extent to which employees feel:

  • Fairly valued
  • Respected and supported
  • Enabled to grow
  • Closely aligned with the organization
  • Empowered to execute


  • Are employees motivated?
  • Are they willing to refer others?
  • Are they loyal?

Benefits of employee engagement surveys

Employee engagement surveys are an effective tool for organizations seeking to improve employee engagement. They include many benefits for both the company and its employees. Several examples of how organizational leaders use them include:

Types of employee engagement surveys

There are many surveys, from onboarding and exit surveys to performance review surveys. But when measuring employee engagement specifically, the two most effective survey types include:

  1. Annual or semi-annual surveys: Comprehensive assessments designed to gather valuable insights on a broad range of organizational topics.
  2. Pulse surveys: Short surveys that capture feedback regularly on specific topics.

Next, we’ll explore how to prepare for, choose, and launch a survey that
accurately measures employee engagement.

Prepare for a successful employee engagement survey

1. Establish clear and measurable objectives

  • Why are you surveying?
  • What do you want to learn?
  • What do you want to measure?

2. Choose a trusted, reliable survey

  • What does the survey measure?
  • Is the survey backed by research?
  • Is the survey confidential?
  • How many items are there, and how long does it take to complete?
  • How is the survey scored?
  • Are the results easy to understand and communicate?
  • Are the insights actionable?

3. Determine who will manage the survey

The responsibility for acting on employee engagement surveys falls to senior leaders, human resources professionals, and others who can implement changes based on survey insights.

Those responsible for acting on survey insights should be committed to measuring progress and making ongoing adjustments to ensure the organization continually improves its efforts to engage employees.

4. Determine audience and demographics

The company’s goals and objectives should determine the survey audience. While surveying the entire workforce can provide a comprehensive measurement, targeting specific employee groups may be more appropriate.

Including demographic variables in your employee engagement survey provides valuable insights and reveals the story behind your results. Examples of demographic variables include:

  • Department
  • Tenure
  • Job level
  • Salary band
  • DE&I variables

Gathering this information offers a better understanding of the factors impacting employee engagement within specific groups so you can take more informed action to improve overall engagement.

5. Communicate about the survey in advance

Clear communication is essential for the success of an employee engagement survey. Here are some best practices:

  • Announce the survey weeks in advance at a companywide meeting so employees know about the upcoming survey.
  • Demonstrate leadership buy-in to encourage employee participation.
  • Promote the survey through regular email communication and visual reminders to keep the survey top-of-mind.
  • Provide easy access to resources and support.

How to increase survey response rates

Explain the survey’s purpose

Transparency increases employee buy-in. Tell employees why you are doing an employee engagement survey. Emphasize how the company values and appreciates their candid feedback.

Set a realistic timeline

Explain who will administer the survey, how to access it, and what the timeline is. Providing all necessary information ahead of time reduces confusion and frustration, making the survey process more enjoyable for everyone.

Stress survey confidentiality

Reassure employees that the survey is confidential. Creating a safe environment will encourage them to offer their honest responses. Offering information about the third-party survey provider is always a good idea.

Encourage participation

Remind people to take the survey but avoid pressuring them to respond. Make sure they know whom to contact with questions.

Most importantly, take action on survey results

Employees feel heard and valued when they see changes resulting from their feedback. It builds employee trust, making them more likely to respond to future engagement surveys.

Interpreting employee engagement survey results

The real work begins when survey results are delivered. Where’s the best place to begin? Our advice is to start broad and then go narrow:

  • Look at the overall employee engagement score, using benchmarks to gain context.
  • Determine why the employee engagement level is where it is.
    View the key drivers of employee engagement to determine strengths and focus areas.
  • Examine department-level data to see if scores are similar or different across the organization.
  • Compare demographic data to find trends and further understanding.
  • Explore the open-ended comments for qualitative data that offer perspective and input.

Sharing employee engagement survey results

The results rollout is a vital phase of the employee engagement survey process. It’s also what starts the conversations that inspire action and improvement.

Before doing anything else, thank employees for taking the time to respond to the survey. Their input will help to make the organization a better place to work together.

A survey results rollout should cascade throughout the organization using a top-down approach, starting with the CEO and senior leadership team, followed by managers and then employees.

Sharing results with senior leadership

  • Schedule time to present the survey results.
  • Recap its purpose and how the results will be used.
  • Highlight key insights, including both positive and negative feedback.
  • Discuss the next steps, including a communication plan.
  • Identify immediate actions and assign responsibilities for taking action.

Sharing results with managers

  • Prepare and present high-level findings.
  • Show patterns and trends using data visualization tools.
  • Explain how the results compare to industry benchmarks or previous survey results.
  • Discuss external factors that may have influenced the results.
  • Highlight any areas of concern or where improvements are needed.
  • Discuss any action plans that need to be developed.
  • Prepare managers to meet with their teams.

Sharing results with employees

  • Hosting a companywide meeting, in person or online.
  • Thank employees for their survey feedback.
  • Recap the purpose of the employee engagement survey.
  • Share organization-level results using data visualization tools.
  • Present what’s going well and what needs help.
  • Discuss the next steps and offer a timeline for action.

Examples of poor employee engagement survey questions

In addition to improving employee honesty, using third-party survey providers takes the guesswork out of survey questions. If your organization chooses to build its own survey, here are some things to avoid:
  • Questions that are too personal or related to home life.
  • Questions that make employees criticize other employees.
  • Questions that are too open-ended or vague.
  • Questions that are subjective without space to explain further.

Measure employee engagement with Top Workplaces

Unlock the power of employee engagement survey insights by participating in the Top Workplaces employer recognition program. The path begins with a brief and confidential third-party employee survey. From there, you can dive deeper into engagement levels, culture strengths, and areas of opportunity.

Related: Improve Employee Engagement Insights with Top Workplaces


Ready to take the first step toward measuring employee engagement and becoming an employer of choice? To participate in Top Workplaces, start by nominating your organization here


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