How to Interpret Employee Engagement Survey Results

Employee engagement surveys are an excellent first step toward building, supporting, and branding a people-first culture that enables you to attract new talent, retain your best people, and boost employee morale. Surveys measure where your current culture stands — and create a data-driven roadmap for getting your culture where you want it to be. 

But survey insights are only helpful with proper data analyses and action planning. When companies know how to interpret employee engagement survey results, they gain valuable intelligence that enables leaders to make people-informed decisions.

Why are employee engagement surveys important?

Employee engagement surveys are an essential business practice and the best way to quantify engagement. They measure key drivers of employee engagement, including connection, motivation, satisfaction, values, and well-being. Survey results provide companies with powerful insights to solve challenging business problems such as minimizing high turnover, improving productivity, and preventing employee burnout.

Another one of the benefits of employee engagement surveys is that they ensure employees feel heard and that you value their input. They build the trust and confidence of your workforce, and research shows this directly impacts engagement. Allowing employees to share candid, anonymous feedback and play an active role in improvement enables companies to work together towards shared goals.

While administering a survey might be simple, knowing what to do next is where things get tricky. Momentum is often lost when people don’t know how to interpret employee engagement survey results. The opportunity to utilize valuable feedback is lost and you are left without a compass to guide your decision making. 

Doing nothing with survey results is worse than not surveying at all. Neglecting to close the loop with your employees soon after the survey is complete provokes disengagement and erodes trust — both of which have a direct impact on retention.

Survey best practices

When executed well, employee surveys deliver outstanding results. The data helps companies identify growth opportunities, make critical business decisions, improve organizational culture, and more. Here are some best practices to get the most out of your survey process:

  • Clearly define objectives 
  • Share purpose and importance
  • Don’t let it get too long
  • Ensure confidentiality for honest feedback
  • Make it accessible for everyone
  • Use both open-ended and close-ended questions 
  • Avoid leading and absolute questions
  • Get leadership involved
  • Incentivize participation
  • Analyze and act on results promptly
  • Thank employees for participation
  • Ask how to improve the process

Objectives of analyzing employee engagement surveys

Credible employee surveys provide an accurate measure of employee engagement. They also provide an anonymous channel for feedback that helps employees feel heard and understood. 

Survey insights tell the story of a company’s culture. They offer valuable, data-driven intelligence that enables leaders to make people-informed decisions and see how the company stands against the competition. 

Challenges of interpreting employee engagement surveys

Employee engagement surveys are helpful only when the results are correctly interpreted. Some of the common challenges include:

  • Data analyses that take too long or fail to provide actionable insights.
  • Using an engagement survey that isn’t backed by credible research.
  • Comparing survey data to the wrong benchmarks.
  • Asking the wrong questions — or bad questions. 
  • Failing to keep survey responses anonymous.

13 tips for analyzing and interpreting employee engagement surveys

Analyzing and interpreting survey results can feel overwhelming, but we’ve got helpful best practices to help you improve the process and quality of your survey insights: 

1. Start with an effective survey design

Successful employee engagement surveys start with an effective design. Themes, length, format, and construction should all be considered. The survey used to determine the nation’s Top Workplaces is research-backed and focused, with 24 statements. Examples include:

  • “This company motivates me to give my very best at work.”
  • “I would highly recommend working at this company to others.”
  • “I believe this company is going in the right direction.”
  • “I feel well-informed about important decisions at this company.”
  • “My manager helps me learn and grow.”
  • “At this company, we do things efficiently and well.”

2. Set clear goals

Goal setting is an essential part of employee engagement survey analysis. It provides helpful guidance to ensure objectives are met. Plus, it’s a great way to ensure everyone is aligned. Consider these questions:

  • What worked — and didn’t work — with previous engagement surveys?
  • How can we improve survey efficiency? 
  • Are we using suitable types of questions and formats?
  • What questions should be included or eliminated?
  • What does a successful end result look like?

3. Ensure survey results are quantifiable and actionable

Effective employee engagement survey analysis requires precise, quantifiable data. When a survey produces bad data, you’re not getting an accurate picture of what’s really happening within your culture. 

A five or seven-point Likert Scale Survey is a popular — and reliable — way to measure opinions, attitudes, and sentiment. The Likert scale considers varying degrees, providing clear, more meaningful responses when measuring employee engagement.

4. Categorize the data

Learning how to analyze employee engagement survey results becomes easier when you categorize the data and questions into segments. During the survey design phase, consider the demographics that will benefit your employee engagement analysis, including: 

  • Organizational structure
  • Departments and teams
  • Tenure
  • Roles
  • Gender
  • Generation/age

5. Identify trends and patterns

Identifying trends and patterns in the survey feedback data is part of employee engagement analysis. But don’t rely on patterns alone to determine your company’s strengths and areas for improvement because they don’t uncover the entire story. Instead, use trends and patterns as one piece of the puzzle. 

6. Supplement quantitative data with qualitative responses

Allowing employees to offer open-ended comments is as essential to employee engagement survey analysis as quantitative responses. Here you will find candid, genuine feedback that provides a deeper insight. Including qualitative and quantitative data provides a whole-picture view of employee engagement scores. 

7. Utilize benchmarks and year-over-year data

Survey benchmarks are reference points you can use as part of your employee engagement survey analysis. Comparing your data against benchmarks and year-over-year data will help you to know where your company stands.

You need to go deeper than the company level to understand your true culture story. Deeper than department, tenure, or location. You must get to the individual level and ensure your survey uses the correct math. Here are some practices that will improve your employee engagement survey analysis: 

Smart benchmarking

  • Individualized benchmarking: Intelligence-backed benchmarking understands that employee responses differ based on their relationship with your company.
  • Mixed sector benchmarking: Some organizations don’t fit neatly into a single sector. The right solution applies the right benchmarks to each area of your business.
  • Cultural overlay benchmarking: Geographic differences affect how employees respond to surveys. These variations need to be taken into account.

Patented analytics

  • Accurate response scoring: A probability-based approach adapted from the high-stakes testing industry produces the most precise results.
  • Smart focus areas: A core blend of the benchmarked score, change, and importance as well as hierarchy-awareness and “spidering,” distribution awareness, actionability, overlap, comprehensiveness, and demographic adjacency.
  • Intelligent comment analysis: Purpose-built for employee survey comments, benchmarked theming and benchmarked true sentiment.

8. Compare employee engagement with business success

Employee engagement impacts business performance, from productivity and motivation to quality and retention. When considering how to analyze employee engagement survey results, align engagement and business goals to motivate employees to give more valuable feedback and reiterate why the survey process is so important.

9. Use visual tools

Data visualization — including graphs, gauges, charts, colors, etc. — brings survey data to life. Including these elements in your employee engagement analysis can improve understanding and play an essential role in communicating results to leadership, managers, and the company. 

10. Avoid survey bias

Survey bias is a universal challenge that needs to be considered every time. It can create several problems for your employee engagement survey analysis and prevent you from reaching your goals. Some examples include:

  • Inaccurate data and untruthful responses
  • Taking the wrong action steps
  • Dissatisfaction with performance
  • Inconclusive results

Avoiding bias with a well-designed survey will produce the most reliable and valuable results. In addition, you can take precautions during the data analysis phase of your employee engagement survey. Ideas include:

  • Assemble a survey team of people with diverse backgrounds, roles, and perspectives. 
  • Consider conscious and unconscious biases that can potentially impact survey data interpretation.
  • Use an independent contractor for your employee engagement analysis.

11. Review survey results with leadership first

Leadership impacts organizational culture, and how they communicate survey results to the rest of the company affects the employee survey experience. Before the survey results rollout, leadership must have a firm grasp on the insights and be prepared to take the next steps. 

Learn more: What Leaders Can Do to Improve Employee Engagement

12. Plan for sustainable actions

Sustainable goals make it easier to achieve success and manage resources. A good rule of thumb is to identify one or two areas of improvement at a time, focusing on areas where you can have the most significant impact. Creating a plan with fewer but more sustainable actions helps companies navigate between what works and what doesn’t work. Plus, increased success leads to increased opportunities for celebration. 

13. Ask follow-up questions

You don’t need to wait until your next annual employee engagement survey to capture additional employee feedback. Short, targeted pulse surveys are an effective way to:  

  • Get real-time intelligence on mission-critical topics. 
  • Measure the effectiveness of the initiatives resulting from employee engagement analyses.
  • Show employees their input matters and ensure they feel heard.

Choose the Top Workplaces employee engagement survey

Creating an effective employee engagement survey requires resources and expertise. Instead of investing your valuable time in survey design and analyses, let the Top Workplaces survey do the work for you. Research-backed and driven by patented analytics, the employee engagement survey produces valuable insights you can use to make data-driven people decisions. 

The survey also qualifies your company to participate in the Top Workplaces awards. Earning recognition as an employer of choice will help your company to: 


Does your company believe in the value of employee engagement and a people-driven culture? Get recognized for it! Nominate your organization for Top Workplaces, the employer recognition program that offers awards in 60+ regional markets and national awards for culture and industry excellence.



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