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Article | EX Insights

Survey best practice: What makes a good employee survey question

By Andromachie Lella | April 12, 2021

Designing your own survey questions is a great way to capture feedback on topics that are unique to your organization.
Employee Engagement |Employee Experience

Questions are the heart of any survey. Get them wrong and you risk wasting valuable time and effort. That’s why Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software comes with dozens of templates and hundreds of questions, designed by our Employee Insights experts to help you succeed. However, there may be unique topics to explore in your organization. If you find yourself needing to create a new survey question from scratch, we can offer the following advice:

The simpler the better

Employees should be able to read and understand the question (or often, the statement they are agreeing or disagreeing with) very quickly, and easily decide how to respond. Ideally, each question should be no longer than one line of text and use familiar language. If you have to use a term that employees may not understand, make sure to explain it.

Get to the point

Avoid unnecessary phrases such as "as far as you can tell" or "in your opinion". Ask a direct question instead. Each question should ask about only one concept. Questions that ask multiple concepts are called "double-barreled"; they tend to increase confusion and give you results that are hard to interpret. For example: "My supervisor is respectful and available when I need them".

Use the right response scale

There are dozens of available response scales to choose from, including an open-ended option. Ensure the scale matches the wording of your question and that the designated favorable and unfavorable scale points make sense.

Make it count

Ask yourself what you will do with the results from each question and whether any issues revealed through the survey could be realistically addressed. For example, if you have no plans to upgrade the cafeteria, asking employees about it will only create expectations you can't meet.

Be neutral

It's normal for a question or statement to be phrased in a positive way, but there should be a clear opportunity for the respondent to disagree with it. Avoid biased questions that lead the witness or that set a very low bar, such as "My supervisor mostly communicates well enough."

In addition to following our recommendations above, you can also contact your Willis Towers Watson Consultant or Success Manager for advice and support. Log in to Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software today to draft your survey questions, or contact us for a demo.


Product Consultant
Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software

Andromachie supports Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software users through training videos, online help topics and the design of new features. When she’s not working, Andromachie loves to cook, draw and listen to podcasts. Follow Andromachie on LinkedIn.

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