Transform the Employee Engagement Survey into actionable insights

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Employee engagement surveys are a critical HR tool, designed to unlock your organization’s potential. They gauge employee well-being, drive talent retention, boost productivity, and support continuous HR improvement.

Much like conducting scientific research, the journey of knowledge and business intelligence within the realm of human resources starts with simple questions. These questions can vary widely. They’re born from curiosity, assumptions, and a desire to understand the intricacies of your organization’s people. The key is to focus on what’s essential, practical, and relevant to your unique organization.


In this article, the specific type of question you aim to answer with robust evidence is not the primary focus. Instead, the emphasis lies on the approach and methods you employ to design and collect data for your employee engagement survey in the most effective manner possible.


From gut feelings to a data-driven approach in Employee Engagement Surveys

We will show you how to shift from relying on your gut feelings to using a more solid, scientific, and data-driven approach in your employee engagement surveys. This change will help you improve your HR-business intelligence, make decisions and recommendations based on real evidence, and implement effective programs and initiatives where they matter most – for both your people and the organization as a whole.


The success of your organization depends on your role as an HR architect, and we’re here to support you. So, get ready to learn more about creating and conducting a quantitative staff engagement survey.


What is an Employee Engagement Survey?

An employee engagement survey serves as a valuable tool for gauging the sentiments of your workforce concerning their overall work-life experience. These surveys, usually in the form of questionnaires, are tailored to capture employees’ thoughts, feedback, and perceptions related to their work environment and their overall experiences within the organization.

In HR, you’re tasked with answering essential questions, such as:

  • How engaged are our employees?
  • Are they more engaged than last year?
  • Does the level of engagement vary across employee segments?
  • What’s our turnover rate, and how can we reduce it?
  • To what extent do they feel included in the workplace, and how can we empower this sense of inclusion?
  • How do they perceive their current job resources?
  • Do we know enough about employees’ viewpoints when designing programs and initiatives to enhance their psychological safety?


The insights derived from these surveys are a treasure trove for HR professionals. They provide a deeper understanding of the workforce’s engagement levels and well-being, ultimately leading to a more motivated and productive team. These surveys play a vital role in ensuring that the organization can adapt to change and sustain a people-centric approach, where employee satisfaction and commitment are at the forefront of HR strategies.

To fully comprehend the importance of employee engagement in HR, we suggest you read our article Employee Engagement – Definition, Relevance & Strategy.


Designing your Employee Engagement Survey questions: Close-ended questions, open-ended questions or a mix of the two?

Creating a good employee engagement survey requires thorough preparation, and it’s always crucial to have a clear problem statement. When the survey is based on interviews or questionnaires, a well-defined problem statement serves as the foundation for subsequently formulating clear questions. But how do you formulate effective questions for a survey?

When conducting employee engagement surveys, one of the many decisions you have to make is the inclusion of different types of questions. In quantitative research designs, we typically have the option to design our research around:

  • Close-ended questions: offer respondents a limited set of predefined answer options, making them a common choice for surveys aiming to gather quantitative data.
  • Multiple choice questions: provide respondents with answer choices, such as age groups or preferences, where they select the most appropriate option.
  • Simple binary (e.g yes, no) questions: Can help ascertain binary responses, such as whether an individual received adequate training.
  • Ordinal scaled (e.g. likert scaled) questions and open-ended questions: gauge satisfaction levels on a scale, usually ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”


Such structured questions are valuable in obtaining clear, structured data, facilitating analysis and comparison, and are often employed to assess demographics, preferences, attitudes, and behaviors.


Open-Ended Questions vs. Closed-Ended Questions in an Employee Engagement Survey

Open-ended questions in an employee engagement survey differ from their closed-ended counterparts as they invite respondents to provide detailed, free-text responses. These questions encourage respondents to share their thoughts, feelings, and suggestions in their own words.

For instance, an open-ended question might ask employees to describe their biggest challenges at work or provide suggestions for improving the workplace. These responses are valuable for uncovering nuanced insights, identifying unexpected issues, and gaining a deeper understanding of the employee experience. They offer context to the quantitative data gathered from closed-ended questions and help interpret the “why” behind the numbers, making them an essential part of a comprehensive employee engagement survey.


You need to consider whether it’s most appropriate to use closed-ended questions or open-ended questions in employee engagement surveys for several reasons:


Benefits of using close-ended questions:

  • Provide structured and quantifiable data. They are ideal for measuring specific aspects of employee engagement, such as satisfaction with company policies, benefits, or job tasks. This structured format allows for easy comparison and analysis.
  • Ensure consistency in the response format, making it easier to analyze the data and identify trends over time. This is important when conducting surveys at regular intervals to track changes in employee engagement.
    Are quicker for respondents to answer, making the survey process more efficient. This can lead to higher response rates and more complete data.
  • They use Likert scales, which are commonly used in employee engagement surveys. This allows for benchmarking against industry standards and other organizations.
  • Allow for more objective data analysis, as responses are standardized and do not rely on the subjective interpretation of open-ended responses.


Benefits of using open-ended questions:

  • Allow employees to provide detailed, nuanced feedback. This can uncover issues or suggestions that might not be captured with closed-ended questions.
  • Employees feel heard and valued when they can express their thoughts in their own words. This can boost their engagement and satisfaction with the survey process.
  • Can reveal unexpected issues or opportunities that you may not have anticipated. They can provide insight into the “why” behind quantitative data.
  • Offer better contextual understanding than closed-ended data. They help interpret the quantitative findings and provide a richer understanding of the employee experience.



Balancing Quantitative and Qualitative Insights in Your Staff Engagement Survey

The choice between closed-ended and open-ended questions in your employee engagement survey depends on your research goals. We see that the majority of our existing clients use a combination of both types of questions to balance quantitative and qualitative insights, and thus to get a more comprehensive view of the specific aspects of their employee’s work life.

The most important key takeaway here is that you need to keep your research purpose in mind, when designing your survey. Do you need to go wide or go deep? Do you first want to go wide, and then follow up the first survey with a shorter, more in-depth survey only with open-ended questions?


It’s – in other words – all up to you. And fortunately, with Woba, you can structure and conduct your research design and setting exactly as you wish to. We are supporters of knowledge and data-driven empirical research – not just fancy technology!


8 Things You Need to Know Before Formulating Employee Engagement Survey Questions

One thing is to decide what types of questions to include in your employee engagement survey. Another is to make sure that you are compliant with the general rules of formulating questions in quantitative research.

The questions must be carefully thought out to ensure that respondents answer what you are asking. And this is not as simple as it sounds, but luckily you can be backed up by the same methodological guidelines as acknowledged scientific research sprouts from.

Below, we have provided 8 general guidelines to assist in the question formulation process – to make sure that both your questions and survey in general have the highest possible degree of measurement validity.


1. Avoid Respondent Interpretation – keep it simple and clear
Ensure that respondents’ interpretations are minimized. It is crucial to use clear and straightforward language in your employee engagement questions, leaving no room for respondents to interpret the questions subjectively. Make sure that everyone involved in the survey understands the questions in the same way to avoid variations in responses due to differing interpretations. This step is essential for meaningful and accurate comparisons. Use plain, everyday language and ensure that your questions are unambiguous and easily understandable.


2. Precise Question Formulation – again, keep it simple and clear
The second piece of advice often goes hand in hand with the first: all questions should be formulated with precision to receive precise answers. If you need to include more complex questions, consider using brief and explicit explanations called “prompts” to clarify the question’s meaning.


3. Memory Considerations
Human memory can be unreliable, especially over time. Be realistic about respondents’ ability to recall past events. If you must collect retrospective data, limit the time span for recollection to reduce memory-related errors.


4. Implicit Assumptions
We all live in our own worlds, sometimes forgetting that others may not share the same perspective. Implicit assumptions can sneak into your question phrasing, leading to unwanted subjective interpretations. Formulating questions with implicit assumptions can put words in respondents’ mouths and create validity issues. Check your questions for any implied assumptions and rephrase them for clarity.


5. Avoid Double-Barreled Questions (!)
Double-barreled questions, which ask about two things at once, should be avoided at all costs. For example, when questioning the degree of agreement with both “feeling happy” and “feeling like going for a run” when the sun shines, you risk unclear responses. If you accidentally create double-barreled questions, the solution is straightforward: break them into two separate questions.


6. Negations
Negations, such as including “not” in a question, can lead to misunderstandings and compromise the validity of responses. Respondents may answer contrary to your intended meaning, which can affect the quality of survey data.


7. Leading Questions
Avoid asking leading questions entirely. Instead, ensure that questions are as neutral as possible. Leading questions can bias responses and affect the validity of your employee engagement survey data.


8. Eliminate Superlatives
When formulating questions for your survey, it’s essential to avoid the use of superlatives like “best” or expressions indicating the highest degree of something. This is because the use of superlatives in questions can distort responses due to potential ambiguity. To prevent respondents from interpreting questions subjectively, focus on providing clear and measurable response options, such as “weekly” or “2-3 times a month,” rather than vague adverbs like “often.” This ensures that respondents provide more precise and comparable data.


By sticking to the guidelines mentioned above, you can greatly reduce measurement bias and ensure the reliability of your employee engagement survey data. This, in turn, boosts the quality of the information you use to make decisions.


You have two options: always keep these guidelines in mind when crafting survey questions, or simply choose from our comprehensive list below of 40+ commonly used questions to measure employee job satisfaction, engagement, and intent to stay with the organization.

You are welcome!


Employee Engagement Survey Template: Sample from 40+ Questions

Working with engagement surveys, health and safety risks assessments, pulse-surveys (more on this later), on-boarding interviews, exit surveys and everything in between, we are more than familiar with the substantial amount of “potentially relevant” questions to include – and how to make sure they fit with the above mentioned scientific guidelines.

And backed by a long history of theoretical development within the field of work psychology, as we have previously highlighted in our grand employee engagement article, we know that the below listed questions are some of the most adopted in surveys, which aims to gain significant insight in the respondents perceptions of their current work life setting. This employee engagement survey template is, of course, presented to you as both inspiration and as a more “plug-and-play-let’s-go”-approach.


Examples of Employee Engagement Survey Questions

Below, you’ll find a collection of insightful Employee Engagement Survey questions aimed at evaluating workplace satisfaction and fostering a vibrant organizational culture:


Objectives and Vision
When employees have a clear understanding of the company’s vision and objectives, they know where the organization is heading and why. This provides them with a sense of purpose and a reason to come to work beyond just collecting a paycheck. Knowing that their work contributes to a larger vision can be highly motivating.

My workplace is good at conveying the organization’s objectives.
My workplace works with clear objectives.
The company’s overall vision is clear to me.


Immediate Supervisor
The immediate manager or supervisor is often the linchpin in employee engagement. Their leadership style, communication, support, and ability to create a positive work environment directly impact how engaged their team members are in their roles and the organization as a whole.

  • I have confidence in the decisions made by my immediate supervisor.
  • My immediate supervisor communicates openly with me.
  • My immediate supervisor is good at providing constructive feedback on my work.
  • My immediate supervisor supports my competence development.
  • My immediate supervisor sets a good example.


Recognition & feedback
Recognition and feedback are pivotal for higher employee engagement. They convey appreciation, motivate, and improve performance. By fostering a sense of belonging and open communication, they enhance the work environment, fueling commitment and continuous learning. In summary, they create a positive feedback loop, boosting motivation and engagement.

  • We are generally good at acknowledging each other’s good performances.
  • I receive the recognition I deserve when I do a good job.
  • I receive enough feedback to know if I am performing my job well.


Development and Career Opportunities
Career and development opportunities are crucial for employee engagement, offering a clear path for growth within the organization. When employees see chances for career progression and skill development, they become more motivated and engaged, fostering commitment, job satisfaction, and productivity. This support for career aspirations also enhances talent retention.

  • In connection with my employment, I have developed new skills.
  • My current employer offers me good opportunities to develop new job-specific skills.
  • I have good opportunities to advance my career with my current employer.


Collegial Relationships and Support
The psychological need for social relatedness in work life refers to the fundamental human need to connect with others in a social context. It encompasses the desire for positive relationships, a sense of belonging, and meaningful interactions with coworkers and superiors. Social relatedness in work life fulfills our innate desire for social connection, contributing to well-being, motivation, collaboration, support, and stress reduction. Meeting this need is essential for creating a positive and engaging work environment.

  • As colleagues, we are good at helping each other when necessary.
  • I consider some colleagues as my friends.
  • I have the opportunity to exchange experiences with my colleagues during my workday.


Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is essential for reducing stress and maintaining employee well-being. It allows time for personal interests, engaging with family, and fulfilling activities, promoting improved focus and efficiency during work hours. This balance correlates with higher job satisfaction, lower burnout risks, and better retention rates, benefiting both employees and the organization by minimizing turnover and associated costs.

  • I have good working hours.
  • I have time for my personal life (family, friends, hobbies, etc.) alongside my work.
  • I believe there is a good balance between my workload and working hours.


Autonomy and Influence
Another of the basic psychological needs that needs to be fulfilled in our worklife is the basic need of autonomy. Autonomy is a key driver of employee engagement, as it enables individuals to find meaning in their work, make choices, and contribute to their organization’s success. It cultivates a sense of responsibility and purpose, which fuels higher engagement levels.

  • I can decide how I carry out my job tasks.
  • I can decide how I structure my workday (e.g., working from home, flexible working hours, etc.).
  • I feel that my opinion matters in my current work.
  • I have influence over my job tasks.


Meaning in Work, Challenging tasks and interesting job
Meaningful work, challenging tasks, and interesting job roles are essential for employees because they lead to higher job satisfaction, intrinsic motivation, personal growth, and a sense of purpose. These factors are often drivers of higher employee engagement, commitment, and overall well-being, benefiting both the individual and the organization. Organizations that prioritize these aspects are more likely to have a satisfied, well-retained and high-performing workforce.

  • I find my work meaningful.
  • I have challenging job tasks.
  • My job is interesting to me.


Role Clarity
Role clarity is an important engagement question to include for numerous reasons. First, it increases the employees foresightedness, which is relevant in terms of being in control of one’s work life – and minimizing stress-reactions. Second, it empowers the employees ability to direct their efforts to where efforts are supposed to be directed, meaning they will feel more as a contributor at work – and hence enhance their feelings of being working with purpose and “being their best selves” at work.

  • My work role is clearly defined
  • I know what is expected of me in my job.


Feeling Competent
The feeling of being competent is a threshold basic psychological need, when it comes to flourishing at work. One simple question that captures this need is to ask if the employee feels competent at work. As simple as that.

  • I feel competent in my job.


Execution of Work
When employees are assigned tasks that align with their strengths and abilities, they are more likely to find their work enjoyable and fulfilling. Job satisfaction is positively correlated with doing what one excels at, which, in turn, can lead to higher levels of motivation and engagement. This is also directly related to our basic psychological need of competency, which is a central theme in the Self-Determination Theory!

  • I have the opportunity every day to do what I’m best at in my job.


Necessary Tools
Aligned with the Job-Demand Resource Model, the availability of adequate tools and materials are essential for employees to perform their work effectively.

  • I have the tools and materials I need to perform my job.


Stress & Burnout

  • To what extent do you feel stressed due to work?
  • I am often exhausted when I come home from work.


Retention Potential
In summary, measuring the intent to stay among employees is a critical part of talent management and organizational strategy. It allows companies to proactively address issues, reduce turnover, and create a more stable, engaged, and high-performing workforce. This, in turn, contributes to long-term organizational success and sustainability.

  • Within the last year, I have considered seeking a new job outside of my current workplace.
  • I often think about quitting my current job in the near future.
  • I prefer to be employed at my current workplace at least one year into the future.


Engagement in Work
This is our personal favorite; measuring engagement in work as it is supposed to be, according to the incredible work of the Utrecht Group. See a draft of the questions used to assess engagement according to the UWES here. And if you are curious, dig deeper into our article about how to measure employee engagement.

  • I feel filled with energy at work.
  • I look forward to going to work when I wake up in the morning.
  • I am enthusiastic about my work.


Proud of My Work
In summary, when employees express pride in their work, it signifies a range of positive attributes and qualities, including job satisfaction, commitment, quality orientation, and a positive attitude. It also suggests a healthy organizational culture that supports and motivates its workforce. Therefore, fostering an environment that encourages and recognizes employee pride can contribute to a more engaged and successful workforce.

  • I am proud of my work.


Job Satisfaction
And without further introduction; the final measure. The end-game score. The “overall satisfaction question”!

  • How satisfied are you, all things considered, with your current work situation?


Employee Engagement Surveys – Annual In-depth vs Frequent Pulse

HR and people managers are indeed operating in interesting times, with emerging technologies to assist insights, trends to cover and understand, and (still) facing tough decisions on how to approach both strategy development, initiatives and implementations with data.

One significant trend at the moment is the debate on whether to go deep or go frequent. We are of course referring to annual employee surveys versus pulse-surveys. And before you get our two cents on which way to go, we are going to describe the two approaches first.


Annual employee surveys

Employee satisfaction and staff engagement surveys, typically longer and more in-depth, gather comprehensive data on how employees assess their current work environment. Despite being time-consuming to plan and execute with over 40 questions, these surveys remain relevant for acquiring comprehensive data.

They provide an opportunity to collect “grand data” on various topics, enabling the investigation of patterns, estimation of multivariate relationships, and segmented analytics. This approach helps avoid the frustrating omitted variable bias, ensuring accurate and insightful analysis by including all relevant variables.


Pulse surveys

On the other hand, pulse surveys definitely have their right on their own. This method – or approach – grants you the opportunity to keep things simple and track important measures over time in a more agile and frequent manner.

So. The million dollar question: Which approach should you prefer?

For us, the answer is simple; It depends – as it always does, to be frank.


The choice of survey depends on your purpose

It depends on your purpose. It depends on how data is supposed to support your decisions and insights, and how data is supposed to drive change.

And one thing is certain; one approach does not exclude the other. On the contrary, they are mutually supportive in the overall goal of being truly data-driven.

Imagine having conducted your annual engagement survey, and you (with the incredible help of statistical analysis) figured out that, amongst 40 potential factors, engagement in your organization is driven by: 1) interesting job tasks, 2) feedback from immediate supervisor and 3) support from colleagues. These three factors could very well be on your “target list” for interventions, so you develop three action plans to pursue the empowerment of these three.


Now. A pulse-survey is an excellent, short, brief and efficient way to make sure that the development of these interventions actually drives changes over time in the right direction. Hence supporting program implementation with pulse surveys – based on your grand data collection in the annual one – is a fantastic example of combining and mixing the benefits of both approaches.

So in reality; it still depends. Depends on what your purpose and change-needs are in your organization.

Luckily, Woba supports both approaches and even offers the possibility to design, setup and formulate every single survey as you want. Flexibility is king.



Survey fatigue: how long can staff engagement surveys be?

In essence, lengthy and time-consuming surveys lacking a clear purpose or relevance may diminish response rates and compromise the quality of collected information, essential for informed decision-making about your workforce.

However, this doesn’t imply that surveys must always be short or conducted less frequently, such as annually or semi-annually, nor does it discount the value of employee pulse surveys.


Instead, the key is aligning your communication regarding the purpose, length, frequency, and follow-up actions based on insights. If you plan to distribute employee engagement surveys monthly, it’s imperative to clarify the rationale behind it and strike a balance between survey length and frequency, recognizing that all demands have limits, regardless of noble intentions and follow-up actions.


Regarding survey response rates, insights from the Woba platform offer valuable perspectives:

  • On average, clients’ surveys consist of approximately 50 questions.
  • The average completion rate for these surveys stands at an impressive 80.2%.
  • Organizations conduct an average of 3.4 surveys, with a growing emphasis on shorter, pulse surveys integrated into strategic HR and management initiatives.
  • The average number of employees invited to participate in these surveys is 191.6, with the range spanning from 9 to 2524.


While response rate prediction is essential for mitigating survey fatigue, the investigation conducted on the Woba platform found no statistically significant evidence supporting the idea that either the number of survey questions (length) or the frequency of surveys significantly impacts response rates.

However, a notable trend emerged: larger companies tend to experience lower response rates, presenting a challenge in achieving higher participation rates among their workforce.


Benefits of an Employee Engagement Survey Software

Implementing an Employee Engagement Survey Software offers several advantages for organizations.

  • Efficiency and Time Savings: Automation streamlines survey processes, saving time in data collection, analysis, and reporting compared to manual methods.
  • Real-time Insights: Provides quick analysis of survey results, offering real-time insights into employee sentiment and areas needing attention.
  • Customization: Allows organizations to tailor survey questions to specific needs and goals, ensuring relevance and targeted feedback.
  • Anonymity and Honest Feedback: Enables employees to provide honest feedback anonymously, fostering more candid responses and accurate insights.
  • Data Security: Reputable survey software prioritizes data security, ensuring the confidentiality of employee responses and compliance with privacy regulations.
  • Accessibility: Online survey tools facilitate participation from various locations and devices, increasing accessibility and response rates.
  • Trend Analysis: Over time, enables organizations to track trends in employee engagement, identify patterns, and highlight areas for improvement.
  • Actionable Recommendations: Advanced survey software may offer data analysis tools and provide actionable recommendations, assisting organizations in making informed decisions to enhance employee engagement.


If you aim to create a real impact in the work environment, consolidating all employee surveys (Employee Engagement Survey, Health and Safety Risk Assessments, Whistleblower, Onboarding & Exit Surveys, etc.) on one single digital platform is advantageous. This allows you to gather all feedback from your employees in one place and utilize it to predict and prevent workplace risks, enabling swift action before it becomes critical.


Woba empowers you to centralize all your surveys and employee feedback in one platform and use that data to measure and reduce the risk of staff turnover.
Book a demo to see how.


Turn Your Employee Engagement Survey insights into impact with Woba

Woba’s vision is to create a better world to work by revolutionizing your HR landscape. Our hearts beat for making you in HR the central driver of business impact. With Woba by your side, this vision can turn into reality.
I’m thrilled to show you how we can turn your employee engagement surveys into tangible impact for your employees, enhancing engagement, productivity, and retention.


Schedule a meeting with me to explore how we can support your company.


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Related Articles

Employee Engagement Blog
Employee Engagement - Definition, Relevance & Strategy

We explore the employee engagement framework, including what employee engagement is and how to measure and improve it effectively in your company.


What is Employee Engagement?

An employee engagement definition, in short, refers to the emotional commitment and level of enthusiasm that employees have toward their jobs and their organization. However, this might be an oversimplification. Employee engagement is a multifaceted concept that goes beyond initial impressions.

But, much like the transformation of a simple acorn into a sprawling oak tree, the concept of employee engagement has undergone a remarkable evolution since its early days in the 1990s. It has grown to become not only an academic discipline but a pivotal operational practice in the realm of organizational human resource management.


As it gained widespread recognition, the concept of employee engagement, akin to the branches of an oak, has taken on a multitude of diverse forms and shapes. However, there is a significant departure from the analogy of the oak tree. Unlike the tree’s natural evolution, the concept of employee engagement isn’t meant to outgrow its origins.

With the burgeoning popularity of this field, we witness an unintended consequence—an increase in inconsistency and confusion regarding the application of employee engagement as a means to study well-being within modern organizations.


The very essence of employee engagement becomes obscured in the midst of this transformation, leaving us to grapple with the challenge of aligning its core principles with its expanding interpretations. However, we don’t need a multitude of complex definitions or branches when it comes to employee engagement. What we truly need is clarity. We need to ensure that an evidence-based approach, rooted in decades of well-established research, is easily accessible. Furthermore, we need to bridge the gap between the scientific realm and the practical applications of employee engagement in HR.


This article aims to help you better understand some challenging questions:
What is employee engagement and how can we create a simple way to measure employee engagement effectively?


The Employee Engagement Framework

While simple answers to these intricate questions may remain elusive, our objective is to contribute to the ongoing effort to comprehend employee engagement. We aim to do this by retracing the concept to its origins and provide a systematic overview of how it has been operationalized by different scholars and researchers over the past decades. This, in turn, should pave the way for a more concise framework for proactively, strategically, and operationally addressing employee engagement as a means to nurture happier employees, more effective teams, and enhanced organizational outcomes.


We will delve into some of the most validated constructs and definitions of employee engagement that the academic research field has to offer. This is in pursuit of setting a benchmark by replicating sound, evidence-based approaches and standards from the world of science.

Once we’ve clarified the definitions and constructs, we’ll shift our focus to the practical dimension. Here, we’ll inspire you to implement measurement scales that effectively capture the various facets of employee work engagement while ensuring validity and reliability.

Finally, we’ll wrap it up with insights on how to cultivate and enhance engagement within your organization, enabling you to harness the myriad benefits of high employee engagement.


Why is a clear(er) definition of employee engagement important?

To effectively study and understand any phenomenon, we require clear and unified approaches to grasp that specific subject. In the realm of Human Resources (HR), a precise definition becomes crucial due to variations in understanding among different consultancy branches, HR departments, and top-level executives.

The confusion often arises from whether employee engagement equates to elements like job satisfaction, commitment, or motivation. And when it comes to satisfaction, employee engagement and satisfaction are evidently not the same psychological construct, so merging them in one measure can simply be counterproductive.

But this conceptual ambiguity not only introduces imprecision, but also leads to a view of criticism, with some dismissing employee engagement as a mere rebranding or a superficial trend in HR.


However, employee engagement is not merely another superficial HR concept. The view has led some to argue that ‘the concept of employee engagement needs to be more clearly defined … or it needs to be abandoned’. Skeptics have long argued that the term ‘engagement’ is likely to fall out of usage at some point because it lacks substance or distinctiveness. As well as being challenged for a lack of clear definition, it is also seen to be a relabelling of existing constructs, and thus redundant.

Unfortunately, this criticism sometimes overshadows the importance of employee engagement in thriving organizations, where the neglect of it is more evident than proactive efforts to improve it.


Challenges with composite engagement measures

We stand with CIPD in the discussion on and well-argumented criticsm about how consultancy and management practices often creates more “old wine in new bottles”, “fads and fashions” or “been there, bottled that” – see their discussion report from January 2021.

Because a number of consultancy firms have developed (their “own one-point-of-questionable-truth”) composite measures of engagement along these lines. Gallup’s Q12 is just one example of a tool widely used by consultants and practitioners, but it doesn’t always meet the standards of academic research. Some scholars have raised concerns about its validity and consider it a composite measure lacking in scientific rigor.

When developing a reliable measure, it’s not enough to group survey items together and give them a name. Validation is key. The measure should be tested against similar and different constructs to show it behaves as expected in theory. To put it simply, merging various measures into a single score doesn’t work like magic. It results in a confusing mix of metrics, making it hard to interpret the data.


For instance, when an organization wants to gauge employee engagement, it might involve many aspects such as alignment with company goals, using one’s strengths, satisfaction with pay, and relationships with managers. Combining all of these into one score makes it difficult to understand what’s driving differences or improvements. This could very well be the reason why Bailey et al. (2015), in a systematic study review, chose to exclude studies relying on the Q12 due to concerns that it serves as a broad, all-encompassing measure lacking in validity.

Advocates of composite measures might argue that you can break them down, but this can lead to a loose collection of measures that may not provide clear insights. While it’s understandable that employers are interested in various aspects of employee experiences, it’s crucial for measures to be precise and focused. Often, it’s more effective to consider these aspects individually – especially if you wish to investigate the relationship between engagement and relevant independent variables in a regression analysis (which, essentially, requires the dependent variable to be measured!).


The need for clarity

So. Why was a clear definition and understandable conceptualization important again? Because creating a work environment where employee engagement thrives is crucial for organizations, as it leads to positive outcomes like lower turnover, reduced absenteeism, higher job satisfaction, increased efficiency, and productivity.


To become more data-driven and implement progressive HR initiatives, research consistently emphasizes the significance of employee engagement. It all starts with defining the core concept and how it has evolved over the years in various evidence-based interpretations explored in applied research.

And hence, we move forward to where we position ourselves, when we assist, consult, advocate and what-not our clients about employee engagement. A definition. A clear one that’s scientifically grounded.


Survey Fatique 1300x700
Employee Survey Fatigue - How to ensure better response rates

In recent years, our exposure to quantitative employee surveys have increased – which also applies to the organizational field of research. The rise in digital survey platforms and easier distribution methods has led to more frequent workplace survey invitations, but it’s also caused a drop in the response rate.


This leads to Survey Fatigue:

When respondents lose interest in your surveys because of the overwhelming frequency of survey requests or the extensive effort and questions involved in completing them.


This, in turn, can create unfortunate barriers to the validity and representativeness of your engagement surveys in general. As employee engagement surveys gain increasing popularity, the quest for high response rates and valuable insights presents growing challenges. Organizations seek to assess their employees’ work life, but these hurdles cannot be ignored.

In this article, we’ll unveil the concept of survey fatigue and provide strategies to combat this silent adversary of quantitative research designs.


What are the main risks about Survey Fatigue?

When it comes to employee engagement surveys, there are a couple of key issues related to survey fatigue that you should be aware of.

  • First, you might run into a problem of nonresponse. This means that some employees may not participate, which can affect the accuracy of your insights and your ability to make general conclusions.
  • Second, you could end up with data that’s not entirely reliable because tired participants might hurry through the survey, giving quick answers without really paying attention to the questions.


The factors contributing to declining response rates

There are several factors contributing to declining response rates.

Firstly, there’s a proliferation of surveys, as more and more companies and organizations use them to gather opinions. This, along with the growing number of survey service providers and an increasing interest in data-driven decision-making, is causing what we call survey fatigue.

Another important point is that people who don’t respond to surveys are often more likely to contemplate leaving their jobs and generally report lower job satisfaction and less contentment with their supervisors compared to those who do respond.

What this means is that if a company’s HR department doesn’t receive feedback from these dissatisfied individuals, the data they collect may not accurately represent the reality. It could provide a more positive but inaccurate picture of the situation.


Lack of communication and followed actions from surveys triggers fatigue!

A research review performed by McKinsey showed that the number one driver of survey fatigue among participants is when they believe the organization won’t take any action based on the survey results.

On the flip side, when organizations not only run employee engagement surveys but also actively share relevant information and take appropriate actions based on the feedback, it encourages more employees to take part in current and future surveys.

Clearly, the crucial takeaway here is that employee surveys should be seen as a tool for making meaningful improvements, not just a metric by itself.


Enhance Engagement, Reduce Absence

As we all know by now, employee absenteeism can slowly eat away at an organization’s effectiveness and team performance. Whether it’s a pattern of frequent short-term absences or infrequent but longer ones, absenteeism is a big challenge for how well a company functions. It’s closely linked to an individual’s overall well-being.


Exploring Employee Absence and Its Relationship with Engagement

So, let’s dive into the connection between absenteeism and engagement and see how the HR department, armed with data, can tackle absenteeism trends within their organization. Absenteeism isn’t about pointing fingers or labeling people as lazy. It’s more about the work environment and what’s happening around it. And one of the first steps is to collect the right data to understand and pinpoint areas in the workplace that might cause unwanted absenteeism patterns and then take appropriate actions to overall improvement.


All of this is for the benefit of the company, the organization, the team, and, of course, the individual employee. That’s turning insights into real impact.


The Two Dimensions of Absence from Work

Absent employees are (super logically, we know) unable to fulfill the scope of their work role – either as an individual or as a team member of the organization. It’s no surprise that one unfortunate outcome of absenteeism is that the workload and departmental pressure often shift to other members of the organization.

Our main focus here isn’t to dwell on the well-covered negative consequences of absenteeism, as these have already been thoroughly discussed in HR research. Instead, our primary goal is to understand how absenteeism works in practical terms, specifically, identifying what drives this phenomenon. Getting a practical grasp of this is the crucial first step toward taking effective action.

Julian Raymond Blok - Data Scientist i Woba
Julian Raymond Blok
Data Scientist in Woba


Julian is Woba’s very own in-house data scientist. His expertise lies in applying statistical models to HR data, providing us with a profound understanding of the intricacies, patterns, and correlations within employees’ work lives. With a combination of technical skill and a passion for human behavior, Julian utilizes HR analytics to advise HR and leaders on how they can proactively work with transforming employee data insights into ROI impact.

Topics: People analytics, HR-KPI Management, People Management, Employee Engagement, Employee Experience

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