Skip to main content
The People & Culture Platform | Culture Amp
Lexi Croswell, author

Lexi Croswell

Writer, Culture Amp

There are many different types of surveys to use for gathering employee feedback, from engagement, to onboardingexit and beyond. Regardless of which one you use, the survey questions you ask are the most visible and often memorable part of an employee survey.

Deciding on your questions (and how to ask them) is important because you can only take action on what you ask. When people understand your questions, it's easier for them to answer openly and honestly, giving you better feedback to analyze and act on. 

You can more easily get to the information you need to make the best decisions when you implement these eleven tips for writing great employee survey questions. 

1. Have one key decision maker on question design

This person understands the survey strategy and purpose. They're responsible for collecting feedback on the questions from relevant people within your company. Having one decision maker in charge of understanding the purpose behind each question keeps the process concise. 

2. Start with objectives

It’s tempting to dive into writing questions right away, but each question needs to have a purpose and that purpose is defined by the objectives. Take a look at what systems and initiatives you already have in place, and take into account what you are planning for the future.  

3. Consider your company culture

Ask yourself, “What has been critical to our success?” If you’re using a survey template and find that some questions aren’t relevant to you, rewrite them so they become useful. Your company is unique, and your survey questions should reflect that. It can be something as simple as changing the language in questions from “manager” to “coach” if that’s how your company functions. 

4. Understand the cognitive model of question response

In other words, understand how someone answering your question processes it in their mind.  We’ll walk through it with the example: “I receive appropriate recognition for my work”

Step One: Understand intent of the question - “I understand what recognition is” Step Two: Search memory for information - “When was the last time I felt recognized?” Step Three: Integrate information into judgment - “I think yes, I do receive appropriate recognition” Step Four: Translate judgment onto response alternatives - “I would rate this favorably” 

Want more great employee survey question advice?  See our additional guides on: 

  • 20 simple employee engagement survey questions you should ask
  • 5 Diversity and Inclusion questions to use at your company
  • How to write employee wellbeing survey questions
  • 17 powerful employee onboarding survey questions you can use
  • 24 great one-on-one meeting questions

  • 5. Familiarize yourself with “bi-directional” questions

    Each question being asked sends a signal. If the question is “My manager gives me feedback once a week” it sends a signal that once a week feedback is the norm. Understanding this idea ensures that you are sending the right signals on company norms. 

    6. Have the right scale

    Always include a midpoint in your Likert scale, because it accounts for people who do feel neutral on a question. If you exclude a midpoint, your “favorable” sentiment becomes inflated as people tend to acquiesce to the “yes” or “positive” side of the scale rather than answering how they truly feel. 

    7. Include benchmark questions

    If the platform you’re using for your survey includes benchmarks, make sure you keep those important questions in. You want to be able to ask benchmark questions so that you can compare your survey results to your industry later on. 

    8. Don’t ask questions you aren’t ready to discuss

    If you ask a question about something you can’t change (or aren’t ready to discuss) it puts you in a difficult position. Survey takers are going to expect that if you ask questions about compensation for example, you’re willing to discuss or change something around this policy. 

    9. In general, don’t make questions mandatory

    When you’re designing a survey it can be tempting to make certain questions mandatory. However, this can be frustrating and annoying for people who honestly can’t answer the question. Participation in a survey should be voluntary, and mandatory questions go against this ideal. 

    10. Each question should serve a purpose

    You should be able to understand the “why” behind each question, but not every question needs to be immediately actionable. You’re looking for questions that diagnose a problem on the whole, not to necessarily solve it on an individual basis. 

    11. Put yourself in the mindset of the survey taker

    Survey fatigue can affect your survey’s results. If you’re asking about every aspect of your company in a 200 question survey, participants will likely get tired. Keep them interested and focused by ensuring the number of questions you ask is reasonable. Take the survey yourself to estimate the time it will take to complete.

    See what you can do with Culture Amp’s employee surveys

    Request a demo

    What’s next

    View all articles
    Introducing the survey summary


    Introducing the survey summary: Giving employees the transparency they're asking for

    Read article
    Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month


    Latinx Heritage Month: Why celebrating begins with listening

    Read article
    Rethinking performance management in Australia and New Zealand


    Rethinking performance management in Australia & New Zealand

    Read article

    Build a world-class employee experience today

    Your browser is out of date. Our website is built to provide a faster, more engaging experience. Your browser may not support all of our features. Please update to the latest version of Microsoft Edge or contact your network administrator.

    Close browser update banner