How Gathering Feedback Will Improve Your Office Culture and Employee Experience

Catherine Tansey
July 26, 2022
employee feedback, surveying employees, employee reviews, employee satisfaction, workplace culture

If you want to be an employee-centric organization, you need to find out what your employees have to say. 

All too often, companies opt for a single, annual engagement survey that amounts to little more than a rote process on the business-side, and a dreaded activity on the employee-side. 

A better approach is to make employee surveying a core part of your employee engagement strategy. Ongoing employee feedback gives you the necessary insight you need to improve your office culture and the employee experience, so it’s best to conduct surveys at a regular cadence. 

Let’s look closer at the benefits of feedback and the top things to keep in mind as you begin to think about surveying your team. 

What are the benefits of gathering employee feedback?

Feeling heard improves feelings of psychological safety

Employees who feel their organization cares about their experience and what they have to say are more likely to feel they are in a psychologically safe environment, which lends itself to a host of other benefits. 

Gathering feedback gives you the information you need to create a more engaged workplace

High levels of employee engagement are about as close as you can get to a cure-all for problems that plague many companies, like low productivity, absenteeism, and high turnover.

Consider research from Gallup, which found that:

  • Engaged employees are 21% more profitable than their less-engaged counterparts.
  • Highly engaged business units experience 41% less absenteeism and 17% more productivity. 
  • Engaged employees are also more likely to stay with their employers.  

Simply asking questions may encourage employee engagement

Further, as reported by the Harvard Business Review, one company found that when employees were asked if they were “personally committed to improve their experiences working there,” they were 12% more likely than their peers to request a list of resources available to them to help them become more engaged at the company.

The data you collect may tell you more than you’d think

The least obvious data may tell you the most. “We learn a lot from surveys even when people don’t participate,” wrote then-Facebook employees Scott Judd, Eric O'Rourke, and Adam Grant in the same HBR article discussed above.

The authors found that employees who don’t complete their bi-annual surveys were 2.6x more likely to leave the company in the next six months. 

How to format employee survey questions

A mix of question formats works best for employee surveys. Include some yes/no, multiple choice, scaled questions, and open-ended questions when building your own. 

One well-referenced study and literature review from 1999 found that rating scales using 5-, 7-, or 11-points will provide enough data to spot meaningful trends and make actionable change. When creating scaled questions and answers, be sure the answers are balanced, meaning there are the same number of positive and negative options. 

Open-ended questions are where some of the richest data will come from, as you’re giving employees a blank slate to share their feedback. But true open-ended questions may either encourage excessive responses or get glossed over all together. 

If you want to include open-ended questions that encourage a specific line of response from employees, consider using fill-in-the-blank, or ask leading questions. 

Here are some examples of open-ended questions to ask:

  • I feel our company lives its values when…
  • I would feel more supported by my manager if… 
  • I could better handle the tasks of my job if…
  • When it comes to development, I wish I had the opportunity to. 

How often should you survey employees?

Each company will find the cadence that works best for them. As a general framework, annual and bi-annual surveying tends to be too infrequent. With both, you’ll end up gauging employee sentiment in those moments rather than building a measurement over time. 

Another risk of too infrequent surveying is that recency bias can sneak into the equation. Recency bias is the tendency to consider only the most recent of events, meaning that employees are more likely to emphasize recent events, triumphs, frustrations, etc., rather than view these events within the greater context of what’s happened in the past months. 

Many companies find that quarterly surveying for engagement surveys is their sweet spot. It’s often enough to keep a pulse on how engaged employees are without your team feeling like they’re being asked to complete surveys constantly. 

Pro tips for surveying your team

1. Use clear language

Take care to use specific language and ask questions with a single point of focus. It’s important not to lump two disparate questions together, especially with scaled questions. 

  • Don’t: “How would you rate the quality and frequency of company-wide events?” 
  • Do: “How would you rate the quality of company-wide events at encouraging a sense of camaraderie?” and, “How would you rate the frequency of these events, with a 1 being too infrequent, a 3 being just right, and a five being too frequent.”

2. Be transparent with employees

If you don’t yet have a surveying strategy in place as part of your engagement strategy, you should introduce one. Be honest and upfront with employees as to why you’re going to begin to gather this information, what it will be used for, who will have access to it, and whether or not results will be anonymous. 

3. Time surveys wisely

Avoid sending surveys during busy periods. Employees are likely to skip them, which can set an unwanted precedent for future surveys. You want employees to take surveying seriously; you don’t want your timing to make employees think you’re out of touch.

Surveying is one of the most effective ways to find out what employees think of the organization and company culture. You’ll uncover invaluable information like how engaged employees are, which is a key indicator of how likely an employee is likely to stick it out for the long haul, or seek employment elsewhere. You’ll also gather data that helps you boost levels of engagement and satisfaction to build a better workplace for all. 

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