GuidesEmployee experienceEmployee satisfaction surveys 101: Measuring the employee experience

Employee satisfaction surveys 101: Measuring the employee experience

Last updated

26 June 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Shawnna Johnson

Employees are an organization’s most valuable asset. Therefore, it’s crucial for the company to understand how satisfied those employees are and what drives that satisfaction. To determine this, you gather data through an employee satisfaction survey. This is an indispensable tool used to gather feedback from your employees to measure and determine gaps in employee satisfaction. 

In this article, we’ll present the tools you need to measure satisfaction levels among your employees.

What is employee satisfaction?

It’s a broad term used to describe the level of contentment an employee feels toward several aspects of their employment. When employees are content with their jobs, they perform better. 

In addition, a satisfied employee is productive and committed to contributing to the organization's goals. Higher employee satisfaction rates are a huge indicator that the organization treats the employees better—and vice versa. 

Why should you measure employee satisfaction?

Employee satisfaction is a vital aspect of any business. It’s a key metric used to determine the overall health and culture of the business. When a company measures employee satisfaction rates, they’re committed to employee retention. This results in increased revenue and a stronger bottom line. Therefore, measuring employee satisfaction is becoming a staple at most workplaces. 

For instance, measuring employee satisfaction rates provides valuable information to support the following:

  • Employee work-life balance

  • Employee well-being

  • Retention factors

  • Productivity 

  • Motivating factors

Employee satisfaction factors

The level of contentment is relative as every employee responds to various factors differently. Since there’s no one definition of job satisfaction, the common factors discussed below affect employee satisfaction:

Work-life balance

Work-life balance is a significant factor that allows employees to have a perfect balance of their personal and professional lives. It includes everything from parental leave policies to being able to work from home. When employees have flexibility over their work schedules, they can attend to other duties, such as family responsibilities. 

On the other hand, strict work schedules make employees feel overwhelmed, and in the long term, it leads to dissatisfaction and increased turnover rates. Therefore, employees are productive and motivated when there’s a proper balance of work and life responsibilities.

Employee well-being

The health of employees plays a vital role in their satisfaction and dedication levels. It’s difficult to become productive when your well-being is compromised, whether it’s mentally, emotionally, or physically. Showing employees that their well-being matters, and offering tools to support this, is an effective way of increasing job satisfaction. 

Employee benefits

Much of employee satisfaction is measured by how well they’re compensated in areas other than their wallets. Employee benefits make a huge difference in job satisfaction. Supporting employees through healthcare, paid leaves, time off, and retirement benefits increases employee satisfaction. 

When an employer invests in employees' benefits, they’re able to boost employee satisfaction. Employee satisfaction surveys typically ask questions about current and desired employee benefits.

Recognition and rewards

Employees are satisfied when their work and performance are recognized and valued. Therefore, they seek work environments where they’re appreciated. Positive recognition increases job satisfaction rates. A simple 'well done’ or ‘good job' can make employees feel encouraged and appreciated. 

Employees appreciate and seek different types of recognition and awards. Understanding the different types goes a long way with employee satisfaction.

Work environment

Employees spend a considerable amount of their time at work. As a result, it’s vital to ensure they have conducive working conditions. Workplace safety and ergonomics is impactful on employee satisfaction. A safe and ergonomic work environment protects employees from injuries and incidents that lead to lower job satisfaction. 

Providing adequate ventilation, spacious workspaces, and comfortable workstations will allow employees to carry out their job efficiently. Furthermore, employers committed to workplace safety show their employees they’re cared for.  

Healthy culture

Employees expect to work in an organization of professionalism and respect. Being able to speak directly with a manager when there’s an issue or concern is vital to employee satisfaction. Additionally, those concerns should be addressed and acted upon appropriately. Having a healthy work culture is vital to retention, productivity, and attracting new employees to the organization

Enough career development opportunities

When the organization invests in its employees over the long term, employee satisfaction levels increase exponentially. Offering learning and development opportunities tells your employees they’re valuable assets the company is willing to invest in. Understanding what your employees need in this regard is a benefit derived from conducting employee satisfaction surveys. 

What is the difference between employee satisfaction and employee engagement?

Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they measure different aspects of the employee lifecycle

Employee satisfaction measures the basic needs of the employee to join the organization and stay content with the job, the work environment, and the benefits offered. The organization must first meet the needs of employees in this area before it can impact employee engagement levels.  

Employee engagement measures how connected and invested the employee is with the organization and its mission. Employee engagement tells the organization how willing employees are to give freely of their discretionary effort or go above and beyond to meet goals and deliverables.  

What is an employee satisfaction survey?

This is a powerful tool that aims to measure the contentment level of employee’s basic needs from the organization. It acts to provide actionable insights that can be used to improve the employee experience. 

An employee satisfaction survey is a great way to get responses from employees about their level of contentment and needs. It covers topics such as job satisfaction, company culture, employee benefits, personal growth, compensation, and work environment. 

The benefits of administering employee satisfaction surveys include the following:

  1. Increases retention rates

  2. Allows for the collection of direct feedback from employees

  3. Encourages open and transparent communication

  4. Helps the management identify issues faced by employees

  5. Improves workplace culture

Signs that you need to survey employees

So, how do you know when it’s time to conduct an employee satisfaction survey?

If you’re having difficulty hiring new employees, it’s a great time to survey employees. Candidates may opt out of applying to your organization or fall out of the process when they discover you’re not offering competitive benefits or compensation. There could be additional factors at play that could be uncovered through the survey. 

Additionally, your current employees could discourage friends and family from applying for jobs with your company if they’re unsatisfied with the organization’s ability to meet their basic needs.

You may be required to conduct a survey if your company is facing a problem with employee retention. Dissatisfied employees feel less fulfilled and may opt to quit their jobs for other employment opportunities. 

Another sign is when the company experiences low productivity. Employees that are dissatisfied with their jobs tend to be less productive and reliable. Excessive absenteeism could also indicate issues such as a lack of work-life balance or poor working conditions. Employees will often miss work and are stressed. This is an indicator that an employee satisfaction survey needs to be quickly conducted.

Other indicators to watch out for are:

  • An increase in complaints received by human resource departments

  • Impacts to your bottom line

  • Unexplained employee behaviors

Planning your employee satisfaction surveys 

Employee satisfaction surveys aimed at delivering actionable results need careful planning. As a result, several aspects need to be considered, including survey topics, length, questionnaire design, and timing. To plan for a successful employee satisfaction survey, HR departments can employ these recommended practices:

1. Establish the survey objective

Before deploying survey questions, establish clear goals and objectives. A survey with no objective is set up for failure. Here are some things to think about as you plan:

  • What is the primary objective?

  • What are you trying to measure with the satisfaction survey results?

  • What questions will tell you if employees are satisfied or not?

  • Who will design the survey questions?

  • When will it be conducted?

  • Who will be responsible for implementing changes driven by the results?

  • How will the results be shared with the employees?

  • How will we ensure the confidentiality of the participants?

2. Determine your sample group

A small sample group may not give conclusive results, but conducting surveys on a large scale may seem impossible. Therefore, find a sample group that will give you the most accurate and unbiased results.

3. Find the right survey cadence

Determine the best time to roll out your survey to gain optimal feedback.  For example, surveying in the summer time may yield fewer results as employees use this time to take vacations. Also, consider large projects going on in the organization that may yield less available time from the employees. Surveys can be rolled out weekly, monthly, biannually, or yearly. 

However, each has its disadvantages. For instance, weekly surveys are likely to lead to survey fatigue, while annual surveys may be less informative. A best practice is to roll out a semi-annual survey to establish a baseline, while following up six months later (perhaps with a small subgroup) to determine if the actions are yielding results. Some organizations also deploy pulse surveys at shorter intervals. Try to have a perfect balance of how often to administer the surveys while taking into consideration survey fatigue.

4. Determine the survey method

Select the appropriate survey method depending on the ease of distributing surveys or the number of participants. If the number of participants is large, consider sending online questionnaires via email or using a survey tool. This will ensure that many participants are engaged and that you conduct the survey efficiently. 

5. Establish the design of the questionnaire 

Select a questionnaire format that will give you actionable results. Determine whether the questions will be in a drop-down, checkbox, open-ended, or multiple-choice format. Avoid too many questions that could make the respondent skip or lose interest in answering the survey. 

Formulate the survey questions in a way that covers the critical topics you wish to collect feedback on. Remember, less is more. Select the questions that will yield the best results.

6. Encourage participation

Communicate the importance of the survey to the employees before deploying them. Under this section, clearly outline what you want the survey to accomplish, when you’ll conduct it, and what steps you’ll take once the procedure is concluded. Set a goal for participation. Utilize your most senior leader (rather than HR) as the champion for the communications so the organization understands the request is coming from the top.

7. Communicate the survey results

Perhaps this is the most important part of conducting any survey. Sharing key findings will encourage respondents to participate in the future. Employees deserve to know what the survey results say and what the organization intends to do to take action. 

Tips for getting employee feedback

Employee feedback is vital in creating exceptional employee experience and boosting satisfaction rates. HR departments can master these tips for getting employee feedback:

Communicate the central objective of the survey

This outlines the goal of the survey and encourages employees to participate. More so, they will provide candid answers. 

Use strategic questions

Survey questions should also be easy to understand and brief. The questions should be open-ended to allow them to give their candid opinions. In addition, use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative questions so that they’re easy to fill out but still informative for HR departments. Keep the tone of the questions free from jargon, and remember to avoid biased or leading questions. 

Take measures to ensure confidentiality

Assure employees that their opinions will remain confidential. This encourages employees to provide honest answers. Anonymous surveys allow employees to talk freely about their work experience. Put it in writing that the survey responses will remain anonymous and employees will face no repercussions for negative responses. 

Optimize appropriate channels

Use various channels to encourage employees to participate in surveys. For example, use phone or email surveys depending on how convenient it is for employees. Email surveys make data collection quicker, and employees can give feedback anytime. Phone surveys allow employees without the appropriate technology to complete the survey.

Make the whole process enjoyable and inviting

Even if you have a perfect survey design, the ultimate success of the process lies in the hands of potential respondents. Offer incentives such as gifts to increase feedback rates. For instance, if it’s a physical survey, offer food and drinks to participants who take their time to respond. Other non-monetary incentives to encourage employees to give feedback are giving them thank-you pens or free notebooks. 

What to do with your feedback data

Once you’ve collected the survey results, it’s time to analyze them and create an action plan. Employees will feel appreciated when you respond to their feedback with actions. 

Each workplace is different, but here are some ideas on actions you may consider:

  • Provide flexible work hours

  • Give employees time to relax

  • Embrace part-time work and leave policies

  • Wellness programs

  • Financial programs

  • More break time

  • Healthier food choices in the cafeteria or breakrooms

  • Discounted gym memberships

  • Community giving opportunities

  • Clean work environments

  • Improved office furniture

  • Safety or ergonomic surveys 

  • New recognition programs

  • Employee of the month parking spaces

  • Additional holiday each year

  • New training courses offered by LMS system

  • Hiring a training and development specialist

  • Volunteer days

24 questions to incorporate into your employee satisfaction survey 

Here are some questions to include in employee satisfaction surveys:

Role recognition

Do you feel that your role is appreciated?

Does your manager appreciate and value your contributions?

Is there a recognition system in place?

Work climate

Do you feel tense or uneasy while at work?

Do you enjoy coming to work?

How challenging is your work?

Does the company offer you a pleasant workspace?

How likely are you to seek other employment opportunities?

Are you satisfied with the work climate?

Compensation and benefits

What do you like and dislike about the employee benefits programs?

Are you content with your current pay rate?

What are your opinions on employee benefit programs?

Work-life balance

Does the job allow you to attend to personal and family responsibilities?

How often do you take paid leave?

How flexible is your work schedule?

Have you ever neglected family responsibilities to come to work?

Managerial communication

How often do you communicate with your manager?

Have you ever experienced micromanaging?

Are you satisfied with the guidance from your manager?

Rate the managerial communication on a scale of 0–10

Training adequacy

Do you feel this is where you want to be?

Do you feel accomplished in your current position?

Are you content with the workplace training you receive?

Rate the in-house training programs on a scale of 0–10


What are the types of employee satisfaction?

The two types of employee satisfaction are intrinsic and extrinsic job satisfaction. Intrinsic satisfaction is contentment with the job, while extrinsic is contentment with the job environment. 

How many questions should an employee satisfaction survey have?

With employee satisfaction surveys, the key is to keep the surveys as short as possible. This is to encourage honest feedback and reduce survey fatigue. However, an ideal survey can contain up to 60 questions. 

What is the biggest factor in employee satisfaction?

There is no number one factor in employee satisfaction. This is because what satisfies one employee might not satisfy the next.

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