10 most important employee survey questions

Employee surveys provide invaluable insights, and most CEOs and People leads know that neglecting them can be very costly. However, as with any problem solving, asking the right questions is what matters. In this blog post we are shedding some light on the most important themes for employee surveys and questions that yield actionable results.

Jaakko Kaikuluoma


Good employee survey questions provide invaluable insights, and most CEOs and People leads know that neglecting them can be very costly. Forerunners are replacing heavy annual/bi-annual surveys with weekly/bi-weekly pulse surveys that allow tracking real-time trends and reacting to issues proactively.

However, as with any problem solving, asking the right questions is what matters.

What those questions are turns out to be less obvious and intuitions can mislead. In this blog post we are shedding some light on the most important themes for employee surveys and questions that yield actionable results.

What exactly do I want to measure?

“What gets measured gets managed.”

This Peter Drucker quote might be a bit cliché, but it applies spot-on to employee surveys. The most important aspects about work and wellbeing depend a lot on the company’s values and culture. These are a good place to start.

For example, how much do we emphasize continuous learning and personal growth? How important are workload balance and mental wellbeing? What is the role of teamwork, dependability, and communication?

Keep in mind that  a strong a priori (initial, before data) hypothesis of the organization’s most central issues and strengths might lead to a narrow set of questions that leaves hidden challenges undiscovered. Based on previous scientific research and our customer’s experiences, the following 16 themes provide a versatile “net” that allows identifying different types of organizational and cultural challenges. We have found it useful to categorize these themes under 3 broad areas: Wellbeing, engagement, and DEIB, and to calculate a top-level KPI for each:

pulse survey themes

10 important and valuable employee survey questions

After you have decided what to measure, the next step is formulating the questions in a way that guarantees actionable insights and minimizes ambiguity. The answer alternatives are just as important as the questions themselves.

It might be tempting to ask open questions with a text response field. However, these raise the mental threshold of answering, which lowers response rates and also makes aggregating data and following trends harder. It’s a safer solution to allow adding optional comments to multiple-choice questions.

A complete picture will require investigating most themes from multiple angles with different questions. Teamspective’s pulse surveys dig deeper into the nuances with 1-13 employee survey questions for each theme. Questions are rotated automatically, so a very broad perspective is gathered over each quarter, while a maximum of 6 questions need to be answered at once. The “traditional” HR survey approach of asking dozens of questions at once is burdensome for respondents. We have found that response rates drop sharply after the 6th question.

As a bonus, rotating questions make answering interesting and thought-provoking, instead of becoming a tedious, repetitive chore. You can also add custom questions if something crucial to your company is not covered by the standard set of 61.

Below, we look at 10 of the most central and frequently asked questions as well as their implications.

1. “On a scale from 0-10, how likely are you to recommend your organisation as a good place to work?”

Answer scale: 0-10

Theme: eNPS (Employee Net Promoter score)

Implication: eNPS shows the overall sentiment towards your company. This employee survey question estimates the proportion of ‘promoting’ and ‘detracting’ employees and, as a widely accepted metric, compares employee experience in your company to similar ones. Read more about understanding eNPS here.

2. “How are you feeling at work?”

Answer scale: ”very bad” to ”very good”

Theme: Mental wellbeing

Implication: Mental wellbeing at the workplace affects absenteeism and employee churn. The World Health Organization (2022) claims that globally, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety at a cost of US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.

3. “How is your workload?”

Answer scale: ”way too small” to ”way too heavy”

Theme: Workload balance

Implication: Workload issues are often team-specific and strongly affect employee churn. Our insights show that employees who are about to resign are 580% more likely to report high workload.

4. “Are you motivated by your current work or its results?”

Answer scale: ”not at all motivated” to ”extremely motivated”

Theme: Motivation

Implication: Motivation closely affects factors such as accomplishment, effectiveness and personal growth. It’s also a major factor in employee retention. According to our data, people who are about to resign are 220% more likely to report low motivation in this employee survey question.

5. “My team works together effectively”

Answer scale: “Strongly disagree” to “Strongly Agree” (Likert scale)

Theme: Teamwork

Implication: Google's Project Aristotle found that a team's ways of collaborating are more important for delivering impact than the skills of each individual. Another study shared by Harvard Business Review found that teams where members are tightly connected with each other are more productive. However, team dynamics are fragile and are easily disrupted by member turnover or shifts in demands. Hence, It’s important for teams to notice issues early and make space to course correct.

6. “How is the rate of learning in your job?”

Answer scale: “Too slow” to “Too fast”

Theme: Personal growth

Implication: Learning and the ability to develop one’s skills is a major motivational factor in work. On the other hand, the pressure to have to learn too many new things at once can become overwhelming, increase risks of burnout and endanger productivity. Maintaining a balance can be challenging and depends on personal preferences/temperament and role-related factors. Hence, you really don’t know where your teams stand unless you ask regularly.

7. “Are you satisfied with the quality and amount of feedback you get at work?”

Answer scale: “Very dissatisfied” to “Very satisfied”

Theme: Personal growth

Implication: There is a massive, global feedback shortfall: In general, people would want a lot more feedback, both (reinforcing and redirecting), but are very reserved in giving it. Feedback activity can also reflect psychological safety and how easy it is to bring up issues.  We have found that receiving regular written feedback increases motivation by 18%, wellbeing by 17% and psychological safety by 36%.

8. “Our company is successfully creating a diverse workforce”

Answer scale: “Strongly disagree” to “Strongly agree” (Likert scale)

Theme: Diversity

Implication: Diversity supports innovation and creativity. In addition to the objective diversity of your workforce, it’s good to keep an ear on how your employees feel the company is succeeding in its diversity goals.

9. “How often do you find it hard to fit in at work?”

Answer scale: “Almost always” to “Almost never”

Theme: Inclusion

Implication: Deloitte Australia research showed that inclusive teams tend to outperform their peers (by around 80% in team-based assessments). Inclusion is also necessary for reaping the benefits of diversity. Today inclusion is a popular company value and without constant tracking, it easily remains a pretty word.

10. “In our company, people are given equal opportunities to succeed and advance in their career”

Answer scale: “Strongly disagree” to “Strongly agree” (Likert scale)

Theme: Equity

Implication: Inequality can affect employee wellbeing on different fronts: lower motivation and psychological safety, decreased productivity, and as a result absenteeism and employee churn. Even if you think that employees are treated equally, it is crucial to ask this employee survey question to verify they feel that way.

In conclusion

Anonymous, frequent pulse surveys are one of the only effective ways of understanding the honest opinions of your employees and sentiments across your organization – especially if you suspect low psychological safety might be one of your company’s challenges, as it raises the threshold for people to speak up.

If you actually had to limit your employee survey questions to 10, you would need to carefully consider the most central themes for your company and its culture in order to determine the 10 most important questions.

With smart survey tools like Teamspective’s Pulse, you can leave out the guesswork, and start out with a broad range of questions that rotate automatically, asking the most important and fast-changing metrics most frequently. If some questions don’t yield insightful results, you can then choose to disable them, and prioritize asking more crucial questions more often.

Learn more about Teamspective’s Slack-and-Teams-integrated pulse surveys on solution's page. You can try out Teamspective’s Pulse for free with up to 30 employees or discuss your needs in more detail with our feedback culture experts.