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Why customise Employee Engagement Surveys?

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Employee engagement refers to the mental and emotional connection employees have toward the work they do, their teams and organisation. 

Engaged employees are more productive and stay with a company longer. But, right now employees are disengaged at higher rates than ever before.  

Gallup reveals only 32% of workers in the US were engaged last year and in Australia, 38% of employees are planning to leave their job in the next 12 months. 

These statistics make maintaining and improving employee engagement more critical. Replacing employees takes time and resources and is currently more difficult due to the talent shortage being experienced by many industries. 

One way to measure, monitor and improve engagement is to conduct an employee engagement survey

Engagement surveys are designed to measure employee opinions and perceptions about topics that matter to your organisation. This data can be used to measure engagement and also helps leaders understand what is and isn’t working inside an organisation from operational to cultural issues.  

Most companies use out-of-the-box templates to conduct engagement surveys. 

Tried-and-tested engagement survey templates are fantastic as they are usually crafted by experts and backed by scientific-research.

However, a powerful way to optimise engagement surveys is to customise them so the data collected is hyper-relevant to your goals and values. 

By customising a survey, you get the best of both worlds. Expert-approved templates plus customisation ensure the questions you are asking are exactly aligned with your version of organisational improvement. 

In this blog, we talk about how your organisation can create customisable, goal-orientated engagement surveys for stronger decision-making. 

The benefits of customising employee engagement surveys 

When done correctly, engagement surveys give leaders a clear idea of how an organisation is performing from an employee’s standpoint. 

One way to conduct an employee engagement survey is to send employees a digital questionnaire. This is an effective way to survey your entire workforce and collect data that can be analysed and benchmarked. 

When you customise engagement surveys you can ensure the questions asked are directly relevant to your organisation. 

Every organisation is different. Even organisations selling the same products will have different challenges, goals and objectives. That’s why customising surveys is so powerful.  

When you customise an engagement survey you can: 

  • Collect data that is directly tied to initiatives your organisation has already prioritised. 
  • Provide multiple choice, short and long-form answer options so the data collected is appropriate to the question. 
  • Ask questions to meet specific reporting requirements in addition to engagement topics. 
  • Ensure unique culture-building questions are included.  
  • Create a tone of voice that matches your organisation.  

Remember, while some employees may not be engaged, others will be and these groups will care more deeply about the way your organisation is run. 

Interestingly, employees who are not engaged, may become more engaged when presented with the opportunity to share their thoughts, feelings, needs and wants. 

An engagement survey helps give your employees a voice in how your organisation is managed by asking for their opinion. 

By customising a survey, you can make certain you’re asking the right questions so that the data collected gives your employees a voice, thus helping improve their engagement levels and highlight problem areas for leaders to improve upon. 

Using custom surveys to facilitate organisational development 

The best way to customise an engagement survey is to get really clear on the outcomes you’d like to achieve. What are the big issues your organisation would like to collect data around? 

It could be (but not limited to): 

  • Sentiment around an organisation’s mission and values 
  • Feelings around personal and team productivity 
  • Progress toward short and long-term goals
  • Ratings on the technology and tools available  
  • Thoughts on workplace culture 
  • Ideas around initiatives like DEI, flexible work, benefits and more 

Once you know what you’re trying to achieve, customise your engagement survey to collect data around these topics. You can then use this data to action positive change. 

Beware of asking questions you are not prepared to act on. Asking questions around topics your organisation isn’t prepared to act on can have the opposite effect and demotivate your team. 

If you asked questions about a DEI initiative and made it seem like change was imminent when it wasn’t, your survey could actually negatively impact engagement. 

An employee engagement survey is a wonderful opportunity to boost your employee engagement and make them feel seen and heard. A part of this process is validating the feedback received by taking action around the data collected. 

One way to get this right is to plan how often you’d like to conduct your survey and consider how you will share results with employees. 

For instance, if you conduct surveys every quarter, discuss feedback publicly and make your next steps clear. 

By openly asking and acting on employee feedback, you’re more likely to continue to build a strong work culture with a more engaged workforce. 

Examples of customisable employee engagement categories and questions

Xref branded graphic with categories (below) to be considered in an employee engagement survey

Xref Engage provides access to the most effective employee engagement surveys. These surveys are backed by research and have been used in some way, shape or form, across thousands of organisations. 

If you are thinking of kicking off an employee engagement survey project, start by thinking of what categories you’d like to include and then think of how you can customise your employee engagement survey questions for the best results. 

There are many categories you could consider including, but not limited to culture, flexibility, risk reporting, performance and values.

Xref branded graphic with types of questions (below) that can customised in an employee engagement survey

Here are some examples of how you can customise questions to suit your goals. 

Questions that are industry specific 

Customise questions so they suit your industry. 

For example, schools and universities might want to assess the teaching experience for academic staff and ask whether enough support is provided to achieve teaching goals. 

Questions related to demographics 

Customised demographic questions can help you understand if groups of people inside your organisation are facing unique challenges. 

For instance, you can ask where your team members spend the majority of their time during work hours (at home, in the office, or both). Review the responses of the different cohorts to understand how they differ in engagement and overall satisfaction.

Questions about organisational priorities 

Tailor questions so they ask about specific organisational priorities and strategic objectives. 

If your organisation has implemented a new strategy to improve project management practices across the organisation, you may ask staff to rate the new approach. 

The question may be something like: Our new approach to project management makes it easier to meet project deadlines. The answers can help you understand if your new initiative is specifically helping improve deadline management. 

Questions to meet specific reporting requirements 

Many organisations need to conduct surveys to meet specific reporting requirements. You can embed these questions into your wider engagement surveys in order to achieve two goals at once. 

For instance, organisations wishing to achieve accreditation with an organisation like the Workplace Gender Equality Agency can include required questions about equality in the workplace. 

Questions for long-form feedback 

Sometimes, a multiple choice or rating option just doesn’t cut it when it comes to gathering valuable feedback. This is where free text question options are most powerful. 

You may want to hear what employees think about technology in your company. By asking employees open questions, you can understand more about what they think about the resources at their disposal and collect ideas for improvement. 

Swinburne University of Technology conducts research-based engagement surveys 

Swinburne University of Technology offers a prime example of how customising engagement surveys can lead to organisational improvement. 

In 2021, Swinburne was required to implement a detailed gender equity employee experience survey. The survey was part of a workplace audit to meet obligations under the Victorian Gender Equality Act, 2020. 

The university wanted to combine this survey with their annual employee experience survey. 

With the help of Voice Project, now Xref Engage, Swinburne was able to create a survey that met both governmental and university requirements. 

The survey helped the university identify priority employee groups they wanted to follow up with to collect more data about gender equity and their experience at work. 

After conducting focus groups and follow up research based on survey data, Swinburne was able to measure employee engagement and collect deep insights about their employee’s experience. 

An action plan and employee engagement strategies were created based on staff feedback and designed to generate meaningful improvements to university policy. 

Part of Swinburne’s success lies in tailoring their engagement survey to suit their compliance-based and organisational needs. A generic survey template may not have met governmental regulations or allowed Swinburne to achieve two specific objectives at once. 

Xref branded graphic with text (above) and image of happy employees exiting a university campus

About Xref Engage 

Xref Engage is a suite of surveys designed to assess your organisation's performance in areas like diversity, leadership, career growth, and more. With actionable insights, you can increase employee engagement, boost retention and maximise productivity.

At the heart of Xref Engage is a group of seasoned professionals from Voice Project. Xref acquired Voice Project in 2022 and now the team are an integral part of the rapidly growing Xref Group. 

Xref Engage is ideal for leaders looking for expert advice on creating engagement surveys that offer your people a voice and lead to meaningful change. The team will help you choose the right questions, customise them for ideal data collection and create plans for actioning feedback and measuring improvements over time. 

Final thoughts 

With talent shortages around the world and data revealing employees are less engaged due to changing economic and political landscapes, it’s important for leaders to focus on how they can retain top talent. Keeping your people highly engaged at work is key to their happiness and wellbeing, but first, your organisation needs to know how to improve. 

Conducting an employee engagement survey tailored to your organisation will allow you to collect specific data. The survey results will then give insight on how your employees are feeling and what you can change.

Out-of-the-box survey templates can work well, but they work even better when they are customised to suit your organisation and its goals.

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