Five Non-Negotiables For Your Survey Strategy


This year, many organisations (and individuals) are redefining what it means to be ‘engaged’ at work. This reset moment, that has come about following accelerated shifts in both our personal and professional lives, provides an unmissable opportunity for us to reimagine our survey strategies, ensuring that we lead with the needs of our people. 

Our data provides rich insight into the employee experience and it highlights that engagement scores hit a peak right at the start of the pandemic as businesses ramped up their response to the global crisis. However, the scores have since tailed off and are struggling to climb back to, let alone surpass, pre-pandemic levels.  These ‘five non-negotiables’ will ensure that your surveys provide meaningful data to take engagement to the next level and lead to transformational change: 

1. Measuring emotion – how your people feel

Our emotional state influences everything we do. How we feel is therefore the key driver of all our behaviour including how we show up at work. Knowing that emotions are the source of our behaviour means that measuring them must be at the forefront of any business agenda.  

Asking people how they feel up front has multiple benefits: 

  • Leads with a more personal approach feels more human 
  • Sharing emotions allows people to release their feelings thereby providing more subjective responses to other survey questions 
  • If respondents drop out later in the survey, their emotional state will still have been captured and as this is the leading indicator of engagement at work, we will still have data that tells us how people are doing to inform our next steps 

Regularly measuring how your people feel demonstrates a commitment to understanding your employees and building strong connections which allow people to give their best at work. 

2. Understanding the themes – the reasons behind the emotions

Linked closely with measuring emotion, which tells us how people feel, knowing why people feel the way they do provides the insight we need to shift the emotional climate of our organisation and thus, achieve higher engagement. Our thematic analysis of free text responses is an absolute favourite amongst clients! The real time insight facilitates discussion and supports a consistent approach across teams and departments. 

If we look at best practice in research, we see that quantitative and qualitative data are both essential – it’s important to have the hard data (emotions) backed up by stories (themes) in order to paint a full picture. 

3. Engagement Index – what an ‘engaged’ employee looks like

There is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach to engagement so establishing what it means at your organisation is key to implementing an effective survey strategy. The engagement index is the overall engagement score typically based on 3-5 questions, covering factors such as culture, leadership etc., which define engagement at your organisation. 

We work closely with our clients to design a bespoke index taking into consideration: 

  • The context in which the company is operating and achieving
  • Historical approaches to track data over time
  • The business strategy and the type of organisation it aspires to be 
  • What the organisation needs from its people and what is important to them 
  • Emerging trends as well as common factors 

When defining ‘engagement’ and constructing your EI, we start by looking internally at what type of organisation we want to be. This ensures that the engagement strategy measures relevant factors that are important to your people! 

4. Other indices – measuring relevant factors

We know that other factors are important to organisations beyond the EI many of which are intrinsically linked with engagement. Having the flexibility to include other indices makes the approach more agile and engaging for employees while also giving a more well-rounded perspective meaning that the data provides us with a much richer story. 

Currently, the top factors to measure in your survey strategy alongside engagement are: 

  • Wellbeing – what it means to feel cared for has changed over the last couple of years and in turn, many organisations have increased their wellbeing offering. Are these initiatives successful and are they meeting the needs of our people? 
  • EDI – This could be a non-negotiable in its own right! The expectation is now that EDI is high on every business agenda. While equality, diversity and inclusion are often grouped together, all 3 elements deserve attention so to measure effectively, we need to have questions covering each of them. 
  • Purpose and impact – social issues (e.g. sustainability) are gaining more and more momentum as ‘issues’ that shape our employee experience. Gen Z feel strongly that their employers take a stance on such topics and doing so is key to engaging with them. 

5. Branching questions – gaining qualitative insight

Branching questions enable you to have a follow up question based on someone’s response to immediately gain the next level of insight and inform more targeted actions. As mentioned for the themes, this provides qualitative information to support the numerical data giving us the full story without the need to run another survey to deep dive into the issue thus avoiding survey fatigue. 

Furthermore, using branching questions effectively enhances the survey experience for the respondent making it more personalised and allowing people to share more details where they have given a negative answer. This alone can go a long way towards making people feel heard and towards developing an inclusive culture. 

Adopting an agile listening approach and measuring factors that are important to your people helps shift the perceptions of colleague surveys from a ‘tick box’ exercise to an interactive communication tool. Building your strategy and with the right foundations outlined in our five non-negotiables will create the change you want to see in your organisation. 

Master Engagement Throughout the Employee Lifecycle