Employee Engagement

6 common mistakes when creating annual employee engagement surveys

April 5, 2023

RESOURCES 6 common mistakes when creating annual employee engagement surveys

Employee engagement surveys are valuable tools for understanding the needs, preferences, and concerns of your workforce. However, not all survey strategies are equally effective. Let’s learn about some of the common pitfalls of annual employee engagement surveys and discuss how to maximize the value of the insights they provide.


Mistake #1: Asking for names

Employees are less likely to provide honest feedback if they believe their responses can be traced back to them. Therefore, it is important to protect employee anonymity and confidentiality while maintaining trust.

Naturally, concealing employee names from survey results is one crucial step in this strategy. However, that alone may not be enough to fully anonymize the results. Let’s say that you have only one employee with a specific job title in a certain location. Even without their name, it would be pretty easy to pinpoint that employee. That’s why it’s also important to have measures in place to obscure things like job titles, tenure, or shifts in instances where it would be possible to single out someone.

At WorkStep, we use the rule of three to protect employee anonymity. What this means is that in order for us to show specific demographics or identifiers for a segment, we need at least three respondents to exist in that segment. For instance, if you only had one person in your marketing team that identified as male, we would remove gender as an identifier when serving up your marketing team’s survey results. If you only had two people on your marketing team, the marketing team’s function itself would not appear.

When sending out surveys or check-ins to your employee base, it is also important to communicate to them that the surveys are anonymous. Depending on the level of trust within your organization, you may want to further elaborate specifically on how their responses are protected to ensure that they feel comfortable sharing honest feedback.


Key takeaway: To gather accurate insights, ensure your employee survey platform guarantees anonymity in a way that does not allow leadership to pinpoint any particular employee.

Mistake #2: Creating lengthy surveys

Long, tedious surveys can discourage participation and lead to incomplete or rushed responses. Survey fatigue occurs when your audience becomes uninterested in answering surveys, whether that has to do with the frequency, length, or relevance of the questions. There are a few main types of survey fatigue: pre-response survey fatigue and survey-taking fatigue, both are a result of incorrect targeting, poor question design, and length.

With your frontline workforce in mind, a good rule of thumb is that regular check-ins should take 1-2 minutes and pulse surveys should take just a few seconds to complete. This minimizes disruptions to production and increases overall response rates.

WorkStep’s employee surveys are designed to be completed without disrupting workflows, whether they are conducted while changing stations, between breaks, or shifts. Pulse surveys are a brief set of questions that take just a few moments to complete, an easy ask for an employee to answer between tasks. Likewise, our check-ins are delivered at regular, predictable intervals throughout the employee journey and site leaders should make it best practice to encourage their team to take a moment to answer these questions.


Key Takeaway: Keep your surveys concise, focusing on key areas of insights you need to drive business outcomes. This will ensure that you gather meaningful data without overwhelming your workforce.

Mistake #3: Writing generic survey questions

While generic questions may help you gather some insights, they may not be relevant to the unique needs and concerns of your workforce. Tailoring questions to your organization and industry ensures that the data you collect is more accurate and actionable. There is no one-size-fits all approach to a great annual engagement survey and no magical question set list you can download online that will suit your specific needs.

WorkStep provides pre-built question sets informed by our expertise with frontline workers and salaried desk forces. However, there are times when custom questions (or entire question-sets) are required. We work closely with I/O psychologists to identify new themes or questions before launching them into an ongoing cyclical gauntlet of deployment, validation or rejection, and iteration all supported by data science analysis. Throughout this experience, we hone in on the industry and segment-specific questions that deliver the most meaningful insights for our partners.


Key Takeaway: Different employee populations, such as frontline and salaried workers, have vastly different experiences, needs, and viewpoints even if they work at the same location. Avoid using generic surveys and work with industry experts to build catered experiences so each segment can be provided with questions that resonate with them.

Mistake #4: Collecting only quantitative data

While quantitative data is essential for identifying trends and patterns, qualitative data (such as open-ended comments) can provide valuable context and nuance. Failing to collect qualitative data may result in an incomplete understanding of your workforce’s concerns and needs. To avoid this, include follow-up questions asking employees to provide more detailed explanations or the context behind their answers.

A clear example of this: an employee may rate a facility or warehouse a one out of five when it comes to on-site safety. While it’s true that a score of one would alert you to a problem, it doesn’t necessarily give you the context you need to address it. Qualitative inputs might, for example, point out negligent forklift maintenance as the reason an employee rated “safety” with a score of one.

The quantitative data points help you measure, while the qualitative data points help you take action. At WorkStep, we believe in taking action. That’s why we provide both quantitative and qualitative question sets to help you identify and address workforce issues head-on.


Key Takeaway: Gathering insights that will lead to positive metamorphic shifts in the employee experience is about more than just filling lines on a spreadsheet with raw data. While quantitative data is essential for identifying trends through deep analysis, qualitative data provides valuable insight into the top-of-mind issues your employees are experiencing in their own words.

Mistake #5: Forgetting to benchmark

Benchmarking your survey results against industry standards can provide valuable context and insights into your organization’s performance. Ignoring these comparisons can result in missed opportunities to identify areas where your organization excels or requires improvement.

For example, the Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) is a universally benchmarkable way to measure employee satisfaction and loyalty with one question. eNPS identifies employee advocates and detractors to better understand the internal reputation of an organization while allowing leaders to compare rating to universal industry benchmarks. This means there is no guesswork! Leaders can directly compare their eNPS score to others in their industry and see how they stack up, or use this data to compete with internal historical data on a regular basis. High eNPS scores, especially, are a great benchmarkable metric to manage closely if you would like your organization to become an employer of choice.

WorkStep partners closely with leaders in frontline industries nationwide, providing us with the data necessary to benchmark favorability scores for segments such as tenure, role, geographic location, career growth sentiments, or general satisfaction, to name a few. While you can benchmark against industry standards to get a pulse on how your site is performing, it is also valuable to compare current scores to internal historic data as well.


Key Takeaway: The healthiest competition your organization can have is with itself! Benchmark data against industry standards in addition to internal historical data to better track improvements in employee sentiment. This will help you identify which initiatives drove the most significant changes and which need to be retired.

Mistake #6: One-size-fits-all approach to survey analysis

A one-size-fits-all approach to analyzing survey results can obscure crucial patterns and trends. Segmenting your data by factors such as role type, location, demographics, and tenure allows you to identify the unique needs and concerns of different employee groups. Generalized data analysis and subsequent action planning fails when leaders don’t properly differentiate between the needs of employee segments.

A hyperbolic example of this would be site-leadership identifying the need for more forklift training and rolling out mandatory classes across the organization, including salaried desk workers who will never operate a machine. While this is an extreme example, similar lapses are common when rolling out blanketed initiatives to solve the problems of a specific subset of employees. Avoid wasted motion and operational expenses by solving workplace problems at the source.

WorkStep gives you the ability to filter your analysis by segments through myriad Feedback Summary filters. Divide survey results by things such as location, role, department, themes, or timeframe to isolate key issues affecting each employee population. This segmentation is just a part of what makes WorkStep’s solution targeted and continuous, tied to outcomes, and action oriented.


Key Takeaway: Blanketed, one-size-fits-all solutions lead to wasted resources and actions the majority of your employees will find irrelevant. Take the time to use employee engagement tools to dissect the data and develop targeted action plans that solve the specific pain points of segmented populations.


To maximize the value of your employee engagement surveys, it’s crucial to avoid common pitfalls and ineffective strategies. By tailoring your questions and leveraging both quantitative and qualitative data, you can gather accurate and actionable insights into your workforce to drive your employee engagement initiatives and strategies.

In addition to your annual engagement survey, WorkStep encourages the use of real-time, continuous listening pulse check-ins to help you capture the most current employee sentiment and take swift action on emerging concerns. And, remember, collecting information is only the first step—the real opportunity lies with addressing employee concerns and communicating back to your employees.

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Tom Goyette

Tom Goyette, Product Marketing Manager | tom.goyette@workstep.com

Tom Goyette is a Product Marketing Manager at WorkStep. With experience in start-up and enterprise level SaaS and eCommerce organizations, Tom excels at managing and creating content, marketing, and analytics. Tom believes people are at the center of every great organization and is eager to share stories that highlights the value of the employee voice.