Employee Attitude Survey

An employee attitude survey, also called an employee opinion survey, is a tool used by employers to measure employees' attitudes about their workplace environment. Its general purpose is to pinpoint problems and make improvements within the company or organization, with the goal of enhancing employee morale and productivity. An employee attitude survey might be given to measure employee satisfaction, to identify training and development needs, to improve communications between managers and employees and for various other reasons.[1]

Research has shown that these are the main factors influencing employee attitudes, leading to dissatisfaction, burn-out and attrition:

  • Lack of job security and advancement opportunities
  • Poor communication between employees & management
  • Lack of training
  • Dissatisfaction with compensation
  • Ill-defined tasks
  • Poor working conditions
  • Lack of support and feeling unappreciated[2]

What is Employee Attitude Survey[3]

Employee attitude surveys can be useful tools providing employers with information on the success of their workplace programs, and alerting employers to any gaps in communication. They can also be a valuable resource when assessing the organization’s training and development needs. The types of items included on these surveys vary from creativity, innovation and satisfaction. The results of the survey can provide an understanding of how the employee perceives the organization and the process itself helps the organization understand how the employees feel about his or her work environment. This feedback is essential to organizational change and allows the organization to focus on the needs of the employees. It also provides management with employee feedback both positive and negative. It also can be used to motivate employees and improve overall satisfaction. Attitude surveys can be a great motivator for employers as well since it shows the employee that their opinions and their views are considered important for the success of the company.

While there are many factors that can affect employee satisfaction, an attitude survey can pinpoint the main concerns of your employees. Once you understand how your employees think and feel you can begin to revise policies and procedures to better meet their needs. You'll greatly improve employee retention and motivate your employees to produce higher quality work. Numerous research studies have shown that satisfied employees not only stay at their jobs longer, they also lead to happier, more loyal customers. Employee attitude surveys are inexpensive tools that can give you superb insight into employee motivation, performance and overall satisfaction. One short-term benefit of employee attitude surveys is that they show your employees that you care about their opinions. Long-term benefits can include improved morale, increased customer retention and more profits.

Employee Attitude Survey Template
source: Survey Templates

Employee Attitude Survey: Uses[4]

An Employee Attitude Survey provides an understanding how how the employee perceives the organization and work groups. Uses for Employee Attitude Surveys include:

This process can also be a motivator of performance since it shows the employee that their opinions and views are considered important.

Topics in an Employee Attitude Survey[5]

Employee opinion surveys are a valuable tool for identifying the root causes of employee turnover and job dissatisfaction. Some of the topics that can be covered in an employee attitude survey include:

Techniques: Who and how[6]

The most important factor contributing to the success of an employee attitude survey is that employees feel free to answer the questions frankly and openly. Without the confidence of employees, even the best designed survey will be ineffective. Therefore, the primary consideration in designing an employee attitude survey will be to ensure employee anonymity.

While many large companies sometimes have their own internal staff (typically the Personnel Department) conduct an employee attitude survey, smaller companies more commonly use a third party -- an outside consultant or personnel professional. The reasons for using a third party are compelling. To begin with, survey design and interpretation require skill, expertise and experience rarely available among a small staff. Additionally, surveys can be easily compromised by the agendas (conscious or otherwise) of those who design and conduct them. Finally, of course, having co-op staff conduct a survey could cause employees to mistrust the promise of anonymity and make confidentiality more difficult. However, there can be many benefits to having co-op staff and directors help tailor questions to fit the issues facing the co-op and its workforce.

An employee attitude survey is just as important an activity as a marketing or expansion project. As such, it must be carefully planned, starting with clarifying the goals of the survey followed by preparation of the questions to be asked. Typically such surveys address the following topic areas: job satisfaction; competence and fairness of supervision; effectiveness of on-the-job training; satisfaction with pay and benefits; opportunities to grow and develop new skills; quality of the work environment (working conditions, personnel policies, relations with co-workers, etc.); operational efficiency; confidence in management; and effectiveness of organizational communications.

Since 100% employee participation is highly desirable, the survey methods used are very important. Surveys that are mailed to employees or handed out at work generally get poor response rates. Far more preferable is to set aside some time for employees to be scheduled to complete the survey. And, by having a third party on hand to explain the survey and collect forms, employees generally have more confidence in the confidentiality and anonymity of their responses.

Most employee attitude surveys ask employees to respond to questions using a rating scale and ask very few open-ended questions. However, open-ended questions have some advantages; as smaller employers (i.e., under 100 employees), most co-ops can get the best of both worlds. Nevertheless, questions should be designed to avoid making compilation and collation of the data too cumbersome.

Employee Attitude Survey Design[7]

Prior to administering a new employee survey, HR should spend some time looking at previous surveys and their results (if any) and ask questions like: "What's the driving force behind the survey? Is it simply because it is time for another survey or because the organization is trying to win an award? Is the survey tied to the organization's business strategy?" Many companies find it useful to form a multilevel, cross-functional team to consider the organization's key objectives for conducting a survey before designing it. The working group should consider design and strategy questions, such as:

  • Why are we conducting a survey (i.e., what do we want to know, what do we hope to obtain)?
  • What are we measuring, and why?
  • Who will create the questions?
  • Who will be asked to participate in the survey?
  • When will we conduct the survey?
  • Will all results be communicated, and how?
  • Who will be held accountable for implementing changes driven by survey results?
  • Are there questions from previous surveys that should be included again?
  • Are there questions from previous surveys that need to be rewritten because they were vague or confusing?

In addition to conducting surveys at regular intervals, employers should make sure the design of the survey will yield information that isolates problems and helps management address them. Employers increasingly survey employees about business strategy and direction, goal alignment, customer focus and satisfaction, employee retention, and quality-of-life issues. Determining the degree of satisfaction in each of those and other areas is virtually impossible to quantify without a formal survey. When surveys ask trivial questions or ask questions in ways that are ineffective, the result can be low employee response rates, as well as the generation of useless information, making the exercise an expensive waste of time. Some best practices in survey design include seven key principles.

  • Keep it short and simple: The number and types of questions asked can significantly influence the survey's response rate. Most experts agree that including too many items, and including items that are confusing or repetitious, can wreck a survey. Instead, survey questions should be simple and short, using terminology familiar to all employees. A general employee survey should contain up to 75 questions and take no longer than 20 to 30 minutes to complete. If the survey is too long, the response rate will likely be very low.
  • Avoid "double-barreled" items: A survey question should not be "double-barreled"—two topics that are grouped into one question, even though they may be related. An example: "The pay and benefits are excellent at this company." Employees' responses may not yield useful information because they may think pay is great but not benefits, or vice versa, leaving HR managers with no clear follow-up plan. If the survey items are not solidly constructed, the data generated from the survey will not be actionable.
  • Involve employees in design and analysis: Organizations may pilot surveys with a subset of employees before rolling them out companywide. This process can help survey designers identify unclear items. Focus groups can also help once a survey is completed. If HR has sound processes for examining and using the data collected, it can still elicit useful information from a weak set of survey items, but that may require convening employee focus groups right after the survey to get to the heart of the issue. See How to Conduct an Employee Focus Group.
  • Ask the right questions: Survey design experts advocate the use of items that seek responses based on a numerical scale, such as 1 to 5, with 1 meaning "strongly disagree" and 5 meaning "strongly agree." Some experts recommend asking primarily closed questions—those with a finite number of answers—instead of a fill-in-the-blanks approach. The major problems with including open-ended questions are the volume of data generated and the difficulty grouping and analysing them. Organizations regularly conducting surveys will want to be able to do trending analysis, and open-ended questions make that difficult.
  • Questions to limit or avoid: Another crucial issue in getting employees to respond year after year is to ask questions that will yield answers on which management can act. Employers should be willing to do away with, or at least limit, "nice-to-know" questions and instead focus on questions essential in understanding what employees think about their workplace. Demographic questions that ask about gender, race and age should be voluntary to limit fears employees may have about anonymity. These questions are beneficial to include because they give employers insights into emerging group concerns and trends—for example, how older workers prefer to work. However, employees could interpret questions about race or gender as an indication that the employer plans to initiate specific programs targeting those populations.(

Use neutral statements: Surveys should be sprinkled with negative statements. If a survey is filled with positive statements such as "My boss is considerate" or "My team is helpful," the results may be unrealistically rosy. Also, leading questions, such as, "Is the staff size too small?" can skew results. Experts also advocate the use of questions about observable behavior to avoid the "social desirability" syndrome — the tendency to give all positive responses to please the inquirer. See Tools of Engagement

  • Ensure anonymity and confidentiality of responses: HR professionals should advise employees from the outset that survey responses will be reported in aggregates only and kept absolutely confidential to ensure that everyone feels comfortable providing honest answers to the questions. Some employees may question the confidentiality of online surveys, given the ability to track IP addresses, e-mail addresses and other information. Having a third-party vendor conduct the survey usually helps assuage employees' fears of being identified on surveys. Open-ended questions should be summarized instead of providing actual comments, any references to actual people should be removed when providing overall reporting. Such targeted feedback should be given privately.
  • Policy Issues: Most organizations do not see a need to develop policies about the conduct of periodic surveys of employees, but the employer's internal policies and practices (as well as any labor contracts) should be consistent with existing policies, rules or labor practices.
  • Legal Issues: For employers, the greatest potential legal concern is that their third-party survey provider might have infringed on the copyright of the original survey author—so-called "pirate" or counterfeit surveys. These types of surveys are often cobbled together and lack measurement integrity. In fact, they can actually generate harmful misinformation. Organizations should look for a registered copyright and the date of the registration in the survey materials under evaluation and ask for copyright registration numbers to ensure that they are not exposing themselves to unnecessary risk by working with an unreliable vendor. In addition, if the organization has unionized employees, HR must provide appropriate notifications and advance discussions to ensure agreement to include union employees in the survey.
  • Employee Communications: HR must prepare supervisors and managers with advance information about the rationale for conducting the employee survey, expectations on timeliness of communicating the results, plans to follow up on results and questions employees may ask. A question-and-answer packet may be an effective way to brief managers in advance on this information. Without proper planning and disclosure of the rationale for the survey and plans for its future use, the employee relations impact may be quite significant. In fact, some organizations have experienced serious productivity drops or public relations problems as a result of a poorly planned and executed survey of employees. For unionized environments, it is a good idea to also brief the union representatives and stewards on the process and timing of the survey. Once supervisors and managers have been briefed, HR can kick off communication to all employees by explaining the reasons for the survey. Deciding how to communicate the survey or its results depends largely on the culture of the organization and on the various types of communication readily available, such as training, staff meetings, policy and procedure manuals, company intranet, e-mail, newsletters, flyers, new employee orientation training materials, and individual letters to employees. Though designing a good survey is key to obtaining useful information, doing something with that information afterward is essential to employee morale. Setting realistic expectations of the timing and communication of survey results up front is important to the success of the process. Data generated from employee feedback mechanisms like surveys are real gifts that deserve attention. When the survey results have been analyzed, HR and other senior leaders should communicate the findings—warts and all—with all employees as part of the numerical presentation of results. This will enhance the authenticity and transparency of communication. In addition, organizations can facilitate the communication process by providing results in a format that is simple and easy to follow.
  • Technology: Most organizations use electronic surveys because they are more efficient and faster and use fewer resources. Make sure that employees without computers at work have a paper version of the employee survey or are given access to computers to complete the survey online. The ability to complete the survey via mobile devices such as phones or tablets may also enhance the survey experience. Employers are increasingly using sophisticated tools to analyze the data generated from their employee surveys, which makes having the results available electronically even more valuable. Using an electronic system for inputting employee feedback usually results in higher participation rates due to ease of access and in quicker analysis of the data.
  • Interpretation of Results: Survey results should not be taken at face value—even those on the positive end of the spectrum. A positive score in a specific department or business unit, for example, could mean either that a particular manager is doing a good job or that he or she is not holding employees accountable. HR professionals should also benchmark their organization's results against organizations similar to theirs or against national employee norms. Regardless of whether organizations are working with a third-party vendor or tabulating the results in-house, they will need to assess the reliability of the data and throw out meaningless results due to a particularly low response rate or poorly worded question. Employers will also need to determine the format in which they wish to display the results and demographic cuts that will be useful. Once the results of the survey have been tabulated, HR professionals should not be surprised if senior managers attempt to discount the importance of the findings by saying that "the data were what I expected" or "there were no real surprises here." HR can use data discussions to coach senior leaders to see the results as an opportunity for organizational insights and improvement.
  • Survey Follow Up: Organizations often establish cross-functional teams to respond to and act on survey findings. A majority of the team should consist of non-senior employees; however, each team needs to be supported by a senior-level champion whose responsibility is to monitor and support—but not manage—the team. Such teams should be in place within a month after the organization releases the survey results to signal to employees that senior management is serious about responding to the findings. HR should monitor the follow-up ideas and recommendations from any cross-functional teams to ensure that change and progress occur. In addition to (and sometimes instead of) cross-functional teams, some organizations also set up department-specific teams. These groups are given the responsibility of responding to specific issues within their particular departments. Ideally, the process of conducting an employee survey is "closed loop," with the life cycle moving continuously from calibration and communication (the time organizations take to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) to coaching, collaboration and continuous improvement (the time to take corrective action and conduct pulse checks) to celebrating and recognizing progress. Then the process begins anew. It is important to maintain the results of any survey undertaken to have comparative data. If annual results are not kept and reviewed each year, how can an organization know how it is trending over time? Many employers also like to benchmark their results against those of similar organizations, which can generally be completed more easily by outside providers that maintain these type of data. Benchmarking against general employee surveys is also useful.
  • Beyond Surveys: In addition to the information that can be generated as a result of an employee survey, some organizations also choose to initiate strategic conversations with some employees to explore key issues in more depth. The hidden power of these conversations lies in the fact that they are not about data but about dialogue, and they tend to make employees feel valued. All employees need to understand that their employers will treat their opinions with dignity and respect. To yield the most insightful responses, employers using this approach ask such questions as:
    • What does it take to be successful here?
    • If there is one roadblock between the organization's ideal culture and the way it really is, what is it?
    • Which of the corporate values speaks to you the most?
    • Tell me about a time when you were especially proud to be associated with this organization.

If these small group discussions are a direct result of survey results, it is important that the questions asked target a few specific topics. Rehashing the entire survey will not produce useful results and may communicate a lack of confidence in the original survey. Gathering feedback from employees through multiple channels (e.g., 360-degree feedback, focus groups, small group discussions) on a regular basis can be preferable to using the results of a survey exclusively. The channels and methods used to gather feedback from employees will typically vary based on type, size and demographic makeup of the organization.

Benefits of using employee attitude surveys[8]

  • Identify problems and issues: The employee attitude survey discloses how employees feel towards the company and reveals the causes of several problems, such as high absenteeism, fast turnover, conflicts and disputes within the organization, and low employee satisfaction. From the online survey results, management can determine the steps necessary to address those issues, improve employee morale, and increase productivity.
  • Assess your policies: Going directly to the employees to ask what they think can help management assess the results of past and present activities, the impacts of certain decisions, and the effectiveness of policies and practices. Lessons can be extracted from the employees’ responses to serve as springboards for future efforts on planning and strategy development.
  • Boost and maintain employee morale: Employee attitude surveys provide information on the sources of morale and guides management on how best to motivate employees, stimulate dialogues, promote commitment, and improve job satisfaction. They also enable the company to respond promptly to changing circumstances in the workforce and maintain control by giving indications on how employees are likely to react to any changes implemented.

See Also

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Employee Benefits
Employee Development
Employee Engagement
Employee Selection
Employee Stock Options
Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP)
Employee Turnover
Employee Value
Employee Value Proposition (EVP)


  1. Definition - What Does an Employee Attitude Survey Mean? Wisegeek
  2. Factors Influencing Employee Attitudes Infosurv
  3. What is Employee Attitude Survey IPMA-HR
  4. What are the Uses for Employee Attitude Surveys? HR Survey
  5. What are the Topics that should be covered in an employee opinion survey? Prime Pay
  6. How to Conduct an Employee Attitude Survey? Cooperative Grocer Network
  7. Employee Attitude Survey Design
  8. What are the Benefits of using employee attitude surveys? Smart Survey