Why your company should use open-ended employee engagement survey questions

open-ended employee engagement survey questions

Whether you’re launching your first employee engagement program or you’ve been surveying employees at your company for years, it’s important to use survey questions that will engage your staff and encourage good participation rates. One of the best ways to do this is by taking advantage of open-ended employee engagement survey questions. 

Open-ended questions aren’t specific to any certain type of survey. You can use them whether or not you’re asking about a recent merger or acquisition or gathering details about employee wellbeing. Surveys shouldn’t only include open-ended questions, but making sure they’re sprinkled into your questionnaires will help get valuable details about your workers, and much more. 

In this post we’ll share more details about open-ended employee engagement survey questions. You’ll see why they’re valuable to use, what types of questions or question formats you can use, and how to filter through the different results that you get. Remember—survey styles and strategies aren’t specific to all types of organizations. Not all of the suggestions we share will align with the needs of your company, but humans are humans, across all sorts of industries. Certain strategies can be used in many types of companies to uncover vital information that will help achieve strategic goals and get results.

How are open-ended employee engagement survey questions defined? 

The answer to this question is somewhat straightforward, but we want to lay out what we mean when we’re talking about open-ended questions. This will help make the groundwork clear so that there’s a shared understanding. For starters, and unlike close-ended questions that look for specific answers (often through multiple choice or yes/no styles), open-ended questions are slightly broad and don’t have set answers or choices. They open up a topic or subject matter for the responder, then it’s up to the responder to answer the question with whatever feels most appropriate to them. 

You may be most familiar with open-ended survey questions because you’ve used them during interviews or possibly with exit surveying. They aren’t included in every single survey style in an employee engagement program—especially shorter, rapid-fire style surveys—but they’re a very important and useful tool that companies have in their engagement toolkit. It’s important to remember that open-ended questions are an option and to include them in places where they make sense. 

Another way to think about open-ended questions is as a sort of “get to know” style. Like if you were meeting someone at coffee for the first time, open-ended questions invite context, extra details, and room to elaborate and mention information that wouldn’t ordinarily come up in conversation. That sort of breathing room allows for much more possibilities in the sharing of information than questions that have specific direction and results they want to achieve. 

Why should I include open-ended questions?

With many types of surveys—like employee wellbeing, onboarding, or engagement—you want workers to give you as much detail and explanation as possible. Open-ended questions allow workers that space to elaborate, share thorough information, and they’ll be able to include details that they aren’t able to share in close-ended questions. If you roll-out the right type of survey questions or get creative with them—including fun questions—you may be able to get workers to tell you information that they wouldn’t say otherwise. Sometimes the most important thing you need to hear about your workplace or the employee experience is the thing that your workers may not necessarily want to lead with. 

Open-ended employee engagement survey questions are also a good way to get more specific feedback if you’re asking your workers for suggestions or things to do. For example, you may be curious about their recent onboarding experience or whether or not they have the right tools to do their jobs. In both of these scenarios, multiple choice or general yes/no questions won’t give you the answers that you need to help your staff. What would be more helpful to you would be to know specific tools or resources that workers need to improve, or clear steps that workers have recognized that would make their lives easier as they onboard. Having some workers elaborate and share as much information as possible will help all the workers that come after them and their experiences with your company.

It’s also important to remember that all employees have different personalities, response styles, and willingness to share and open up about information. If you stick with simple yes/no questions, you’ll guarantee that you’ll get the least amount of information. If you deploy open-ended questions, you’ll be more likely to get workers to open up, especially the ones that may not ordinarily be willing to share information with their coworkers, managers, or leadership. Taking advantage of anonymous surveying can help with this as well, though you have to be very thoughtful about which surveys you decide to use anonymity for. Just always remember to be clear and upfront with workers when surveys aren’t anonymous, so they don’t think they’re sharing with confidentiality when they aren’t. 

What are some examples of open ended employee engagement survey questions?

Remember, these open-ended questions are just examples. The questions that you’ll need to ask your workers will depend on your company, the purpose of your surveys, and the information that you’re trying to uncover. Below you’ll see possible open-ended options across a few different categories that are common in employee engagement programs: onboarding, employee experience, exit surveying, and employee resources. 

Onboarding questions 

  • If you could change anything about the onboarding experience, what would it be? 
  • What was something that was missing during your onboarding experience?
  • Tell us something that went very well as you were starting with [insert company name]?

Employee experience

  • Tell us about your experience at [insert company] up until now?
  • Is there anything at [insert company] that should be changed or improved?
  • What expectations do you have for relationships with peers and managers?

Exit surveying 

  • If there was one thing you could have changed that would have kept you at [insert company], what would it have been? 
  • Would you recommend [insert company] to your friends and family? If so, why or why not?
  • Would you change how [insert company] recognizes and celebrates our employees? If so, how?

Employee resources

  • What additional tools do you need to better do your job?
  • If you’ve joined an employee resource group, tell us some of the ways it’s improved your experience at [insert company]?
  • Is there anything you wish [insert company] did differently so resource needs would be identified faster?

Pro-tip: As you’ll notice, in a few of the questions we used “tell us” as a prompt. This asking style works because it’s a slight command, though not insincere or rude, and it invites the participant to share more information. It works as a prompt to be expressive and opening, hopefully encouraging participants that they can share information freely. 

Ready to launch surveys with open-ended questions?

Whether you’re already on the road to an improved employee experience through an engagement program, or you just want to see where you can add more open-ended questions to your surveys, Workify is here to help. Our programs and surveys are backed by I/O psychologists and we’ve helped companies across many different industries achieve improved experience results. 

Connect with us today to start a free consultation, or to see where updates could impact your existing engagement program. We’ll be able to share more details about open-ended questions, as well as types that will be tailored to your organization and its needs. If you’re already using our Engagement Intelligence Platform, our team can tell you more about your engagement data and what it means.