What questions should we ask in an engagement survey?

About the author

Kevin is a co-founder of PR Academy and editor/co-author of Exploring Internal Communication published by Routledge. Kevin leads the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma course. PhD, MBA, BA Hons, PGCE, FCIPR, CMgr, MCMI.

My current PhD research at the University of Central Lancashire is about the way that internal communication is measured. I’m also looking at organisational engagement questions and by combining these in a single survey with communication questions, it is possible to calculate correlations between communication and organisational engagement.

All definitions of engagement are loaded; they reflect a particular management viewpoint. HR managers, understandably, focus on job design and performance and this is why a lot of engagement surveys emphasise engagement with your work. Looking at the list, it seems that internal communication practitioners have latched on to this definition as many of questions in the list are about work, such as:

– Do you have the tools to enable you to do your job effectively

– Do you feel valued for the work you do?

However, employees are also engaged with their organisation. The Engage for Success movement outlines four enablers of engagement:

– Visible, empowering leadership providing a strong strategic narrative about the organisation, where it’s come from and where it’s going.

– Engaging managers who focus their people and give them scope, treat their people as individuals and coach and stretch their people.

– There is employee voice throughout the organisations, for reinforcing and challenging views, between functions and externally, employees are seen as central to the solution.

– There is organisational integrity – the values on the wall are reflected in day to day behaviours. There is no ‘say –do’ gap.

The way that questions about engagement are framed is very important as it is linked to the credibility of HR and IC practice. If work engagement is favoured over organisational engagement, it de facto minimises the work that internal communication practitioners do as this often focused more at the organisational level.

My own view is that work engagement is more of a hygiene engagement factor and higher levels of overall engagement are related to organisational engagement. My ten questions would therefore be focused much more towards organisational engagement, such as:

– I’m interested in the future of x organisation

– I care about the future of x organisation

– I work hard to ensure x organisation provides a good service

The real value is in a survey that includes questions about communication and organisational engagement.

In a top ten engagement question list, my breakdown would be:

– Three questions about keeping employees informed

– Three questions about employee voice

– One question about work engagement

– Three questions about organisational engagement

Until internal communication practitioners emphasise the importance of communication for engagement, the value of our work will not receive the full recognition it deserves.

Post publication note: since I wrote this I have developed the ICQ10 model for internal communication and employee engagement research.