Optimizing Employee Surveys The Art Of Crafting Short Answer Questions

Optimizing Employee Surveys: The Art of Crafting Short Answer Questions

By :
Allyson Pagan, PhD – People Analytics Consultant, HRTec
Liz Steinhauser, PhD – Analytics Manager, HRTec

E mployee experience surveys play a central role in understanding and enhancing workplace dynamics. Surveys often contain a blend of rated questions (numerical data) and short answer questions (written comments). While rated questions allow for quick measurement of responses using scales (e.g., strongly disagree to strongly agree), Short Answer Questions (SAQs) empower employees to articulate their thoughts and emotions in their own words, adding depth to the feedback.

In our recent project, we took a data-driven approach to crafting SAQs by analyzing questions/factors rated poorly in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) across various organizations. By focusing on these areas, we aimed to develop SAQs that allow employees to elaborate on their experiences, therefore adding valuable context to the rated items (numerical data). In this blog post, we’ll explore proven methods for crafting SAQs that yield rich employee feedback.

1. Keep Language Clear & Simple:

To ensure clarity and precision, we focused on addressing one topic at a time, preventing confusion among participants, and facilitating the identification of key themes.

Example SAQ:

What would be one thing Top Leaders could do better to earn your trust and respect?

2. Avoid Leading Language:

Avoiding leading language allowed participants to freely express mixed, positive, and negative sentiments, thereby highlighting organizational strengths alongside areas for improvement.

Example SAQ:

Aside from pay, what else makes you feel satisfied/dissatisfied with your job?

3. Prompt Detailed Responses with Thoughtful Questions:

To encourage participants to share their thoughts and feelings thoroughly, we crafted questions with language that invites detailed descriptions. Additionally, we ensured our questions couldn’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no,” fostering deeper engagement and richer feedback.

Example SAQ:

What are some ways your organization acknowledges your contributions and makes you feel valued? How would you like your contributions to be recognized?

4. End with a Clearing Question:

To ensure inclusivity and comprehensive feedback, we concluded our question set with a “clearing” question. This allowed participants to discuss any additional issues of interest, ensuring that all concerns were addressed and providing an opportunity for discovering new areas of discussion.

Example SAQ:

Is there anything else you would like to share that you haven’t already mentioned?

5. Keep the Survey Manageable for Respondents:

Drawing from our extensive list of SAQs, we presented organizational leaders with a curated selection tailored to their priorities. By narrowing down the options, we ensured that the survey remained focused and manageable for participants, ultimately enhancing the quality of responses.

03 Crafting Effective SAQs Involves A Thoughtful Approach

By leveraging these strategies, organizations can gather valuable insights into the employee experience, driving meaningful improvements in the workplace. Our collaborative process with organizational leaders exemplifies how targeted question development can lead to actionable feedback, ultimately fostering a more engaged and productive workforce.

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Learn More About HRTec’s Organizational Surveys

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