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4 steps to a successful employee survey


Important steps must be taken to ensure the success of an employee survey. For an employee survey, the responsible parties perform executive, supporting, signing and/or communicative functions, which mean more or less effort depending on the phase.

1. in the first place is the definition of objectives. If the goal of the survey is clearly defined and all participants express their commitment, the most critical of all phases has been mastered.

2. In the preparation phase, communication is the most important thing. Decisions must be made by different parties on all factors in and around the interview. In addition, a communication strategy must be developed with the help of which the employee survey can be made known.

3. in the implementation phase it is particularly important to ensure that the process runs as smoothly and simply as possible. To this end, the previously developed communication strategy must be implemented and contact points for potential complications must be available.

4. After the data analysis, it is important to present the results in an understandable way for everyone, to draw the right conclusions and to develop measures for critical topics. The measures developed in this way find their way into the company in subsequent processes and lead to an increase in success on many levels.

This section describes exactly how these process steps are carried out. Use this step-by-step guide or navigate to the phase you are currently interested in.

1 Definition of objectives of the employee survey


With a common goal...
a. numerous points for discussion can be answered in advance.
b. pecifies the intention with which the results must be viewed.
c. it is clear which persons are responsible for which contents, at and when, and with what effort.
d. an employee survey can be successful.

Responsible persons

Management/Board of Directors: approves measures and content
Executive: recognizes demand; approves measures and content; is significantly involved in defining goals
Human Resources: recognizes needs; participates in setting goals
Works council: approves measures and content
if applicable service provider: supports solution of conflicts of interest; advises in goal finding


4 to 8 weeks

1A Define reason for an employee survey

There must be a reason for using an employee survey. This can come from different directions. Here are a few examples: For example, an executive notes that the fluctuation rate has increased or that productivity in an area has decreased after a change process.
b. A manager plans a restructuring and wants to involve the employees.
c. The works council increasingly receives complaints from employees who are dissatisfied with the shift regulation.
d. The legislator requires a risk assessment. The company is required to identify hazards and burdens for employees.
e. The HR department would like to obtain feedback from employees on management skills in the company as part of management development.

The reasons and motivation for conducting an employee survey can be very different. It is not insignificant for the target agreement of an employee survey what the occasion has resulted from and who is affected by it.

1B All responsible persons define their goals

The conduct of an employee survey depends on different, often conflicting interests. Before these interests become a common goal of the employee survey, all those responsible must define the goals for themselves.

The goal of a leader is usually to further develop one's own department, identify fields of action and thereby achieve the best possible results with regard to one's own person. The own effort for the employee survey should be as low as possible.
The human resources department is interested in realizing own fields of activity (e.g. prevention measures) and to satisfy all parties as much as possible.
The interest of the Board of Management is to achieve the company goals, whereas the Works Council as representative of Employees strives to protect the individual employee and to maintain highest anonymity.

1C Bringing all ideas to a common denominator

Since different stakeholders are involved in an employee survey, it is important to enter into the discourse. The objectives defined by those responsible become a common objective through workshops of all participants. Conflicts of interest can be resolved using structured procedures.
[Tip!] The Harvard concept offers a good option for resolving conflicts of interest. The following principles must be observed:

1. to discuss factually and to separate factual and relational levels.
2. focus on interests - defer positions
3. search for options - develop decision alternatives
4. define objective decision criteria

Furthermore, in this phase the responsibilities are clarified depending on the phase. It should be determined who takes which role. The following functions are to be distinguished: manage/communicate, monitor and release. Depending on the function, the time investment is larger or smaller. It is recommended to appoint a project manager who will act as contact person and coordinator for the entire period of the employee survey.

Commitment.  Commitment. On the one hand, the target agreement should be recorded in writing and on the other hand, every responsible person, i.e. managers, HR department, works council and management board, should commit themselves to the target and their own role during the process.
This ensures that no fundamental differences of opinion jeopardize the success of the employee survey later on and that there is a clear distribution of roles.

2 Preparation of the employee survey

Profile - Preparation

Prepare the employee survey at all levels

If the phase of goal agreement has been successfully mastered, then the preparation phase only takes a third of the time that would have been necessary without a clear objective. The action steps for the preparation phase are already defined by clear goals. The following factors must be worked out:

a. questionnaire creation
b. communication strategy
c. privacy policy/anonymity limits
d. technical integration
e. prototype - test run


Management/Board: Gives approval for actions and content
Manager: Gives approval for actions and content
HR/Human Resources: Significantly involved in questionnaire design; control of preparation processes; communication between parties involved
Works Council: Issues approval for measures and content
egf. Internal communication: conception of a communication strategy; independent of all other participants
possible service provider: Supports questionnaire conception, test run; advises on internal communication, technical possibilities


1 to 8 weeks

2A Create questionnaire and clarify general conditions


content. Questions must be generated for a survey. The quality of the content is characterised in particular by the fact that the topic around which it revolves can be changed. From the defined goals ... more <

scope. The scope of an employee survey depends on the previously defined goals and content. In principle, the questionnaire should be as short as possible. With less effort for employees, acceptance is greater and the participation rate increases.


The questionnaire is the means of choice for an employee survey. It must be decided whether the survey is output as a paper pencil version, whether it takes place online or whether ... more

Read also: Pulse Checks // Pulse survey

Target group. Depending on the objectives, it must be decided whether the entire workforce is to be questioned, whether it is directed at a specific department or a specific hierarchy level. ... more

time. The timing of an interview should be well considered. Vacation times, holidays and particularly labour-intensive "hot phases" mean rather unfavorable times ... more

2B Develop communication strategy and means

The success of an employee survey is measured by the participation rate. However, only those who know about the survey can participate. Employees must be motivated to participate.
The goal is a participation rate of 100%!
It is important to ... more

The following media can be used for announcing an employee survey:
a. Intranet
b. Mail
c. Speech by superiors
d. Workshop
d. Flyer
e. Posters
f. Announcements
g. Company Radio
h. Video
i. ... creativity has no limits. The creation of an advertising strategy for the employee survey is independent of all other decision processes in the preparation phase and can start immediately. The strategy will be applied on the first day of the implementation phase.

2C Technical integration for the employee survey

For an employee survey, personnel data must be provided for the following purposes.
1. On the one hand, information about the organizational structure is required. They form the basis for the authorization structure (who receives which information).
2. On the other hand, the employees must be reached somehow to enable participation in the employee survey.

The form of provision of the personnel data depends on the systems established in the company:
Variant I Personal data is sorted in files - an Excel list of the employees to be surveyed and the associated department, chair, etc. A personnel management system is established in the company - relevant data can be exported to Excel.
Variant III A personnel management system with application program interface (API) is established in the company - two programs can be connected with each other to enable direct access to the data. If necessary, data protection guidelines must be observed.

Send invitations. If the company carries out the survey itself, the HR department sends the invitations to the employees according to the organizational structure. If a service provider is involved who accompanies the employee survey, he can also send out the invitations. In this case, the data should be at least partially censored or restricted under data protection law.

2D Testing prototypes

Once the questionnaire has been created, decisions on framework conditions made and personnel data made available, the employee survey can be tested as a prototype. You can test whether invitations can be sent, received and opened by mail as planned. Several people with different roles (speaker, manager, intern, etc.) should test the prototype. This makes it possible to detect and subsequently correct small and serious errors in content and structure. This ensures that every employee can participate in an optimally designed and technically error-free survey.

Interview with Prof. Ralf Lanwehr

2E Increase participation rate in an employee survey

The participation rate in an employee survey is an indicator of the communication culture and the informative value of the results. Which possibilities are there to increase the participation permanently?

Prof Ralf Lanwehr: On the one hand you can pick up the employees where they are. This means that surveys via app work, surveys that are put together in a meaningful way, that come at a meaningful point in time. But in my experience, communicating the measures taken on the basis of the survey is the more decisive lever. I keep seeing this.

Show the whole answer>>

There are two types of companies: For some, the employees fill out the questionnaires with great enthusiasm. With the others there is very high resistance. This is because the management only collects such data so that they can see the data. But there's nothing out of it. At least nothing that is visible or reasonably communicated. Then the employees lose the desire at the latest with the third time and do not cross any more.

The first mentioned companies have a very clear strategy, how to deal with the collected data. There is a model of Teresa Amabile where she proves the following for radical product innovations: "It's not just about generating ideas - the questionnaire would be a tool for that - but the implementation of ideas is just as important. We must therefore have structures and processes for integrating ideas afterwards. This must go beyond a few workshops, it must be integrated into the overall strategy.

There are some very positive examples of employee surveys.

The Hilton hotel chain is doing great. The participation rate is 90-95% because employees see something happening afterwards.

In Germany the company O2 is very strong. There is a concept there called Circle of Voice. Employees are specifically involved in the change proposals, board members are involved and there is a separate budget that can be managed. Such mechanisms are needed, then the employees also fill out the questionnaires. If the questionnaires are only filled out for the management, or are evaluated in secret, then the employees will certainly lose the desire for it - and I can understand it.

Best practices of HRpuls customers

2F Increase participation rate in employee surveys

Instruct the participants in a standardized way and explain the purpose of the survey

Invite all participants to the survey in a uniform and structured manner. This includes the procedure (when is who invited via which communication channel) and the explanation of the background (what is the aim of the survey, what would be the optimal result, what risks are there if not collected?)

Benefit the participant

You want something from the respondent - why don't you give him something back? This can be material (donation per participation, drawing of a prize among all participants) or non-material (e.g. access to information, provision of the survey results).

Invite the participants personally and make it clear that their participation is important to you

Printed means of communication can be handed over personally. During the handover, the participant can be made aware of the purpose of the survey and it can be emphasized that value is placed on his or her opinion.

Use various channels to invite participants

A short reminder of the survey can significantly increase the participation rate. Especially when different channels are used. The following channels have proven themselves with HRpuls customers:

  • Invitation within an event, insertion of the link and the QR code in a presentation (e.g. at the end of a training, at an employee meeting).
  • Invitation within the scope of an event. Invitation by printed means of communication, e.g. in business card format. The cards or flyers can be handed over personally or sent by post, e.g. with the payment statement.Sending SMS to participants from PC via web services
  • invitation via e-mail

Automate the invitation of participants

Not only a uniform invitation in the sense of corporate communication has a positive effect on the participation rate. Also the automation of the invitation through a connection to a data management system (e.g. to the ERP system) increases the participation rate. In order to be able to invite the participants individually, different, selectable invitation texts proved themselves.

3 Conducting the employee survey

Profile - Performance

Enlighten, invite and support employees

On the first day of implementation two things happen:
1 The communication strategy is implemented
2 Invitations for participation are sent out to the employees.

In the implementation phase, technical and business support for questions should be available to the participants. Furthermore, managers and project managers should monitor the success of the survey so that measures can be taken if necessary.


Management/Board:Moves importance and motivates participation
Manager:Moves importance and motivates participation; success control
HR/Human Resources: Invitation management; success monitoring; mediates on technical/technical questions
employees:participation in the survey
ggf. Internal communication:Implementation of the communication strategy to increase the participation rate
possible service provider: supports/takes over tasks: Invitation management, success control, technical/technical support


2 to 4 weeks

3A Develop communication strategy and means

The means of communication developed during the implementation phase are now being used. The employee survey runs under a motto or title. It should not only be reduced to this, but should also convey a message. The likelihood that an employee will participate in the survey increases due to a targeted presence through e-mails, intranet contributions, flyers, posters and positive word-of-mouth propaganda.

3B Send invitations

On day 1 of the implementation phase, employees usually receive an individualized link (for online surveys) via which they can participate in the survey. On the first page, the employee will find the cover letter. This is the employee's first individual contact with the survey. The employee should be received in a friendly manner, become curious and develop trust in the employee survey.

meaning and significance of the employee survey should be known to the employee through the switched communication strategy in as far as it is already known that this is only briefly mentioned in the cover letter.The employee should be informed about how the structure of the questionnaire is structured, how long it takes to complete it, and by what date participation is possible.
For technical problems and business queries, a support should be mentioned in the cover letter.

3C Controlling of participation rates

Ideally, the manager himself checks how successful the employee survey is. In reality, this task is usually delegated to HR. The success of an employee survey is measured by the participation rate. With a quota of 50%, one speaks of a good participation, with 80% of a very good one. If the communication strategy was successful, the participation rate should already be very high.

If the participation rate does not meet the expectations, measures to increase the participation rate can be taken accordingly:
a. If the invitations are sent by e-mail, a reminder for participation can be sent by e-mail at the appropriate time (usually halfway through the participation period). The content of the text is agreed with the project managers. Information on the current course and participation can be attached.
b. Supervisors could motivate their employees to participate with a circular. It is also important to communicate the goals of the employee survey. Authenticity and honesty lead to no frustration among employees.
c. If managers and HR work together on a higher participation rate, benchmarks can help. The participation rates of different departments are compared and particularly low rates are reported back to the respective manager. This is requested to achieve a higher participation.

Support and Controlling

3D Provide contact persons for technical and content-related questions and keep an eye on success

During the survey phase, the following instances should be available: technical support, business support, controlling. This ensures that obstacles on the part of the participants can be quickly removed. Furthermore, controlling the participation rate is relevant to measure the success of the employee survey - measured by the participation rate - and to take further marketing measures (e.g. reminder mail, intranet articles) at the right time.

INTERVIEW WITH Bettina Hörmann

3E Invite employees to an employee survey and simply enable participation

"Unfortunately, I don't know many companies who can say that we have a very good, open feedback culture.

The most important concern of the employees is always that the survey is anonymous. Every employee receives an individualized link to the pulse check by e-mail. Employees can participate via PC, tablet or smartphone as the software automatically adjusts to the display size. This is important to reach the employees where they are.

Gamification and interactive elements increase the fun factor.

Thus participation rates of more than 90 percent are achieved.

A clear sign that we have our finger on the pulse of the times."

Regel Phasen der Mitarbeiterbefragung - HRpuls

4 Measures after the employee survey

Profile - Measures

Display the results of the employee survey in an understandable way and derive measures

The goal of data analysis is to understand the core statement, to map the status quo and to identify fields of action.


Management/Executive Board: approves measures
leader: creates freedom for development and implementation of measures, approvals for measures, communicates successes/visions
HR/Human Resources: supports evaluation, measures and corresponding communication.
number of employees (depending on structure): significant or partial participation in action development and implementation
number of internal communications: communication of results and consequences
number of service providers: supports data analysis and derivation of actions


0.1 to 100 weeks (depending on the measure)

4A Evaluate data and display results

The results of an employee survey are sensitive information. It is therefore relevant that employees only receive information that concerns them, e.g. overall results and results of their own department or group. Moreover, the results are only helpful for managers and employees if the pure numerical data can be meaningfully condensed and verbalized. The results can be provided in different ways: Send presentation by e-mail, presentation by the manager, access data and login, etc.

4B Develop and implement measures

For the planning of measures in identified fields of action, a look is again taken at the goals worked out at the beginning. You specify the intention with which the results are to be interpreted. Measures should be effective in the sense of the objective. 

To develop measures, a company has many possibilities:
a. Workshops: Internal or external experts work on and train the identified fields of action with the employees.... more

b. Idea management: Employees submit ideas for improvement for the identified fields of action. ... more

c. Teammeetings: Teams develop improvement ideas for their area and implement them within the team. ... more

d. etc. ...

Prerequisite for the implementation of targeted measures is the creation of free spaces by the management. These free spaces can be budget or time.

Success of measures: If measures have been implemented in the company, a repeated survey can be carried out after a certain period of time. ... more

5 More information about employee surveys


5 Learn more about the employee survey

The employee survey has found its way into companies and institutions. For a well-founded knowledge for your employee survey you can inform yourself about the following topics

A. Employee survey 2.0 - pulse checks

B. Self-conception of the employee survey

C. Performance

D. Promote initiative

E. Employee survey and leadership

F. Functions of the employee survey

5A Employee survey 2.0 - Pulse checks

The Pulse Check is an employee survey in the form of a short and focused questionnaire, with which even far-reaching topics can be dealt with. Regular pulse checks record the mood of the workforce as part of change processes. Real-time reports of results provide concrete impulses for improvement measures.

Companies can combine extensive employee surveys with the concise and resource-saving pulse checks or develop a strategy with pulse checks only.

Learn more about pulse checks.

5B Self-conception of the employee survey

make your employees a priority. The pressure on the labour markets is great and employees are increasingly becoming the focus of entrepreneurial measures. Every day, employees learn which structures and processes work, where there is potential for growth and where urgent action is needed. They are directly affected in their daily work and are interested in optimizing processes and structures.


An employee survey can be used to make statements on topics relevant to success in the company. An employee's commitment, i.e. his or her willingness to work for the company and corresponding influencing factors are decisive factors for motivation, productivity and ultimately for the success of the company. Employees of a company are often the core resource and the experts who experience and help to shape internal processes and structures on a daily basis. Ask your employees about relevant topics and they learn how the pulse of their staff beats.

5C Employee surveys 2.0 can determine the performance of an organization

The employee survey has so far been regarded as a classic feedback and communication tool for measuring employee satisfaction. However, it may face a significant change. In the future, an employee survey will also be used to assess the performance of the organization, the status of changes, the success of initiatives and the causes of fluctuation. The employee survey is thus becoming a relevant controlling instrument with regard to quality, availability and  the link to business key figures. A stronger focus on business-relevant figures could give the employee survey a new impulse. However, special challenges such as evaluating the data and linking them with other key figures are only at the beginning of the discussion. The generation of business-relevant questions and the subsequent transformation into an employee survey still offers a lot of potential for this instrument.

Promote own initiative

5D Employee survey - a strategic tool for the development of your company

Create free spaces. Understand how the employee experiences the company (Employee Experience). This also includes the degree to which employees recognize their own development opportunities. On the one hand, these can be provided by the manager, and on the other hand, the employee can ensure that he or she can develop further and take the initiative. These opportunities convey value to the employee through which employee satisfaction, employee loyalty and commitment are strengthened. In addition, the employee experience is improved, internal communication, handling of digitization and change and burdens are reduced.


gain of knowledge about structures, processes, leadership, motivation and mood of the employees. Potentials can be used, weak points can be improved and the success of the company can be permanently increased. The high methodical demands placed on the tool reveal fields of action and causes, so that concrete optimization processes can be initiated.

5E Employee survey and leadership

All employers want efficient, satisfied and loyal employees. Unfortunately, such an unlimited commitment is rare in practice. Leadership is therefore the most exciting aspect of the employee survey. It is important to derive concrete measures from the results. When the need for action arises should already be defined at the conception stage of the employee survey. Subsequent measures can be developed in teams and implemented together. This creates trust in the employee survey. Employees receive appreciation and identify more strongly with their employer.

Agile Leadership - often also called Management 3.0 - describes a systematic leadership style with agile principles. This leadership approach is based on common goals and values. The focus is on strength focus, delegation, integration, transparency and feedback.

The results of an employee survey are implemented by integrating employees into strategic issues or an employee evaluation by colleagues instead of by superiors.

5F Functions of the employee survey

The employee survey is versatile. When designing and conducting an employee survey, various steps must be taken into account, such as the targeted development of questionnaires and questionnaires, optimal employee communication, evaluation of survey results and follow-up processes.

It can take on different functions depending on when an employee survey is carried out and what the objective is. If the status before an action is to be recorded, the employee survey is used for the analysis. If the status is to be recorded afterwards, it is used for evaluation purposes. The employee survey can also be used during the application of measures with a control function. The employee survey itself is already a measure - it also has an intervention function. Thus their use alone has the function of stimulating communication, reflecting, communicating values and visions.

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