Employee engagement surveys may range from annual "epics" to monthly pulse surveys, but there is no one-size-fits-all version. Your organization's culture, employee profile, leadership approach and even geographical location will dictate the format and content.


However, we asked our Members to discuss and vote on their "ultimate" employee engagement survey questions – those that would elicit the most useful responses from employees and help shape future messages and communication strategy.

The top 10 questions as a result of that vote are listed in the below and, to add further insight, we asked Angela Sinickas, one of the world's leading authorities on measuring organizational comms, for her analysis.


Top 10 Voted for Employee Engagement Survey Questions




How do you feel about coming to work every morning?



Does your manager inspire you?



Do the days you DO want to come to work outnumber the days you DON'T want to come to work?



Choose five words that best describe how you feel about coming to work



Do you feel proud to tell people where you work?



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



Do you have the opportunity to contribute to decisions that affect you?



Do you understand how your role contributes to achieving business outcomes?



Do you trust the information you receive?



Do you feel valued for the work you do?

View Top 10 Employee Engagement Survey Questions as Image


Angela Sinickas: Commentary

The questions the group came up with cover a lot of useful areas of inquiry, but in order to get the most out of survey results about these issues, the wording or scales for some of the questions could be polished to provide more specific information, making it more likely that the right actions can be taken based on the survey results. Other questions could be more useful as focus group questions first in order to fine tune the final versions for the employee engagement survey. 


Questions to ask in focus groups first

It's very difficult to analyze trends, or improvements over time, from analysis of open-ended write-in comments on surveys. I'd recommend that the following (reworded) questions be asked first in focus groups to identify the most common responses, so they can be used to craft questions that can be analyzed quantitatively (numbering refers to the original list):

1. How do you feel about coming to work each morning?

2. What things have your managers done over the years to inspire you? What have other managers done that were demotivating?

4. What words would you use to describe how you feel about coming to work? 

The answers from Question 1 could be used to draft statements about how employees do feel. Then you could use a scale for those questions that asks them how often they feel each way, such as "Almost all the time, Usually, About half the time, Sometimes, Almost never." Over time, you could track if the more positive feelings are being experienced a greater percentage of the time.

Based on responses to Question 2, you could develop two questions about each inspirational behavior. First ask how often their own managers currently exhibit each behavior, using the same frequency scale above, and then ask how important for their own motivation each of the behaviors is on a three-point scale: "Very important, Somewhat important, or Not very important." The survey results could then be plotted on a grid that uses importance for one dimension and frequency on the other. This approach can be very helpful in prioritizing which manager behaviors are most important to change. The focus should start on the most important behaviors currently occurring at the lowest frequency.

Question 4 could be used on the final survey just as it was phrased by the group, with the addition of a list of the words used in the focus groups for them to select their top five. An option for "other" could also be included. 


Customized question formats

One of the questions would benefit from a unique scale of response options:

3. Which best describes the number of days you DO want to come into work versus the days you DON'T want to come into work?


Avoiding Yes-No questions

All of the other questions could be used nearly the same way as the group wrote them, with just one change. Instead of asking questions that can be answered by a "yes" or "no," results will be more enlightening if you write them as statements and then use a five-point scale to better see how strongly employees feel about each item. For most of these questions, a scale running from "Strongly agree" to "Strongly disagree" would work, although a frequency scale might be even more meaningful for some:

2. My immediate manager inspires me.

5. I feel proud to tell people where I work.

6. I have the tools I need to do my job effectively.

7. I have enough opportunities to contribute to decisions that affect me.

8. I understand how my role contributes to achieving business outcomes. 

9. I trust the information I receive from my immediate manager. 

10. My manager values the work I do.  

Question 9 needs to include the source of information being rated as trustworthy because the levels of trust could vary for information received from their managers, senior leaders, the communication team, or their colleagues. Similarly, if Question 10 doesn't specify a level of management that is valuing their work, it could be interpreted to mean that they feel their compensation properly values them for their work. 

The more specific the questions, the more likely that management will interpret responses with the same meaning that employees had in mind when answering those questions.


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Using games to engage employees at ISS

Gaming is serious business at ISS, one of the world’s leading integrated facility service companies. The service giant, which has more than half a million employees, is increasingly using games to engage its people in strategy, innovation, team-building and creating new business opportunities. Kenth Kærhøg, Head of Group Communications at ISS A/S, explains more.

Everybody understands that strategies and business priorities can be launched in traditional ways - slide-decks with a lot of buzzwords, technical and financial terms, graphs and numbers; a series of intranet articles; and maybe a folder with the main points distilled and visualized. The effect of such communication in terms of understanding, engagement and commitment can sometimes be moderate at best - and potentially abstract and impersonal.

Adding the human touch

At ISS, we have realized that we need to do more and do better if we really want to engage our managers and frontline colleagues. At the core of what we offer to customers is the human touch. So we have asked ourselves: why not add exactly that – the human factor – to our communication and engage each other through our fundamental zest for competing, playing and having fun?

Therefore, at ISS we are increasingly gamifying our communication to get the essence of our strategy and values under employees’ skin and engage each other in fleshing out what it all means, challenging each other and engaging in dialogue, change and the development of new ideas.

Bringing strategy to life

In 2013, for example, we launched ISS – The Strategy Game with the aim of explaining and engaging people in our business strategy. We provided a real-life scenario on how to bid for a customer and what services to provide and how to identify and win a contract. So in that sense it was gaming the strategy of winning business.

The game also motivates the participants to discuss how they best develop skills, solve problems and influence behavioral change in a very fun and engaging manner.

Based on experience and user feedback, we are now further developing the game to fit our updated strategy as well as the ever-changing needs of the organization.

Reward and recognition

One of the main concepts of gamification is the “reward system.” This means that users are rewarded with virtual items such as points, levels, recognition, badges, leader boards etc. for performing specific actions and tasks with the best results.

For example, our Share@ISS mobile app focuses on incentivizing the various steps in our work process. In the app, you gain points by sharing an idea, more points when the manager registers the idea and even more points if the idea is carried out. The fact that most of our frontline workforce is on ‘mobile’ and never on a ‘Laptop’ prompted us to create the app where we could engage with the employees in a fun way and could collaborate and communicate about our customer-focus.

The employee participation and identified added revenue in the pilot test phase for Share@ISS have been amazing. Participants have identified added revenue opportunities of US$85,643 during the pilot period of 3 months.

We learned that games are not just fun. They can be a hard-core business opportunity. But that apart, what we were even happier about was the behavioral change among our frontline colleagues and site managers, where each of them were increasingly looking at how they could add more value to the business.

Exploring the team and the organization

Another advantage of gamification is the ability to develop team spirit and make learning more intuitive and fun.

We believe that human beings have a basic desire to to learn, interact, participate and build relationships. Sometimes we just need a little assistance and facilitation to nurture this instinct and accelerate the process.

That is the philosophy behind our explore – The ISS Way game. It is all about getting to know each other as well as the organization in a playful way.

Through organizational questions, each participant is invited to share his or her thoughts, preferences, experiences etc. with the rest of the players. The better you understand each other, the more points you get.

Work with the best

In our experience, you must apply psychological insights, design principles and understand how to leverage data in order to gamify effectively.

People respond to games and game elements because they relate to basic human drivers — the desire to participate, compete, win or achieve something alone or together with their team, a desire to connect to something bigger than ourselves or the motivation to learn something new.

However, understanding psychology is not enough. You also need to be able to apply your insights in a design that can compete with the best-in-class if you want to engage your colleagues. We are all competing for attention and a company game must be truly appealing to succeed.

Finally, it is not JUST about having fun. You must know your organization, the market and what is needed right now in order to create a really effective game that doesn’t just give a thrill, but also equips employees to succeed and make the company succeed.

We realize that we do not have all of the competencies needed to bring all of the above to the table. In line with our basic philosophy of outsourcing what is not our core, we are cooperating with game experts to co-create the best possible ISS solutions. For all three games, we collaborated closely with external partners (Game InVentorS, Workz A/S, Orchard), internal stakeholders (users and owners), and the developers to bring the game to its final form.

Constant innovation

Like in most other companies, everyone at ISS recognizes that we have to be on our toes and get better at what we are doing every day. This can only happen if we have a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship within the organization. Gamification is one route to bringing this about, but it is not the only route.

Through systematic best practice sharing, an annual, global innovation fair and a million small innovative steps in the everyday business, we strive to keep ISS at the front of the evolution of facility services.

However, gamification is an important factor in this endeavor. If we can explain our strategy to each of our 510,000 colleagues and develop behaviors to constantly increase customer focus in a simple and engaging manner, we are well on our way towards our aspiration of becoming the world’s greatest service organization.

An overview of ISS's games


Explore – The ISS Way

Target audience

Frontline staff and their managers, but all employees can play.


  • Board game.
  • 2-6 participants/teams.
  • Game time: 20-120 min.

The game

Players place bets (chips) on the plausible answer that the ‘card picker’ may choose as his or her answer. The players learn something new about their colleague and their view on the business. The one with the best knowledge of the others wins.

Achievements so far

New game, but it has received positive feedback and has already been translated to several languages (Spanish, Chinese and Polish) in various countries due to interest.




Target audience

Frontline staff and their site managers.


Mobile application for Android devices.

The game

Players gain points by sharing an idea, when the manager registers the idea and even more points if the idea is carried out. The one with the most points gets on the leader board.

Achievements so far

  • Significant increase in employees submitting ideas for improvements. On average, a location experienced an increase of more than 200%.
  • Of 116 relevant users across the pilot sites, 96% (111 users) were taught to use it by the end of the 3-month pilot period; 71% of those were using it actively.
  • 916 ideas for improvements were shared (average across sites = 9 per employee); 249 (27%) were proactive ideas for improvements that were not covered in ISS’ contract with the client – i.e. additional revenue opportunities.


ISS – The Strategy Game

Target audience



  • Board game.
  • Each team of 3-4 participants will be playing against two other teams at a table.

The game

  • The key to winning is finding a good match between customer expectations and the capabilities of the organization.
  • Three rounds are played, each representing approximately a year. At the end of each round the effort will be rewarded by points on the economic value scoreboard.
  • The team with most points after the third and final round wins.
  • The key is to develop the right output capabilities and deliver on the value proposition.

Achievements so far

  • New game, but participants have given an average score of 4.89 out of 5

Kenth Kærhøg is the Head of Group Communications at ISS A/S. ISS is one of the largest Integrated Facility Management Services company in the world with more than 510,000 employees and activities in more than 75 countries across Europe, Asia, North America, Latin America and Pacific. It serves both public and private sector customers worldwide.

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