It is a common practice nowadays for organizations to conduct ongoing employee engagement surveys. This is an excellent way for leaders to gain insight into the morale of their workforce. It can also help companies quickly address areas of concern and potential improvement before they get worse. When soliciting feedback from your workers—especially those who are involved in the day-to-day tasks of running the business in various sectors—organizations can gain a valuable perspective. 

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Higher employee engagement scores have been correlated to higher levels of profit and productivity. Most HR professionals report that ongoing employee engagement or pulse surveys positively impact their business. And according to Gallup, higher employee engagement scores are directly related to better commercial performance.

Furthermore, this correlation between scores and productivity is amplified during periods of difficult economic times. According to SHRM, nearly 90% of HR executives agree that regular employee surveys positively impact the workplace as a whole.

Here are four questions HR should include in such surveys to boost retention and productivity, along with why they are important and how these questions can be tailored for all employees, from entry-level workers all the way up to high-level executives.

See also: The pandemic’s surprising impact on employee engagement and enablement

1. Are you comfortable giving feedback to your higher-ups? If so, do you feel heard when giving feedback to your managers?

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This is one of the most important employee questions you can ask. Your workers, who fuel the day-to-day machinations of your company, are at the forefront of your business operations. These “soldiers on the field” often have priceless insights into ways that business operations can be improved, streamlined or made more efficient, or even just made easier and more enjoyable. They are often in positions to directly receive feedback from customers or high-spend clients and frequently witness how your business is perceived compared to your competition.

However, not all managers welcome such feedback or take it seriously. They may be too focused on their own duties to give thought to the ways in which their direct reports can improve the business. However, making sure your employees feel heard—whether through a survey or the ability to give feedback to a manager—is important for your company’s morale.

2. How happy are you with your workplace benefits and privileges?

This can be a charged question, as employees are rarely content with their level of compensation or benefits, but it can lead to a meaningful discussion. For example, many companies in expensive geographic areas discover that even their highly compensated employees struggle to make ends meet, with most of their income going to housing and other essential or unexpected expenses.  

Many organizations are having a more open mind toward remote work for this reason. It enables them to attract a broader array of candidates for positions from around the company. It also allows companies to offer a lower salary that is still competitive in a less urban area. 

This can also be a great way to gain insight into your third-party providers, such as the company that services your 401(k), healthcare plans or other workplace benefits. Presumably, your company is paying a high price to provide these benefits to your employees, so it’s important that your employees feel like they are receiving good service. 

Besides benefits, there are privileges you can grant to certain employees as well, such as offering trusted employees corporate credit cards to more easily facilitate approved business transactions or alternatively refunding employees for any business-related expenses they personally incur. Just make sure that any business-related costs incurred by the employees are fully tracked and refunded by the company, including any additional charges or fees. The average credit card processing fee is small (less than 4%) but is still an example of an additional charge that will need to be monitored.

3. Do you receive regular feedback regarding your performance? 

In many organizations, common frustrations among workers are unclear performance expectations, vague directives from management and a lack of recognition for good work. If your employees are not clear about what constitutes good performance in their role, your HR team may want to work with management to create a more transparent performance review process.

Related: The crucial role of employee feedback in slowing the Great Resignation

Setting clear expectations, sticking to regular performance reviews and recognizing outstanding work efforts can be motivating forces for your employees. When employees feel like extra work or skills go unnoticed and unappreciated, they are more likely to “skate by” in their roles. Creating a culture of recognition, while also encouraging straightforward feedback and continued professional development, can pave the way for better work performance and satisfaction.

4. When something unexpected happens at work, do you know whom to ask for help?

Competitive businesses need to be able to pivot quickly when something unexpected occurs. Workplace silos and the inability to effectively escalate problems when they occur can bog down your company. When employees don’t know where to turn when something goes wrong—or, worst of all, if they feel compelled to hide or downplay serious mistakes—it can create a bigger mess.

On this same front, it’s important to understand if an employee is achieving a healthy work/life balance or if there’s anything happening in their personal lives that adversely affects their working performance. For example, it’s vital for employees to be getting enough rest back at home.

Not only is a tired employee at risk of reduced work performance, but they’re also at increased risk for physical harm. Research shows that driving after going 20 hours without sleep, for instance, is roughly equal to driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.10%, greatly increasing the risk of an accident. 

Whether it’s reporting workplace incidents, time-sensitive mistakes, issues at home affecting an employee’s performance in the workplace or simply having an avenue to escalate workplace disagreements, encouraging communication is vital. When dialogue moves freely among teams, departments and the organization as a whole, a collaborative environment can be fostered that will lead to higher productivity. It’s really important for all your employees to know who to turn to when they need help, if they are unsure about something or if something just doesn’t feel right.

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