There are several types of internal surveys companies use to measure different aspects of their teams. When you survey your team, you need to have a specific goal in mind for the completion of the survey. What information do you hope to glean from respondents, and what do you intend to do with that information? If you survey your team, your team members are going to expect a response of some sort. So before you hit that “send survey” button, consider what comes next. Choose a survey method and questions based on what information you want. Then determine how you intend to respond to survey feedback. And finally, plan the timeliness of your response. These decisions dictate how often you should survey your team.

Types of Employee Surveys

First and foremost, before determining when to survey your team, you need to identify your survey goal. There are many types of employee surveys, and your goal will influence which survey type you choose.

Cultural Surveys

Cultural surveys help company leadership identify the shared values and beliefs of people in your organization. Use this type of survey to find which aspects of working relationships people care about most. You can then distill this information into company-promoted beliefs and values. This research is useful when designing a framework employees can use to make sound decisions in their everyday work. For a concrete example of such a framework, review Netflix’s culture and its nine values.

Employee Engagement Surveys

Employee engagement surveys are designed to measure team members’ level of engagement. There are countless definitions for employee engagement online. Our definition for engagement is the strength of one’s emotional connection and level of commitment to their organization. In fewer words, engagement measures how much your employees care about your company. There are a few reasons to survey your team’s engagement level. You can use engagement survey results to identify how team members perceive company leadership. Results can also orient you toward areas of need in the organization, likelihood of employee attrition, or even insight into how clear your mission and values are shared throughout the organization.

Job Satisfaction Surveys

Job satisfaction surveys are a bit narrower in focus. You’re not necessarily asking employees about how committed they are to your company and its mission. Instead, you’re asking people how they feel about their job. For example, job satisfaction surveys can give you insight into issues with shared workplaces (“it’s too loud in the break room!”), working conditions, needed resources, or other quality-of-life issues people encounter at work.

Pulse Surveys

Similarly, pulse surveys give you a quick way to measure employee satisfaction. Ranging from one to five questions, these surveys give you less detail but more regular insight into how your team feels.

Common Survey Cadences

Different types of surveys are useful on different time scales. While you need to find what works best for you and your team, here are some common survey cadences and the rationale behind them.

Cultural Surveys

Cultural surveys are most useful when the makeup of your team significantly changes. This may be an annual exercise at best for stable teams, possibly something you only do every few years. Conversely, if you are in growth mode and adding dozens or hundreds of people to your team in a shorter amount of time, you should survey your team more frequently to identify your team’s cultural values. During high growth phases, you may find it helpful to send a cultural survey every quarter. This frequency is not necessarily intended to reshape your culture every three months. Instead, it’s to ensure you understand what your new people value and how their values may shift as the team grows.

Employee Engagement Surveys

Engagement surveys may be conducted on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis. My personal opinion is that employee engagement should be measured quarterly. However, that comes with a big caveat I’ll discuss more in a moment: surveys will only remain effective so long as you respond to them in a timely and productive manner.

Job Satisfaction Surveys

Similarly, job satisfaction surveys require a considerate response, and your ability to form an effective response will influence how frequently you survey your team. Ideally, you are measuring job satisfaction at least quarterly, assuming you can maintain that quick of a feedback loop.

Pulse Surveys

Pulse surveys are typically performed weekly. They’re short, simple, and intended to give an approximate feel of how your team is doing right now.

Your Response Time Should Decide Your Cadence

To elaborate on my earlier point, you should only survey as frequently as you can respond to survey feedback. If you can only work on addressing team concerns on an annual basis, well, you should only conduct an annual survey. Are you able to respond effective to quarterly surveys? Fantastic, do quarterly surveys. If you can’t respond adequately to survey feedback, your team will begin devaluing the survey process. Should your team stop believing you will do anything with their responses, they will stop responding. Even if you require responses from each person on your team, they will put less thought into their responses if they believe you won’t do anything with their responses.

Forming a Response After You Survey Your Team

Forming an adequate response is therefore necessary to maintain high team participation in surveys. When you consistently demonstrate to your team that you take their concerns seriously and are willing to act on them, you are building trust. Your employees will gladly take the time to fill out Yet Another Survey (TM) if they believe you will act on their feedback to improve things for them.

What Is a Leader's "Response" to Survey Feedback?

Your response is a combination of the actions you take to address feedback and the message you provide to your people about those actions. While you may feel like taking actions based on employee feedback is the end of this process, it isn’t. You need to ensure that your team understands what actions have been taken. Otherwise, your good work to improve their work lives may go unnoticed, even if the change is apparent to you.

Additionally, once you have taken action and communicated them to your team, you should ask for more feedback. Follow up with the team to see how they feel about the changes you’ve implemented, even if you believe the changes to be inherently positive and clearly appreciated. This will signal to the team that—even after you have solicited and responded to feedback—you want a continuous feedback loop that continually adjusts to the needs of the team. Again, this approach will reinforce the idea that you care about what your team cares about. The feedback loop encourages people to respond to future surveys and give you even more great ideas for improving your company.

Factors to Consider in a Leader's Response

Identify the actions that should be taken based on employee survey responses. Outline these actions in concrete steps as part of an action plan. The action plan should include the action, desired outcome (positive impact of the action), and requirements to perform the action. Additionally, you should assign each action to a specific person to undertake. This task assignment gives other team members an opportunity to be involved in enacting positive changes, increasing their level of engagement with the company. Everyone feels accomplished after doing things that have a clear benefit to their team. Finally, set timelines your action-takers can commit to for completing their tasks. This accountability to a schedule encourages people to move quickly, shortening your survey feedback loop.

Establishing Your Own Survey Cadence

Once you’ve gone through this survey-and-respond feedback loop a few times, you’ll identify how quickly you can iterate on the team’s feedback. Use this to establish a set schedule people can rely on. If you’re able to offer an employee engagement survey every quarter and respond effectively to the employee concerns, put it on the calendar. Consistency helps people know what to expect and gives you a social obligation to produce a new survey on a regular basis.