How Good Is Your Employee Engagement Survey? Shocking New Data Reveals

How Good Is Your Employee Engagement Survey?

Shocking New Data Reveals Problems With Employee Engagement Survey Questions, Communication, And More

Shockingly, only 22% of companies are currently getting good results from their employee engagement survey.  Take the test below and see how your survey stacks up!



If your organization conducts employee engagement surveys, there's something you really need to know: Never ask a question you don't know how to fix. 

Every survey question you ask implies a promise that you're going to take action based on the employee feedback you get. And if you break that promise, overall engagement will suffer. 

If you don't know exactly what actions will fix a problem and create an engaged employee, don't ask a question about it until you do. Otherwise, you're setting the stage for employees to doubt your leadership capabilities. It'll be like: "Gee, the boss asked how we felt about XYZ, we all said lousy, and then they did nothing about it..."

Now everyone will say, "Well of course, I would never ask a question I can't fix." But some of the most common survey questions are some of the worst offenders of this rule:

  • I like my boss
  • My boss cares about me as a person
  • I trust my boss
  • I have great friends at work
  • I have confidence in this company's leaders

These don't seem like terrible questions, until you ask yourself, "How would I fix a low score on one of these questions?"

Let's say employee engagement levels are really low on those questions. Obviously, you now need to do something about it. Take a simple question like, "I trust my boss." Do you know specifically what causes the typical employees to trust the boss? How about what specifically causes your unique employees to trust the boss?

You could instruct your managers to be more honest with their employees. Or share more good news. Or share more bad news. Or you could make them conduct a one-on-one conversation with each employee.

All of those sound pretty good, right? The problem is that you have no idea which one of those actions your employees were talking about when they said that they have trust issues with their boss. And because you don't know which one is right, you're probably going to guess wrong. Ultimately employees will feel like you've done nothing to increase employee satisfaction.

Instead of a vague question, try asking a question like: "When I share my work problems with my direct leader, they respond constructively."

Now that's a question that can be easily worked on. If employee sentiment is terrible on that question, you could teach managers how to fix this in a day (and your employee engagement will skyrocket). But if you just ask vaguely about whether employees trust their boss, you could be wandering in the darkness for months.

Take another question like, "I have great friends at work." Poor employee morale on this question doesn't teach you exactly what steps you need to take to fix the issue. Social networking might improve friendships, but so might more face-to-face time. I could show you regression analyses from companies where friendships are better when people have lots of autonomy (and are left alone). But I could also show you regression analyses from totally different companies where friendships are better when employees have lots of face-to-face teamwork and collaboration.

How can you possibly know what improvement actions you're supposed to take based on a vague question about whether people have great friends at work? And if you don't know exactly what actions you need to take to build better friendships, you shouldn't ask the question. 

A key lesson for human resources and senior leadership is that if you ask a question, and you don't do anything with the answer, you're breaking a promise to your employees. And that will really decrease employee motivation.

Imagine you get low scores on the question, "I have confidence in this company's leaders." What specific actions will you take to ameliorate this issue? Should leaders communicate more? Or less? Should leaders communicate with a more directive and assertive style? Or take a more diplomatic approach?

To judge how effective your current employee survey really is, take a good look at every question on the survey, and ask, "Do I know exactly what actions will fix this issue?" It's not good enough to be able to guess what might work; you have to know with complete certainty what you will do. If you don't have a definitive answer, the survey question could cause you real trouble and needs to be dropped.

QUICK VIDEO on PROBLEMS WITH employee engagement survey QUESTIONS


Tens of thousands of HR executives have taken the online test "How Good Is Your Employee Engagement Survey?" One of the questions asks, "Do your survey questions have a clear path to action (i.e., if you get a low score on a question, you know exactly how to fix the issue)."

Based on just-released data, we know that:

  • 28% of HR executives answer: "Yes, every single question has a clear path to action (i.e., we never struggle to figure out what actions to take)." 
  • 26% say: "No, our questions are pretty vague."
  • 46% answer: "Some of our questions have a clear path to action, but we struggle to figure out how to fix other questions."


Instead of a vague question like "I trust my boss," try asking a question like: "When I share my work problems with my direct leader, they respond constructively." 

Now that's a question that can be easily worked on. If you get a low score on that employee engagement survey question, you could teach managers how to fix this in a day (and your employee engagement will skyrocket). But if you just ask vaguely about whether employees trust their boss, you could be wandering in the darkness for months.

To measure the quality of your employee survey questions, ask yourself, "Do I know exactly what actions will fix this issue?" It's not good enough to be able to guess what might work; you have to know with complete certainty what you will do. Here are some of the employee engagement questionnaire questions that we ask on the Leadership IQ employee engagement survey...

  • Constructive feedback from my manager has helped me to improve my performance.
  • I can bring concerns about quality, service or safety to my manager and not worry about causing problems for myself.
  • I will have to learn new skills to achieve my assigned goals for this year.
  • This organization shares its success stories with its employees.
  • When I share my work problems with my direct leader, they respond constructively.
  • Leadership openly shares the challenges facing this organization.
  • Leadership distinguishes between high and low performers. 
  • I understand the rationale behind this organization's strategy and business decisions (for example, the economic, political and marketplace factors).

You'll notice too that each of those questions could easily be tweaked to become team engagement questions and focus on one department or team rather than an entire organization. 



One of the reasons that your employee engagement survey scores aren't moving much (or even declining) is that most companies are using the wrong survey scale.

The most common survey scale used in employee engagement surveys is the 5-point scale; imagine a Likert scale ranging from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. In psychological and sociological research, these scales can be very effective. But for employee engagement surveys, the 5-point Likert scale is deeply flawed. The 5-point scale was designed for scenarios where the data is likely to be normally distributed, where there are decent odds that as many people will score 1's as they do 5's. 

But when you're asking an employee survey question, the 5-point scale loses its effectiveness. Inside companies, 5-point survey results tend to be skewed and have less variability than the general population (i.e., you'll receive many more 5's than 1's).

If you survey the employees at ABC Inc. and ask them to rate the statement, "ABC is a good place to work," you won't get many poor responses (i.e., 1's and 2's). That's because if employees truly thought ABC was an awful place to work and employee morale was terrible, then employee retention would be sky high (i.e., people would quit their jobs).

Yes, some employees have truly terrible employee satisfaction, but not enough to make the data normally distributed.

When you survey employees, and they essentially tell you that company is decent by virtue of their coming to work every day, your survey scores are going to be skewed towards Strongly Agree, without a lot of variability in the responses. When I look at companies' 5-point employee surveys, there isn't a true 5-point scale; in actuality, it's more of a 3-point scale. 

I strongly encourage you to test this out for yourself. Generate a histogram for every single question on your survey, and see if your data looks even close to normally distributed. And for you statisticians out there, calculate the Skewness and Kurtosis of your results. 

No executive would willingly employ a 3-point scale for an employee survey. You'd essentially be limiting responses to: "Everything is terrible," "Everything is fantastic," or "Things are just okay." 

There's a giant difference between having your employees feeling 90% motivated and having them feel 30% motivated. Put another way, there's a huge difference between falling short of your goals by 70% and falling short by 4%. But with a 5-point scale, you'll probably never know just how far away you actually are.

The solution to the problems I've noted is a 7-point scale, especially one that ranges from Never to Always. You'll still have some skewing of the data, of course, but because you're now using a broader scale, you're going to see far more gradations in the data.

What about the 10-point scale used in an employee net promoter score? That net promoter score (NPS) using 10-point scales can have 2 significant flaws. First, there's no middle point on a 10 point scale. Just look at it; how do you give a score that is exactly equidistant between the highest and lowest score (there's no 5.5 on your survey scale). A properly designed survey scale needs a middle point.

The second problem is that 10-point scales often have more skewing than 7-point scales because we're mentally locked into a grade-based framework (from our years in school) where 10 is an A+, 9 is an A, 8 is a B, 7 is a C, and 6 and below are failing. Given our historical relationship with grades, survey question respondents are often hesitant to give a score of 5 or below (because that's failing so badly that even our teachers in school were hesitant to use scores that low).


Most companies have the mistaken belief that the purpose of an employee engagement survey is to measure employee engagement. It's not; the purpose of conducting a survey is to actually improve employee engagement.

Too many companies treat their survey like they're 'just curious' and want to 'check-in' with the engagement of their employees. But engagement surveys are too time-consuming on the part of the employees answering the questions for this to be an exercise conducted 'out of curiosity.'

Thousands of HR executives have taken the online quiz "How Good Is Your Employee Engagement Survey?" One of the questions asks "How willing is your organization to take action to improve employee engagement based on your survey results?" and test takers are given four choices:

  • We're not willing to act on our survey data
  • We will take action on easy issues, but we avoid tackling tougher issues
  • We say we're willing to take action, but then we really don't do anything
  • We are 100% willing to take action on every single question on our survey

Clearly, only that last option represents a good choice, and as you can see in the chart below, only 42% of HR executives made that selection.

Now, it's tempting to look at that 42% and think 'well, that doesn't seem too bad,' but remember this is telling us that 58% of companies (a majority) are not taking meaningful action on the data from their employee engagement surveys.


When we conduct an employee engagement survey, we're implying a promise to employees that we're going to actually do something with the answers. If we ask employees to expend time and energy to answer our questions about their levels of engagement, and we dismiss those responses, we can expect to hear some very justified employee grumbling that sounds like, "Gee, the boss asked how we felt about these issues, and we all said lousy, and then they didn't even do anything about it."

You can see in the chart from the previous section that only 5% of companies are blatantly unwilling to act on their survey data. And as terrible as that sounds, it's actually a bit better than the companies who say they will take action on easy issues but avoid tackling tougher issues, and those who say they're willing to take action but then don't do anything.

Insincerely Pretending To Care Is A Big Problem

There are bosses and companies who evidence a strong disregard for the thoughts and suggestions of their subordinates. While that's a bad thing, those bosses usually don't pretend to care. Their personality is dismissive, and often standoffish, and they just don't pretend otherwise. The one positive aspect of this unpleasantness is that most employees didn't come work for this boss under false pretenses. Yes, the boss is kind of a jerk, but employees typically know that going in.

By contrast, there are those bosses and companies who pretend to care (e.g. by conducting an employee engagement survey) but then take no action. And it's in those workplaces where we're more likely to find employees who feel betrayed by their boss or company's dismissal of their feedback. It feels bad when your boss doesn't want your suggestions for improvement (even when it's through an associate engagement survey).

But it feels worse when your boss pretends to want your suggestions (giving you hope) and then secretly ignores or dismisses your ideas.

An employee engagement survey isn't an exercise conducted 'out of curiosity.' An employee engagement survey implies a promise that you're going to take action on whatever suggestions emerge. And because most companies don't do that, if your company does, not only will you have more engaged people, but you will be a significantly more attractive place to work when it comes to recruiting.


An employee is truly "engaged" when they are first, giving 100% effort, second, utilizing their full talent potential, and third, working to develop their talent set even further. When employees are meeting all three criteria, their emotional states will also be characterized by a deep sense of fulfillment, pride and even excitement.

Satisfaction, a concept often measured by questions like "Overall, I am satisfied with company ABC" or "I am satisfied with my job" is a significantly weaker concept. In fact, it's too weak to help you improve employee engagement.

Let's imagine you score a perfect 7 out of 7 on this satisfied question. What does that really tell you? It says, "Absolutely, I am a satisfied employee." It does not say "I give 100% effort to this organization in order to deliver exceptional service to our customers." It does not say, "I will drip blood, sweat and tears to achieve this extraordinary goal in order to feel the addictive swell of pride and achievement."

The definition of the word satisfied is typically something like "content." Contentment is nice, but contentment conjures images of relaxing on a beach on a sunny summer day sipping lemonade. Ah yes, that's a nice feeling. In fact, it's a nice feeling to have on a long weekend.

But is that the feeling your CEO wants every employee to have when they come to work? Do you hire star employees so they can sit around feeling content, sipping lemonade on a summer day? Of course not. Don't you hire people so they can come into work bursting with energy to go out and give 100% effort?

The real question is whether you want a workplace where satisfied people sip lemonade or one where high-achievers give 100% effort to achieve extraordinary goals. Practically every CEO I've ever talked to wants the latter workplace. Being satisfied (aka content) is a mediocre feeling when compared with the deep fulfillment that comes from giving 100% effort.

If you want to know if employees will shout from the rooftops what a great employer you are, and whether they're committed to giving 100% (both factors that constitute engagement), you have to ask.

For example, we use the survey question "Working here inspires me to give my best effort." 

That's a question that goes far beyond satisfaction and contentment and gets to the much deeper issue of being inspired to give your best effort.


Our research shows that 78% of companies are failing to get good results from employee engagement surveys. Or put another way, only 22% are actually getting good results.

Why are employee engagement surveys failing so miserably? One reason is that most companies are actually attempting to tackle way too many issues.

Imagine that you've just conducted an employee engagement survey with 14 questions. And further imagine that your company got low scores on seven of them.

The typical company will think, "Okay, I guess we need to go fix those seven issues." And thus the problems begin.

Think about the priorities of the typical manager. They've got to achieve profitability, quality, customer satisfaction, productivity and whatever other metrics the company throws at them. Then they have to resolve conflicts, hire new staff, conduct performance reviews, manage low performers, assign tasks and the list goes on.

Given all these priorities, where does employee engagement fall on the to-do list for most managers? Somewhere near the bottom, if it appears at all. And now we want those managers to fix seven different issues? It's never going to happen.

Statistically, there's always one issue that's more important than the others.

We recently ran a multiple regression analysis on the employee engagement survey data from a mid-size financial firm. And we discovered that 57% of their employees' loyalty was driven by one issue: whether employees felt comfortable sharing work problems with their boss.

We ran a similar analysis for a hospital and discovered that 61% of their employees' engagement could be explained by one issue: whether performance reviews were open and honest.

Through multiple regression we learned that 54% of a tech company's employee engagement was driven by one issue: whether employees would have to learn new skills to achieve their annual goals.

The point of this is simple: Using multivariate statistics, you can quickly find 1-2 issues that are exponentially more important than all the other employee engagement issues.

If 55% of my employees' loyalty is driven by whether they understand the company's vision, why would I spend time on trying to fix any other issue? I could prioritize all of my efforts on tackling this one thing and experience far greater improvement than pursuing even a dozen other issues.

You can ask dozens of questions on your survey, as long as you only try to take action on a few of them. And ideally, the ones you're acting on are the ones that will have the biggest statistical impact on engaging your employees.



More than 3,000 HR executives have taken the online quiz "How Good Is Your Employee Engagement Survey?" One of the questions asks "How have your employee engagement survey scores changed over the past two years?" and test takers are given 4 choices:

  • I don't know because we haven't surveyed regularly
  • Our survey scores haven't changed significantly
  • Our survey scores have declined
  • Our survey scores were low but they've improved dramatically OR they were high and they've stayed high

Obviously, only one of those choices represents a good outcome and frighteningly, only 22% of HR executives chose that option. As you can see in the chart below, the rest of the respondents shared some pretty depressing outcomes about what's happening to employee engagement at their companies.

One of the biggest reasons that employee engagement survey scores decline is that some companies conduct a survey and then never do anything with the results.

 What about the 31% of companies whose scores haven't changed significantly? While it's certainly better to see stability than decline, this still isn't a great option. There are far too many organizations that see employee engagement surveys as a perfunctory exercise; a box to be checked off annually. But the whole point of conducting an employee engagement survey is not to measure the organization's engagement, it's to improve it!

One of the other big reasons that companies don't see improvements in their employee engagement surveys is that they're not asking good questions. Every question you ask needs to have a clear path to action; that is you must know exactly how you're going to improve the issue you're measuring. If you ask questions like "I trust my boss" and you have no idea how you would actually improve trust, you're better off not asking the question. Because if you ask a question and you don't have any way to fix it, it won't be long before you go from static scores to declining ones.

Of all the issues, the 34% of companies that don't survey regularly have the easiest path to improvement. All they have to do is start surveying.

employee engagement questions to ask for SENIOR LEADERShip 

The leadership team doesn't get many chances to hear the unfiltered voices of their employees. So when you're conducting your next employee engagement survey, don't let that opportunity slip by.

Some employee engagement surveys limit themselves to questions about whether employees have a friend at work or like their job. But none of those issues matter if employees don't understand or believe in the organization's strategy. Or if the CEO encourages bold thinking but the middle managers suppress bold ideas. These are the kind of hard-hitting issues that a smart CEO will insert into their employee engagement survey.

Let me give a real-life example. Recently we worked with a tech company that had ascended due to bold innovative thinking. But the CEO was concerned that, with rapid growth, they were losing their boldness and innovativeness. So we added 2 questions to their employee engagement survey...
--Bold innovative thinking is critical to ABC's success.
--Bold innovative thinking is rewarded in ABC.

When we got the data back, the CEO's fears were confirmed.  Here's an employee engagement survey example for those 2 questions...

The first thing you should notice is the huge gap between "bold innovative thinking is required" and "bold innovative thinking is rewarded." Getting a 6 on a 7-point scale is pretty good, so the CEO's message about the need for innovation was reaching most of the employees. But the employees didn't feel as though their boldness and innovation was being rewarded. And the 1.3-point gap between those two scores is absolutely huge on an employee engagement survey.

Now, what's the cause of this breakdown? To discover this, we ran a heatmap analysis that showed the scores for these questions broken-out by various managers. Here's a simplified and sanitized version:

You can see that while Manager F seems to be doing a pretty good job (at least relatively), Managers A and D are experiencing large gaps between innovative thinking between critical and it being rewarded.

This kind of analysis shouldn't be used as some kind of witch-hunt; it's not about finding dissenters and punishing them, rather it's about identifying root causes and solving them. In one short conversation it became clear that Manager A had received marching orders that were at odds with the concept of bold innovative thinking. And that conflict was easily resolved. By contrast, Manager D (a former programmer) was in over their head and just didn't want to be a manager. So the CEO put them back into a programmer role where they thrived.

Employee engagement surveys aren't just for making employees feel good, they're also for ensuring the success of your business. CEOs don't get many opportunities to hear from every employee, nor do they get many opportunities to test the efficacy of their strategic initiatives. Not every CEO wants bold innovative thinking. But whatever your strategy, an employee engagement survey gives CEOs a rare opportunity to test whether their strategy has permeated every nook-and-cranny of the organization. And that can be a career-saving move for many CEOs.


Every company wants engaged employees. But trying to engage employees won't work when they're suffering through pain and frustration.

This is an admittedly weird analogy, but bear with me: If you offer me the world's greatest backrub, that will make me happy. But how much will I enjoy that backrub if someone else is hitting my foot with a hammer? Yes, you did something nice for me by hiring that world-class masseuse for the back rub, but until you fix the pain in my foot, I won't be able to even consider the massage.

In Leadership IQ's latest study, "Frustrations at Work," we discovered that the obstructions people face are so severe that around 60% say those frustrations make them want to look for other jobs. And 83% say that if those frustrations were fixed, they would be significantly happier at work.

The real kicker is that many of the frustrations people face are eminently fixable. Look at some of the frustrations that employees shared in the study:

  • Enforcing company policy to employees who are cutting corners, causing me extra work
  • Extending the work till midnight continuously without a break
  • Biggest frustration is my boss wants our department to fix all the broken processes instead of pushing back on the department that owns the process
  • Sloppy deliverables that must be fixed by others at the last minute
  • Setting and following through on priorities
  • Number of meetings I'm expected to attend
  • Micromanaging and bending rules to appease his favorites instead of following company and industry rules
  • Stop withholding information and controlling contacts
  • Too many unnecessary external meetings

What stops leaders from surfacing and fixing those frustrations? Far too many engagement surveys only ask about what would make employees happier; rarely do they delve into the frustrations that are destroying employees' job satisfaction.

I'm sure you've seen organizations where they conduct a survey and then spend a few months brainstorming how they could improve the employee experience. But you don't need to brainstorm; if you simply ask people what's causing them to consider quitting, I promise that they'll spell it out for you.

One question we asked the thousands of people in the study on frustrations is, "What's one frustration you have at work that you believe your manager has the authority to fix immediately?" This question (which we also use in engagement surveys) immediately surfaces the biggest and most fixable employee pain-points.


Employee engagement survey communication is one of the most essential and least utilized techniques for improving the employee experience.

Immediately after an engagement survey is closed, human resources or senior leadership has to show employees the survey results and the employee engagement strategy moving forward. And ideally, this is done via BOTH the executive team AND department managers (those leaders who are closest to the employees who took the survey).

Unfortunately, we know from measuring several thousand organizations, this is not happening nearly as frequently as it should be. As you can see in the chart below, only 29% of companies say that 'All of the managers share the area results with their employees.'

When you survey employees, you're essentially making a promise to do something about those issues. If you survey employees about whether they're getting enough opportunities to develop their career, you're implicitly promising that you will fix that issue. If you survey employees about whether they think the company's strategy makes sense, you're implicitly promising that you will fix that issue.

Here's the warning: If you survey employees but don't actually tackle any of the issues that they said need addressing, then you've broken a promise to them. And that's worse, frankly, than not having conducted a survey in the first place.

When the data shows that in 50% of companies either a few of the managers or none of the managers share the area results with their employees, we know that a lot of companies are breaking their implied promise to employees. The best employee engagement survey won't make this mistake.

Executives and HR managers asked for employee opinion and feedback, but now the survey process doesn't include sharing the survey responses with employees? 

If employees suggestions are ignored, diminished, or generally unwelcome, their employee engagement will suffer. Ironically, employee engagement surveys are one of the most direct ways to solicit employees' suggestions for improvement. And if we don't even bother to close the loop and report back on the survey results, we've very blatantly told them "We will neither encourage nor recognize your suggestions for improvement."


Most executives are unaware of the levels of buy-in their people feel for change efforts. And far too many leaders are shocked when they discover that their employees are intensely resistant to whatever change is being pushed.

This lack of awareness comes partly from the reality that it's usually executives who ideate the change effort. Executives are the ones attending industry conferences, listening to consultants, reading the latest research, and as a result, initiating the new change initiatives. Whether it's new technology, an acquisition, operational changes, etc., executives have been thinking about the need for this change for weeks, months, or even years.

However, when it comes time to announce this new change to the rest of the workforce, most leaders distill their months of research and cogitation into a brief memo that summarizes their thinking. They took months to get excited about the change, and now they expect that their employees will read one memo and feel similarly excited. 

In the Leadership IQ study, "Resistance to Change in Organizations Comes From These 5 Factors," we discovered that only 15% of employees believe that their organization always openly shares the challenges facing it. By contrast, 42% of people say their company never or rarely openly shares its challenges.

It's a recipe for change disaster when only a tiny fraction of the workforce understands what factors caused executives to decide that a change was necessary. And if employees don't know why leaders want to change, there's a serious risk that they'll think that executives are acting capriciously, or even worse, that they're clueless.

Not only does this imperil your change efforts, this lack of understanding also damages employee engagement. The study discovered that 63% of employees who think that their organization always openly shares the challenges facing it will strongly recommend it as a great place to work. By contrast, only 6% of people who think their company never openly shares the challenges facing it will strongly recommend it. 

In other words, if an employee believes their company openly shares the challenges facing it, they're about 10 times more likely to recommend it as a great employer.

So how do you prevent this likely calamity from happening? You have to ask your employees one simple question: "Do you believe this organization needs to change?"


When you're conducting an employee engagement survey, don't forget to measures issues of company culture and work-life balance, including how people want to work (hybrid, remote, etc.)

When it comes to work life balance, you can absolutely use your employee engagement survey to discover the particular issues your employees care about.

For example, Leadership IQ's research has found that when we asked people to identify which days they would most like to work remotely, Fridays and Mondays were by far the most desired days. But you should assess this for your unique company culture.

We also assessed people to identify the times of day they would most like to be undisturbed, so they can accomplish deep thinking, creating, writing, etc. You can see in the chart below that the early morning hours (between 6AM-10AM) are by far the most desired times for working without interruptions. Even if your workplace culture likes its early morning meetings, you may want to strongly reconsider that approach if you really want to increase employee engagement. And again, you should make these critical employee engagement questions for managers to understand the work life balance needs of your unique company culture.

When it comes to company culture, do you know which type of culture your employee prefer and which culture will create the greatest employee engagement?

An employee engagement survey question used at Leadership IQ can help pinpoint the ideal culture for your employees. In a recent national study, we discovered that these were, on average, the most desired cultures:

However, it's critical to note that your company will likely differ significantly from this national study. And that's why you need to ask this survey question of your employees, even if it's just included among your employee engagement research questions.


Right now, only 25% of leaders feel that their employees are thriving emotionally and mentally. We also learned that 71% of leaders expect that high performers are going to quit because of employee burnout. 

That's where your next employee engagement survey comes in. Your standard survey will tell you to what extent your people are engaged, but it's not going to tell you precisely where your people are burned out, where their optimism is waning, or where their resilience is on empty.

And if your company is serious about tackling burnout, those are the issues you need to pinpoint, because leader perception and employee perception could be wildly different.

Let's look at a real-life example of a company with moderately high levels of burnout. While they knew that people in certain departments were suffering from burnout, they didn't know why. When we look at a few of the causes of burnout, however, the answer starts to become clear.

The chart below shows two important burnout drivers, resilience and optimism, across their seven major divisions. The survey questions used here are well-established questions for measuring resilience and optimism.

When you look at the Finance area, one of the first things that jumps out is that their resilience is much higher than their optimism. However, the opposite is true for Marketing and Production.

Imagine that you're the executive in charge of Finance; you'd likely be better served reducing burnout by increasing your team's optimism. But if you're in charge of Marketing or Production, building your employees' resilience is going to be a key step in solving their burnout.

Of course, there will be other factors at play, including issues like workloads, days working from home, and the list goes on. But given that burnout is fundamentally a psychological state, there won't be meaningful reductions in burnout without building employees' emotional wellness.

Measuring these factors in your engagement survey is a critical first step in solving burnout. Once you know which areas need to work on which issues (e.g., resilience, optimism, locus of control, etc.), you can then set about teaching leaders and employees the skills they need to start reducing burnout (and ultimately stop employee turnover).


It doesn't matter whether you ask 10 questions on your survey, or 12 or 14. None of these numbers is likely to be big enough to help you figure out exactly what makes your group of employees tick.

Leadership IQ has run hundreds of regression analyses from similarly-sized organizations that show one group of employees is usually driven by radically different issues than another. For instance, a nurse in a small community hospital in Alabama is likely to have different motivational drivers than a stock trader on Wall Street, or a government employee, or a programmer in Silicon Valley. 

Each of these folks made radically different career choices, and they all have radically different work schedules, workloads, compensation packages, missions, level of job risk, etc. So while some of these folks might do their job better with a best friend sitting next to them, others might be more motivated by taking on risky projects, or when given greater security and predictability. 

It takes 25-30 questions to really figure out what motivates your group of employees. Sure, it's fun and easy to ask 10 questions (and you might save five minutes on your survey). But who cares if it's fast if the data you get fails to provide insight into the issues you need to know about? If you go to the doctor and they take an extra five minutes to do a really thorough diagnosis, are you going to be annoyed? Probably not. You took the time to drive there and get undressed, so you might as well take a little extra time to get a medically accurate diagnosis. It's no different with employee surveys.


Far too many executives throw around the phrase "disengaged employee" without thinking about what it means, or worse, using an incoherent definition. In fact, most leaders misuse the phrase so badly that they would benefit from abolishing "disengaged employee" from their lexicon. 

For most people, calling someone disengaged means that the employee has little attachment to their company and their work; they don't like their employer, nor do they like their work. They probably don't care about achieving the company goal nor or they high in employee happiness.

But this is a patently absurd definition because it conflates liking the company with being highly motivated and delivering great employee performance. Have you ever met a college student who hated their professor but was still highly motivated to get an A in the class? Of course you have, because disliking a professor (or company) is not the same as being unmotivated.

Using an advanced statistical technique called k-means cluster analysis, we grouped more than 30,000 employees using their responses on two survey questions:
---I recommend this company as a great organization to work for.
---I am motivated to give 100% effort when I'm at work.

Around 41% of employees had a high engagement level on both questions - that is, they were engaged with their company, and they felt highly motivated. But 26% gave high scores on the motivation question while delivering much lower ratings on recommending their company as a great organization to work for. These are the employees we labeled "unhappy but motivated."


Library of All 21 Masterclasses
Library of All 21 Masterclasses
Library of All 21 Masterclasses
Library of All 21 Masterclasses

Library of All 21 Masterclasses

Emerging Leaders: Transforming High Potential Employees Into Leaders [JUNE 3RD]
Emerging Leaders: Transforming High Potential Employees Into Leaders [JUNE 3RD]

Emerging Leaders: Transforming High Potential Employees Into Leaders [JUNE 3RD]

Hiring for Attitude 4-Week Online Certificate Program [MARCH 14TH] - Leadership IQ
Hiring for Attitude 4-Week Online Certificate Program [MARCH 14TH] - Leadership IQ

Hiring for Attitude 4-Week Online Certificate Program [MAY 20TH]

Unleashing Your Professional Superpowers [MAY 20TH]
Unleashing Your Professional Superpowers [MAY 20TH]

Unleashing Your Professional Superpowers [MAY 20TH]

Library of All 21 Masterclasses
Library of All 21 Masterclasses
Library of All 21 Masterclasses
Library of All 21 Masterclasses

Library of All 21 Masterclasses

Emerging Leaders: Transforming High Potential Employees Into Leaders [JUNE 3RD]
Emerging Leaders: Transforming High Potential Employees Into Leaders [JUNE 3RD]

Emerging Leaders: Transforming High Potential Employees Into Leaders [JUNE 3RD]

Hiring for Attitude 4-Week Online Certificate Program [MARCH 14TH] - Leadership IQ
Hiring for Attitude 4-Week Online Certificate Program [MARCH 14TH] - Leadership IQ

Hiring for Attitude 4-Week Online Certificate Program [MAY 20TH]

Unleashing Your Professional Superpowers [MAY 20TH]
Unleashing Your Professional Superpowers [MAY 20TH]

Unleashing Your Professional Superpowers [MAY 20TH]

Library of All 21 Masterclasses
Library of All 21 Masterclasses
Library of All 21 Masterclasses
Library of All 21 Masterclasses

Library of All 21 Masterclasses

Emerging Leaders: Transforming High Potential Employees Into Leaders [JUNE 3RD]
Emerging Leaders: Transforming High Potential Employees Into Leaders [JUNE 3RD]

Emerging Leaders: Transforming High Potential Employees Into Leaders [JUNE 3RD]

Hiring for Attitude 4-Week Online Certificate Program [MARCH 14TH] - Leadership IQ
Hiring for Attitude 4-Week Online Certificate Program [MARCH 14TH] - Leadership IQ

Hiring for Attitude 4-Week Online Certificate Program [MAY 20TH]

Unleashing Your Professional Superpowers [MAY 20TH]
Unleashing Your Professional Superpowers [MAY 20TH]

Unleashing Your Professional Superpowers [MAY 20TH]