How to draft a concise HR survey

If you’re an HR employee or manager, you know a significant part of your job is gathering data and organizing it in a way to make sure the employee experience is as positive as it can be. By paying attention to the office culture, HR teams have the ability to improve productivity by giving employees less to worry about, meaning they can focus more on their work and improving the customer experience.

Related: 4 tips to get you started with employee engagement

In order to gather as accurate a picture of the workplace environment as possible, HR teams can draft surveys for employees to take. However, it’s not always easy to create a concise HR survey. If it’s too long or asks too many irrelevant questions, you won’t get the results you’re looking for. Here, we’re going to break down how to draft a concise HR survey.

1. Stay On Topic

You have to keep your survey consistent in order to get effective results. You can’t draft an HR survey intended to find out more about scheduling issues and ask about bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace. Employees catch on early when surveys they take are generated by a computer or copied from Google. If they’re too general, the business will look as if they don’t actually care about the topic at hand.

A simple and effective way of ensuring your survey is relevant to what you’re looking for is by having another HR agent look over the survey first. Choose someone that hasn’t played any role in the creation of the survey. The key is to get a fresh set of eyes on the survey for a totally unbiased opinion.

2. Limit Open-ended Questions

This is key to drafting a concise HR survey. You don’t want to make it impossible for whoever’s taking the survey to finish it. To be honest, most people don’t really want to take the survey to begin with, unless they’re getting some kind of incentive out of it. If they’re already reluctant to take the survey, and then they have to spend a significant amount of time filling it out when they should be working, you’re going to give off the impression you’re not really prioritizing your employees’ best interests.

One way to make sure you’re limiting open-ended questions is by varying the question format. You shouldn’t force your employees to write a paragraph on how they view the work environment when you can simply ask them to rate it on a scale from one to ten. Another way to make sure the HR survey is concise is by asking someone to take it and timing them to see how long it takes to finish. You don’t want to do this yourself because you know what you’re looking for and you understand the questions clearly. Again, you’re looking for unbiased opinions whenever possible.

Related: Instantly boost your HR game with employee pulse surveys

3. Leave Your Opinion Out

Natural biases are exactly that: natural. We all have them, and they all creep into our lives whether we’re aware of them or not. This can be a significant problem when trying to draft a concise HR survey. If you’re allowing your bias to guide the employee through the survey, you can’t expect to get accurate results. If you think there’s a bullying culture in the workplace, you can’t ask something along the lines of, “What would you do differently decrease the amount of bullying you see at work?”

Instead, you should ask, “Have you ever encountered bullying in the workplace? Explain.” Can you see the difference? That first question implies there is bullying, regardless of whether or not the bullying actually exists. You put pressure on the employee filling out the survey to write an acceptable answer. This is where open-ended questions come into play — within reason, of course.

4. Ask One Question at a Time

We also have a tendency to group questions together when we think it would give important context to the employee, but in reality, it’s taking away from the original question. It also leaves you open to the possibility of misleading the employee. A quick example would be asking if you shower in the morning or at night on a daily basis. That alone has four questions in it: Do you shower?; Do you shower in the morning?; Do you shower at night?; Do you shower on a daily basis? The same applies to customer experience surveys.

Again, you can ask someone else to make sure your questions aren’t misleading or are asking two or three different things. The best way to ensure your questions are clear is by keeping them simple. If you have a tough, but necessary question to ask an employee, use a different question format for an alternative perspective or ask as a short-answer question.

5. Include All Possible Answers

If your survey is primarily a multiple-choice survey, or you’re rating experiences as positive, neutral, or negative, you have to make sure you’re including all possible answers to your questions. You want it to be as easy as possible — within reason — for whoever is taking the survey to find the answer they’re looking for. You can never cover all the bases, but if employees consistently have trouble with finding the right answer, there’s either something wrong with your questions or you’re not including enough answers.

Go through every question and make sure you’re providing clear answers. The easier it is for an employee to find the answer to your questions, the faster they’ll get through your survey. It’s not just about asking the right questions when drafting a concise HR survey. You can ask the simplest, clearest questions, but if employees can’t find the right answer to your survey, you can find yourself getting a lot of positive or negative responses when in reality, people are neutral.

The Final Word

Drafting a clear and concise HR survey is not as easy as it seems. They’re often too long, too general, and too distant from the real issues in the workplace. The good news is that it’s easy to implement these five tips. Majority of them simply require having someone with a fresh set of eyes to look over your HR survey.

Bias tends to be the downfall, so eliminating it from your questions by offering lots of clear answers, keeping questions simple, and sticking to the topic at hand can help anyone who takes the survey to get through it faster.

About the author:

Reuben Yonatan is the founder/CEO @ — a leading comparison guide that connects companies with a VoIP provider for their needs.