George Dickson - August 22, 2019 -
21 Min Read

23 Simple New Employee Survey Questions You'll Be Happy You Asked

Everyone wants to know they're a valued member of the team, and thoughtful new employee surveys are a simple, yet potent way to confirm that value and esteem from the earliest stages of employment on.

Details can make a meaningful impact on a new teammate's experience, and getting those details right can be as simple as asking. So why not ask?

This guide includes a host of thoughtfully formatted survey questions to ask throughout a new employee's orientation, from day zero to day 90 and beyond.

Some key considerations before getting started:

1. Prepare to act. Don't ask any of these questions if you’re not ready to act on the responses you receive. Asking for feedback but failing to pursue and implement improvements can be received worse than not asking for feedback at all.

2. Choose thoughtfully. Not every organization or team is the same. Consider your own unique constraints and cultural norms as you choose new employee survey questions. While most of these questions aren't inherently controversial, it's crucial to use your best judgement when deciding which are most relevant and appropriate for you and your team.

3. Pace yourself. It may seem faster to dump a bunch of questions on someone all at once, but it's not a particularly effective strategy for generating responses.

Do your best to deliver these questions at a comfortable cadence.

4. Keep it light and lively. If your onboarding survey questions feel like they were spit out by an android, you're likely to get similarly robotic responses. Breathe a bit of life and team personality to the questions you ask, and you're bound to get more enthusiastic responses.

5. Meet people where they are. Asking people to context switch and do an additional unrelated task compound the productivity loss. To the extent that you can, bring the surveys to your team, rather than trying to bring your team to the surveys.

Asking relevant, thoughtful questions in the right venue and pacing them at a comfortable cadence will go a long way toward getting them all answered quickly and completely.

If your team uses Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts Chat, Polly is an effortless way to reach your team where they already are.

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Pre-boarding Survey (Day Zero and Beyond)

Pre-boarding Survey


The pre-boarding phase starts with an accepted offer letter. It's common in many organizations for communication to be minimal during this phase of the employee journey, but it's an an excellent opportunity to learn a few things you can do to make sure your new hire feels more welcome and comfortable from the beginning.

Here are a few questions you might want to ask a new teammate during the pre-boarding phase:

 

πŸŽ‚

Do you enjoy celebrating your birthday?

Best format: Yes/No

Why ask this?

It's important to empower employees to choose whether or not they want attention called to their birthday. While the proportion of people who enjoy celebrating their birthday may make it seem as though everyone enjoys celebrating their birthday, that's not always the case.

This is doubly true within the context of the work environment, where conscious and unconscious bias surrounding age, religion, and other factors can easily impact employee experience or even lead to legal issues.

A simple yes/no question early on can make it easy to know whether or not to celebrate a new colleague's birthday.

 

🍽

What are your three favorite foods?

Best format: Open-ended

Why ask this?

Food is something everyone has in common, and it's a powerful way to build a lasting connection and camaraderie between teammates. Knowing your new hire's favorite foods makes it possible to provide memorable experiences early on. Asking for the top three provides you with a couple backup options in case their #1 favorite is hard to get a hold of.

If one of your new colleague's favorite foods is snack-sized, having it on hand (or better yet, on their desk) on their first day is a touch of thoughtfulness and hospitality that won't go unnoticed.

If their favorite foods aren't snack-sized, you can still plan a team lunch during their first week, birthday, work anniversary, or for any other meaningful milestone. If the occasional catered lunch is part of your team culture, that's another opportunity to bring a colleague's favorite food in.

These events are not only a chance to eat together, which has shown to measurably increase team performance, they're also a great opportunity to learn more about one another.

 

πŸ’₯

Do you like to sit near the action or away from it?

Best format: Multiple Choice

Why ask this?

While open offices have gained popularity in organizations worldwide, not every employee thrives in a bustling environment. Some truly enjoy and benefit from a small bit of separation and quiet time, and some would rather spend a majority of their time insulated from the constant din of an open office.

This aversion to the humming central areas doesn't mean an employee is not engaged or interested in interacting with peers -- as Susan Cain expertly explains, quiet performers are an extraordinarily valuable part of any team:

 

If you can't provide them with their own four walls full-time, make sure you're still providing an area of calm, quiet respite more introverted employees can enjoy.

 

πŸ–Ό

Window, middle, or aisle seat?

Best format: Multiple Choice

Why ask this?

Some people feel closed in and isolated without a window to the outside world, while others find themselves too easily distracted by outside events to stay focused.

If there is more than one seating option available, questions like these can help you seat new team members in a place where they'll be able to do their best work.

If there's no choice between window/middle/aisle, consider other areas where you can give new employees a bit of choice around their location, even if it's just "cubicle 12 vs cubicle 19."

Providing personal agency can help to build on an atmosphere of autonomy, which is a meaningful element of employee engagement and performance.

 

πŸ“š

What is your preferred learning style?

Best Format: Multiple Choice (1 or more)

Why ask this?

Learning is a team sport. Matching learning and teaching styles can make a meaningful difference during a new team member's ramping period. Some employees are visual learners (see it done), others gravitate toward auditory (hear how to do it), or tactile/kinesthetic (try it out) learning styles

While it may not be possible to match learning styles with every task or function, knowing a new team member's preferred learning style(s) makes it easier to work it in and provide engaging learning experiences wherever possible. 

Learning styles aren't the only factor in ramping velocity, but seizing opportunities to increase neural gain during training appears to influence attention levels and the level of focus dedicated to the learning environment.

 

β˜ƒοΈ

What's your ideal room temperature?

Best format: Multiple Choice

Why ask this?

If you've ever had to work in overly hot, cold, or humid conditions, you know that physical comfort (or the lack thereof) can have a striking impact on productivity.

While it's no surprise an uncomfortable office climate can negatively impact work performance, "comfortable temperature" is subjective both on a personal and even a physiological level. As Boris Kingma and Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt outline in the abstract of their study published in Nature Climate Change:

"Indoor climate regulations are based on an empirical thermal comfort model that was developed in the 1960s. Standard values for one of its primary variablesβ€”metabolic rateβ€”are based on an average male, and may overestimate female metabolic rate by up to 35%."

Keeping the indoor temperature at an ideal level for everyone might not be possible, but gathering this data can help you find the most universally comfortable temperature for inhabitants in your office.

If someone is particularly sensitive to cooler temperatures, choosing not to seat them next to a drafty window or door could make a worthwhile difference in their day-to-day comfort as well.

 

🚍

What commuter benefits would you like to see?

Best Format: Multiple Choice

Why ask this?

The harder it is for employees to get to work, the more likely it is that they'll show up in less-than-jovial spirits, or not show up at all. While the individual impact is worth considering on its own, research shows that the stress of commuting can and does spill over into the greater workplace.

Asking employees their preferred mode of transportation and providing arrangements that eliminate barriers and streamline their commute can have a significant impact, not only on individual absenteeism, but also on the overall stress levels everyone experiences at work.

 

πŸ’»

What equipment might help you be at your most productive?

Best Format: Open-ended

Why ask this?

Comfortable employees are more happy and productive. Oftentimes something as small as a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or an ergonomic keyboard can make a noticeable difference in an employee's comfort, health and productivity levels. As Rodd Wagner, Fabrico Drumond, and Jim Harter explain in their Gallup article, investing in better equipment shows employees that their organization cares about their comfort and safety, and this holds true across multiple industries.

That individual expense can provide a magnitude of outsized returns over a period of months or years by keeping employees happier, more comfortable, and resultantly, more productive.

Asking this question in a format that presumes there is some equipment that fits that description is more likely to result in a candid answer, and that answer may help you to provide the best equipment possible for others on the team as well.


Onboarding Survey (within first 14 days)

Onboarding Survey


Early onboarding begins with an employee's first day and usually continues on for the next few weeks. It can be helpful to use loose dates in this context because it's not always accurate to measure the new employee journey in terms of days. Instead, it can be more helpful to think of it in terms of competencies earned.

You could consider the first stages of onboarding to be complete when a new employee has internalized the basics of their role, their team, and organizational culture. Questions asked at this phase are focused on gauging their stage in that journey, and helping them through to the next stage.

 

❓

Do you know where to go if you need help?

Best Format: Yes/no, with optional open-ended clarifier

Why ask this?

During an employee's onboarding, they're required to memorize a mountain of things all at once. It's common for them to feel a bit lost. It's equally common for new employees to neglect to ask a question simply because they're too focused on absorbing knowledge, or are concerned they'd be disruptive to others.

Even something as simple as knowing where the bathroom is can dramatically cut back on the cognitive load new employees face on their first few days.

If you're not assigning new hires an onboarding buddy, it's worth considering, as Dawn Klinghoffer, Candice Young, and Dave Haspas outline in their recent Harvard Business Review article, having an "onboarding buddy" can help to cover the basics, provide context, boost productivity, and improve new employee satisfaction.

It's important for your new colleague to know that they're welcome to ask questions, but it's equally important for them to know which of their colleagues are best suited to answer them. This saves everyone time and effort, while helping to ensure your new teammate feels confident reaching out.

 

πŸŽ‰

What excites you most about your new position?

Best Format: Multiple Choice / Open-ended

Why ask this?

Have you ever noticed how time flies when you're working on a project you're deeply engaged in, and how mercilessly it drags when you're stuck on a bland, rote task?

Learning what aspects of the job a new employee is most interested in or excited about can help their manager key in on those areas and provide more opportunities for exposure. Areas of interest often differ among members of your team, so distributing and delegating projects with that in mind can help everyone enjoy their work to the greatest extent possible.

You may not be able to guarantee that every moment they spend working with they'll be doing their favorite thing, but you can bias their workload toward the things they're good at and enjoy most.

 

πŸ› 

What additional resources might help you in your role?

Best Format: Open-ended

Why ask this?

Similar to the equipment question, if there are other resources you can provide that will make a new hire's time at work more efficient or enjoyable, you'll want to know what they are.

Whether it's a piece of software, an online course, or an introduction to a mentor, there are likely a number of resources you can provide to make your new colleague's job easier. Finding out what those things are and working to provide them shows that your organization is actively focused on providing its members with the tools and resources they need to advance their skills and career.

Taking this approach not only helps keep employees engaged in their work, it helps develop a new generation of organizational leadership that have experienced the value of investing in new hire development firsthand.

 

πŸ™‹πŸΎβ€β™€οΈ

Do you feel as though you've made a strong connection with at least one of your colleagues?

Best Format: Spectrum (No ←‒‒‒‒‒→ Yes) 

Why ask this?

A sense of camaraderie and place within a community are some of the most fundamental needs we have as human beings, sitting just above physiological needs like food and shelter. Without fulfilling those needs, it's next to impossible for individuals to reach their highest potential at work. Research by TINYpulse corroborates this, finding "Peers are the number one reason employees go the extra mile at work β€” not their leaders, and not money."

You may believe you've developed a great culture where everyone feels welcome. It can be difficult for most leaders to think they're building a culture that isn't welcoming and inclusive, but how do you know for sure without measuring it?

If through these measurements you find that some employees haven't had a chance to forge meaningful relationships with others, it may be easier to than you think to resolve. Modern, purpose-built tools like Donut can help by pairing and scheduling members of your team for regular coffee meetings.

 

πŸ₯

Rank these employee benefits in order of importance

Best Format: Ranked

Why ask this?

You may not be able to provide unlimited benefits; however, you can focus on providing the ones that really matter to your team. Asking this question is an opportunity to be sure you provide benefits they truly care about.

Because you can't often provide "all of the above," utilizing a ranked format encourages the respondents to consider the weight and value they place on each option. 

Questions like these give employees the sense that they're in the driver's seat when it comes to important organizational choices like which benefits make it into their plan.


Ramping (within first 30-60 days)

Employee Ramping Survey


An employee's ramping period is a crucial point in their development as a member of your team. Gathering data at this stage can help you to understand this critical point of their employment journey more completely.

Most of these next questions focus on a new hire's understanding of and engagement in their role. Their answers can provide an opportunity for you to help them lean into the parts of their role they're excelling in, and course-correct early in the areas where they're having trouble getting established.

 

🎩 🧒

How well does your role match the description you first encountered?

Best Format: 1-10 Scale

Open-ended clarifier: How does it differ?

Why ask this?

Well-written, accurate job descriptions are key to bringing in people who will be a good fit for the position. Tools like Textio can make crafting an engaging, inviting job description much easier, but it's still crucial to accurately assess and describe the role.

How do you know you're painting an accurate portrait of the duties, responsibilities, organizational culture a new hire should expect once they join the team? Ask them.

Each new hire can help improve the initial stage of your hiring process by providing feedback on their experience with the process. Sometimes even just a small adjustment can have a meaningful impact on results.

 

🧩

How confidently do you understand your role and what's expected of you?

Best Format: 1-10 Range

Why ask this?

Everyone grows and learns at a different pace. As ramping continues and your new teammate begins to grow in their role, a quick check-in is useful in confirming that they're comfortable with their responsibilities and their unique place on the team.

If you find that their confidence is less than complete, it's a perfect opportunity for leadership to focus on more clearly delineating roles and responsibilities of the team.

The impact of this exercise is threefold: it helps the newest members of the team better understand team dynamics, it reinforces the same for team veterans, and finally, as the ancient latin "docendo discimus" suggests, as we teach these things, we continue to learn and internalize them better ourselves.

 

🧐

If you could change one thing about your role, what would it be?

Best Format: Open-ended

Why ask this?

It's important to understand that even if your organization's hiring process is working well, there are always improvements that can be made to an employee's experience. In many cases, small changes in the way their role is structured or responsibilities are delegated can make a notable and positive difference.

Candid and honest answers to questions like these may surprise you, but they aren't a sign that an employee isn't enjoying their work. On the contrary -- those answers are a sign your colleague is invested deeply enough toward their work that they're willing to consider ways to maximize its value.

 

🧠

Is there anything about the product or our organization you wish you understood better?

Best Format: Yes/no with open-ended clarifier

Why ask this?

Despite best efforts on both sides, it's likely that at least some aspect of your product(s) a new hire hasn't internalized completely at this stage in their ramping journey.

That's ok. It's crucial to gain earnest feedback on the learning process so that blockers can be removed, and learning can accelerate.

Finding sticking points in this learning journey can not only help you to develop a better onboarding curriculum, but also potentially identify gaps in product positioning.

If there is an area that needs more explanation, a deep-dive with someone who knows that area well can help clarify any confusion, while building camaraderie and rapport between colleagues.

 

⏱

How do you feel about the amount of time you have to get things done?

Best Format: Multiple Choice (not nearly enough, less than optimal, just about right, a little more than I need, way more than I need)

Why ask this?

In the early days of a new hire's tenure, you're still getting to know them -- still getting to know their base output levels, their boundaries, and their current limitations. Their assigned workload could feel overwhelming or, perhaps worse, unchallenging.

Ideally they'll land somewhere in-between, and asking is one of the easiest and most effective ways to confirm where they stand.

 

πŸ’Ž

Do you feel as though your manager communicates clearly?

Best Format: Strongly Disagree ←‒‒‒‒‒→ Strongly Agree

Why ask this?

Onboarding surveys are not only an important opportunity to learn about your new teammates; they can also be a great chance to gain more perspective on leadership styles and strategies. 

Clear and candid communication are hallmarks of good management, and even the most experienced, effortful, and well-meaning managers have room for improving their skills in this area.

Those who do communicate effectively with their team will consistently perform better than those who don't -- that's why it's crucial to gain an understanding of which leaders could benefit from some focused practice in this area. New employees bring a fresh perspective here that very few others can offer. Don't miss the opportunity to gain that perspective.


Post Ramping (beyond the first 90 days)

Employee Pulse Survey


This final question set rounds out the "new employee" phase, and carries on through the rest of their employee journey. Some of these questions can be valuable to ask repeatedly over time because the answers may change, and that can be priceless information in itself as you work to maximize eLTV

 

πŸ—£

Do you feel heard and acknowledged?

Best Format: Strongly Disagree ←‒‒‒‒‒→ Strongly Agree

Why ask this?

There are few things at work that are as empowering and motivating as sharing a great idea and putting it into action; conversely, it's a monumental disappointment to be ignored, and even more so if that becomes the status quo.

A quick search of "being heard at work," will yield dozens of guides from varying perspectives on the topic. It's a common and pervasive theme across multiple social and organizational strata.

Employees having a voice on their team is crucial, but it's not enough just to have a voice -- a voice can simply be ignored. That voice must be heard and acknowledged. Hearing the diverse range of perspectives different members of your team can offer is an advantage that shouldn't be overlooked. 

Despite the clear benefits of diverse perspective, Gallup research found that "just three in 10 U.S. workers strongly agree that at work, their opinions seem to count."

If you find that some members of your team haven't found their voice, or perhaps worse, found it but aren't being heard, helping them to be heard is a worthy effort.

 

🎯

Do you feel like you’re able to make a meaningful impact?

Best Format: Yes/no with open-ended clarifier

Why ask this?

Whether you're a firefighter, a doctor, a sushi chef, or a software developer, understanding and embracing the meaning and purpose behind your work can be an extraordinarily powerful motivator.

A survey of over 2,000 American workers found that on average, they would be willing to forego 23% of their entire future lifetime earnings in order to have a job that was always meaningful.

This is far from a call to underpay employees in return for purposeful work, but it does speak to the impact meaningful work can have on an employee's lasting dedication.

If you find that members of your team don't believe they're able to make a meaningful impact, you've found a great opportunity to better your organization through helping its members grow in their roles.

 

πŸ₯‡

Is there something we (the organization) could be doing better?

Best Format: Open-ended

Why ask this?

There's always something your organization could be doing better, and new employees can often provide a uniquely fresh, outside perspective on processes, protocols, and organizational culture.

Developing an atmosphere where employees of any tenure or seniority level are encouraged to share candid feedback can help to illuminate potential blind spots and uncover latent opportunities.

 

😌

Do you feel like you’re in a safe environment?

Best Format: Yes/no with open-ended clarifier

Why ask this?

Physical safety in the workplace is crucial. If employees don't feel as though they can get through the day without a chance of physical injury, they'll understandably struggle to look past the immediate danger they face.

Psychological safety is equally important. In order to establish an organizational culture that attracts, supports, and retains top talent, it's vital to build a safe and inclusive space for everyone.

In an environment that fosters psychological safety, each member of the organization should feel as though they're in a place where they are secure in their ability to take interpersonal risks, and empowered to express their true authentic selves at work without fear of rejection or reprisal.

Psychological safety is also a competitive advantage. As Charles Duhigg uncovered in his seminal New York Times article "What Google Learned from its Quest to Build the Perfect Team," an atmosphere of psychological safety was the common denominator among teams that consistently performed above expectations.

Understanding whether or not you're fostering a safe environment for your team -- and ultimately, what makes it so -- can help you to build on what's working and identify elements that undermine that safety. The easiest way to gain that understanding is to ask.

Don't Stop Here

This is a large list of new employee survey questions, but it's by no means exhaustive or applicable across every organization and team. Part of asking good questions is understanding why you need the answers, and knowing what you'd be able to accomplish if you knew them.

 

If you're ready to get started and need a flexible tool that can reach your team where they work with ease, you can try Polly for free anytime!

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George Dickson

Written by George Dickson

Lives to learn and build cool things with good people.