All companies want to understand their people better. People analytics—the HR function that uses data-driven insights to help companies do just this—is being employed to great effect by some big-name companies to help improve performance, recruit loyal talent, and reduce attrition

People analytics might be a godsend to HR professionals, but implementing it can be difficult for smaller companies who lack enough data points to analyze or the predictive models to garner broad insights. 

Luckily, all HR teams, big and small, have access to surveys. Surveys are a great resource to help HR understand employees’ attitudes and perceptions. Coupled with people data that every company should have on hand (such as absenteeism rates, turnover, and promotion history), the right surveys can give HR surprising insights about their people.

Here are three surveys that, combined with data, can help you better understand your people.

1. Surveys to build high performing teams

HR professionals know what breeds successful teams—innovation, collaboration, and trust. These are values that all companies should reinforce. Asking the right questions can help HR uncover the reasons why some teams succeed while others fail. These surveys can be paired with other data, such as performance reviews, to find any similarities between how top performers view their roles and their teams. For example, what do high-performing teams rate as top motivating factors? 

Some sample questions:

  • What contributes most to your team’s success?
  • Do you feel free to speak up during meetings?
  • Is innovation encouraged within your team?
  • How collaborative is the nature of your work?
  • What aspects of the team can be improved?
  • What is the biggest factor holding your team back?

2. Surveys about the employee-manager relationship

People quit their managers, not their jobs. To confront turnover head-on, HR needs to empower good managers to become great leaders and spot ineffective managers before they bring down the whole ship. Surveys about how employees view their managers can reveal a lot about who is finding job fulfillment and who might have one foot out the door. Coupled with other data such as turnover rates or promotion rates, it can help HR pinpoint any team or departmental problems. 

Some sample questions that use the agree/disagree scale:

  • I have clarity in my role.
  • My manager provides clear and regular feedback.
  • I feel comfortable communicating with my manager.
  • My manager shows an interest in my professional development.
  • My manager keeps the team informed of business decisions.

The more human side of management, and the soft skills that are sometimes overlooked but crucial to good people management, can be measured with questions like these:

  • My manager shows respect for employees.
  • My manager supports a healthy work/life balance.
  • My manager creates a safe work environment.
  • My manager lets me share ideas. 
  • My manager’s behavior reflects company values.

3. Exit survey to discover the reasons people leave

People analytics can help HR predict which employees are most likely to leave (using flight risk triggers such as lack of growth or high absenteeism). Exit surveys can help HR understand why employees choose to go. 

Exit surveys should be brief, and HR should ask all departing employees the same questions to draw comparisons and detect any company-wide trends. Survey questions should be open-ended to draw as many insights as possible. Turnover is bad for business. HR must understand why an employee chooses to leave and how to avoid it in the future. 

Here are some sample questions:

  • What was the reason for your decision to leave?
  • What does the new position offer that our company didn’t?
  • What, if anything, could have been done to convince you to stay?

Using data and surveys to see the full picture

HR is on a never-ending quest to better understand its workforce. Surveys give HR insights into the hows and whys of the employee experience and help uncover problem areas that need to be addressed. Combined with people data, these insights can help HR become proactive problem solvers and instrumental in pushing the business forward. 


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From Annie Lubin

Annie grew up in Brooklyn, New York. On a Saturday afternoon, you'll likely find her curled up with her cats reading a magazine profile about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.