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Employee Survey Questions About Management & Leadership: What To Measure

Employee Survey Questions About Management & Leadership: What To Measure

Few things have more impact on your employee experience and your organization’s long-term success than the actions of managers and leaders.

Leaders chart the organization’s strategic direction and are ultimately accountable for organizational performance. They also set the tone on values, ethics, and behavioral expectations. Managers translate senior leaders’ strategic intentions and values into local actions that guide the employees they lead. Working together, leaders and managers guide organizations forward.

Employee listening events about management and leadership allow employees to voice their opinions on the day-to-day experiences within their team environment and the organization as a whole. In this article, I’ll discuss how employee surveys can be used to gauge employee perceptions about the effectiveness of your leaders and managers.

Employee Survey Questions About Management: What To Measure & Ask

Critical to improving employee experience is focusing on the what and the who. The “What” involves knowing what to ask employees to measure their experience at work — and that includes measures of manager and leader effectiveness. The “Who” involves asking employees to evaluate multiple factors to get a more thorough understanding of their day-to-day interactions. For instance, we might choose to ask about growth and development, but also ask separately in what ways the employee perceives their manager and leader to be supporting that goal. 

Perceptyx research has identified 10 distinct factors and 40 themes that comprise the employee experience (EX), as represented in our People Insights Model. Managers and leaders are critical as they are the key people tasked with ensuring employees are engaged in each of these factors and themes. Aligning employee listening events to the People Insights Model (the “What”), and asking employees to evaluate both the manager and leader on those items (the “Who”), allows for more granular insight into what to target and how to improve the overall employee experience.

Working to deliver on the organization’s strategy, managers have two primary responsibilities: team performance and talent retention. These two needs can sometimes be at odds with one another. If managers focus only on retention and creating a comfortable work environment, then performance may dip. If they only focus on performance and getting every ounce of output from their team, it can lead to burnout and unwanted attrition.

Manager effectiveness questions fall into two primary buckets: manager relationship and performance management, both of which are themes in our People Insights Model. Most organizations, depending on their culture and values, will score higher in one area than another. The following are examples of some Perceptyx survey questions about the two dimensions of manager performance, which employees are asked to rank on a five-point Likert scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”:

Manager Relationship

  • I am comfortable discussing concerns with my manager.
  • My manager supports my skill and career development.
  • I fully trust my manager to act in my best interest.
  • My manager treats me with respect.

Performance Management

  • My manager provides useful feedback on my performance.
  • My manager clearly communicates performance expectations.
  • My manager holds me accountable for tasks and deadlines that I own.
  • I feel appreciated for the work I do.

Employee survey questions about management can be very useful if the design follows a few best practices:

  1. Focus the questions to make it clear who employees should have in mind as they answer the questions.
  2. Ask about observable behaviors.
  3. Ask about themes that connect to your leadership and manager competency models, values statement, code of conduct, or other widely communicated behavior expectations.

Make It Clear Who Employees Should Have in Mind

Most employees interact with many leaders and managers as they work. However, survey questions are generally designed to focus on the manager with whom an employee has the most direct contact. For that reason, it’s advisable to define what you mean by “manager.” Do you mean the person to whom the employee goes for guidance when they encounter a problem at work? Or the person who conducts their performance evaluations? Definitions can be built into the questions themselves, or they can be provided as dynamic instructions on each survey page.

Focus on Observable Behavior

While many possible topics about manager behavior could be addressed in a survey, the best approach is to ask about behaviors an employee can directly observe; otherwise, you'll be asking employees to infer or guess and the feedback will not be useful.

Instead of asking employees to rate a statement like this:

I feel my manager is effective in supervising my work,” It is more effective to ask for opinions about statements like these:

My manager gives me useful feedback about my work.”

My manager asks for my ideas and my opinions.”

Any employee should be able to say whether they agree (or disagree) that their manager is displaying the behaviors in question.

Ask About Themes That Connect to Your Stated Manager Behavior Expectations

If you’ve communicated a model for expected manager behavior, use that model to guide the design of your survey questions. If you don’t have a model, think about what your organization is trying to accomplish that relies on managers for success. Define how managers should behave to support that future vision. Using this approach, you might even include some aspirational questions, asking about behaviors that leaders would like managers to exhibit, even if those behaviors have not been formally codified.

The only challenge with this aspirational approach is that scores may initially be low as you use the survey to establish a baseline. Scores should improve over time as the behavior expectations are more widely communicated. Simply posing the questions guides managers to exhibit — and employees to expect — the behaviors they suggest.

Ultimately, these are the things you want to know managers are doing consistently:

  • Setting clear expectations
  • Making sure employees have the resources needed for their work
  • Showing fairness to all employees they supervise
  • Communicating openly and regularly to employees
  • Rewarding employees for their contributions

Perceptyx research shows that employees who evaluate their manager as ineffective are more than 6x as likely to report that they will leave the organization within a year as compared to those that evaluate their managers as effective. Effective managers can make or break an employee’s experience at work — so ensuring your listening events are aligned to measuring the right manager behaviors is critical.

Ask About Widely-Expected Manager Behaviors

Organizations are increasingly interested in the employee/manager relationship. As the workplace has evolved, so have employee expectations about management. Younger workers, in particular, have expectations regarding:

  • Sense of connection to their manager
  • Manager interest in and support of their career aspirations
  • Feeling like they are treated as unique individuals
  • Manager showing a personal interest

According to Perceptyx research, workers younger than 30 years old are more than 3x as likely to report that they have engaged in job-seeking behavior within the last 30 days than those over 30 years old — suggesting that managers are essential to retaining younger talent. 

Further, employees are asking for more from managers than just guidance about how to perform their work tasks. They want:

When employees report that they possess all three of these characteristics, they are 24x more likely to say they have an effective manager according to Perceptyx research — suggesting that enabling managers to improve these outcomes among their direct reports produces more effective managers, and in turn improved engagement and retention across the organization.

Employee Leadership Survey Questions

We are making a distinction between managers (who are directly involved with the day-to-day guidance of their teams) and leaders (the executives that define the strategy and guide the organization to successfully execute it). Not all managers are leaders, but most leaders also have a manager role.

Leaders may cast a clear vision and purpose for an organization, but to effectively execute against that vision, they need to inspire trust and confidence if they want people to work toward it and apply discretionary effort.

Referring to the People Insights Model can give us the “What” to identify what factors are most important to consider asking employees about, using the Leader as the “who” to be evaluated. Perceptyx research has uncovered four key concepts that build or erode trust in leadership, especially during times of change.

Those concepts are leadership competency, communication, consistency, and care for people. To measure the effectiveness of the leadership team, survey questions should be designed to measure employee perceptions about these key aspects of leadership. The following are examples of leadership satisfaction survey questions that capture these important dimensions of leader effectiveness; these utilize a five-point Likert scale for employees to rank their agreement with the statement:

  • Senior management communicates a clear vision for the future.
  • Sufficient effort is made to get the opinions and thinking of people that work here. 
  • Company-wide communications are effective/useful.
  • Change is handled effectively in my company. 

Clarity about the strategy, confidence in leaders’ ability to execute the strategy, and clear communication about what is going on in the company influence employee engagement. 

Our research shows that employees who report having confidence in leadership are more than 5x as engaged as those who do not have confidence in leadership — evidence that it is critical to focus on both perceptions of managers and leaders, and how different the expectations are for each.

These strategic drivers of engagement sit solidly in the purview of executive leaders and are typically included in leader-focused questions in employee surveys. No other leader group can have as much impact on these aspects of organizational life.

More recently, again in response to changing employee expectations, new themes are emerging in employee survey questions that focus on leaders:

  • Visibility of leaders: Do employees see them and know who they are?
  • Social responsibility of the company: Do leaders guide the organization in doing what is right for the planet and the communities they serve?
  • Inclusiveness: Do leaders set the tone from the top of the organization and use their voices to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

These types of questions reveal employee perceptions about leadership. They focus on topics requiring action that employees believe can only come from the top of the organization.

Wondering What You Should Be Asking About Management And Leadership?

Responses to employee survey questions about management and leadership can help people leaders at all levels to understand, and exhibit, the behaviors employees want to see. The key to starting this cycle of improvement is to ask the right questions.

With the most comprehensive portfolio of listening products, a purpose-built People Insights Platform, and expertise in all aspects of survey design, listening strategy, and communication, we can help you identify what you should be asking employees to improve your EX. Get in touch to learn more.

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