Employee Survey Questions About Management & Leadership: What To Measure

By Perceptyx - April 21, 2021

As we noted in a previous article, few things have more impact on day-to-day business operations and long-term business success than the actions of managers and leaders. Leaders chart the organization’s strategic direction and are ultimately accountable for organizational success. They also set the tone on values, ethics, and behavioral expectations. Managers translate leaders’ strategic intentions and values into local actions to guide the employees they lead, and are responsible for their team’s productivity. Working together, leaders and managers guide organizations forward.

Employee survey questions about management and leadership give employees the opportunity to voice their opinions about day-to-day experiences within the team environment. Employee responses to these questions are usually based on their overall perceptions of the leaders and managers with whom they interact. In this article, we will discuss how employee surveys can be used to gauge employee perceptions about the effectiveness of your leaders and managers.

Wondering what you should be asking about the employee experience? Download our free guide, Using Employee Survey Questions To Support A People Analytics Practice, to find out.

Employee Survey Questions About Management: What To Measure & Ask

As managers work to deliver on the organization’s strategy, they 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 can 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. 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

  • My manager treats employees with respect.
  • I trust my manager.
  • My manager keeps commitments.
  • My manager cares about me as a person.
  • My manager helps me unlock my potential at work.

Performance Management

  • My manager clearly communicates performance expectations.
  • My manager gives me regular feedback on my performance.
  • My manager values my knowledge and contribution to the business.
  • In my workgroup, people are held accountable for results.
  • When I do an excellent job, my accomplishments are recognized.

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

  1. Focus the questions in a way that makes 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 is 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 there are many possible topics pertaining to manager behavior that could be asked in a survey, the best approach is to ask about behaviors an employee can directly observe; otherwise, you will 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 have 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 in order to support that future vision. Using this approach, you might even include some questions that are aspirational, 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
  • Showing recognition to employees regularly
  • Rewarding employees for their contributions

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 the manager
  • Manager interest in and support of their career aspirations
  • Feeling like they are treated as unique individuals
  • Manager showing a personal interest, etc.

Employees are asking for more from managers than just guidance about how to perform their work tasks. They want meaning in their work, a sense of psychological safety (a feeling that someone has their back), and a sense of belonging.

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 all leaders are usually managers.

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.

The importance of leadership effectiveness was highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most organizations were significantly impacted by an external force over which they had no control. However, leaders did have the ability to influence how the organization responded to the crisis.

At Perceptyx, we made a COVID pulse available for free to all of our clients. In addition to questions about employees’ needs and perceptions, we measured 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:

  • I have a clear understanding of the goals and objectives of the company.
  • Senior management keeps employees informed of company matters.
  • Company-wide communications are effective/useful.
  • Senior management communicates the reasons for business decisions.
  • The company is doing what is necessary to compete effectively.
  • I can see a clear link between my work and the company’s objectives.
  • I believe feedback from this survey will be used to make improvements.
  • Senior management models our values.
  • I am optimistic about the future of our organization.
  • I have confidence in our senior management.

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. 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 in the organization 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 for 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.

Managers and leaders have a big influence on employee engagement. Responses to employee survey questions about management and leadership can help managers and leaders to understand, and exhibit, the behaviors employees want to see. The key to starting this cycle of improvement is to ask the right questions. (Tweet this!)

Wondering what you should be asking your employees about management and leadership?

At Perceptyx, helping companies identify and remove barriers to engagement is our goal. With custom surveys, an advanced people analytics platform, and expertise in all aspects of survey design, strategy, and communication, we can help you identify what you should be asking employees to improve the experience in your company. Get in touch and let us show you how.

Download the HR Leader's Guide to Employee Survey Questions

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