Guide: Run an employee survey

Understand structured vs. open-ended questions

At Google, surveys often use two types of questions:

1) Structured questions provide a predetermined set of responses. These responses help you compare response patterns across populations, convert responses into numeric data to conduct statistical analysis, or easily track changes in individuals or groups over time. Responses to structured questions come in several varieties. Two of the most common are:

Categorical scales

  • Yes/No, True/False
  • Department/Function (Sales, Operations, Engineering)
  • Region (North, South, East, West)

Ordered scales

  • Questions with numerical ranges (1-5; Never, Once, Twice, More than 3 times)
  • Likert-type scales (Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree)

2) Open-ended questions ask respondents to answer without a set of constrained choices. These types of questions add context to structured questions; they’re also helpful to use when you aren’t sure of, or do not want to constrain, the set of choices respondents will be using to answer the question. Examples include open-ended items, like “What do you like best about working here?” or “Give 1-2 suggestions for how we can give employees more autonomy” or “How many days per month do you work from home, on average?”

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