Employee Training Survey Questions: How to Write Them

2019.06.29 Jonathan Deller
Learn how to write employee training survey questions. Get the latest advice and tips on writing strong training survey questions.

Gathering employee feedback is an essential part of running a successful training course. Surveys can tell you how your training is received and where it’s falling short, helping you make changes and improvements over time. But there’s more to creating a training survey than simply handing out a few smile sheets and hoping for the best. You need to know what you want to gain from the survey and have a clear plan about how you’ll analyze and interpret the data you receive. In this post, we’ll explain exactly how to write employee training survey questions that will give you the insights you need to be successful.

Why use training surveys?

Training surveys, both before the training (pre-training surveys) and after the training (post-training surveys), are an important part of running a successful training course or program.

A well-crafted survey will help you:

  • Identify problems with the training that may not be clear
  • Address problems with your training before they become serious issues
  • Gain insights into how the trainees responded or reacted to the training
  • Generate suggestions and feedback for future improvements

Employee training surveys are a simple way of capturing participants’ feedback and ensuring that your training has the maximum possible impact. But how can you get the most out of them?

If you’re wondering how to write employee training survey questions, here is our simple 5-step plan of action:

  • Step 1. Create a learning impact map
     
  • Step 2. Write questions that measure behavior
     
  • Step 3. Write questions that measure intentions
     
  • Step 4. Write questions that measure attitude
     
  • Step 5. Write questions that measure knowledge

In this post, we’ll guide you through each of these five steps and show you exactly how to write your own employee training survey questions.

Step 1. Create a learning impact map

Before you start writing employee training survey questions, you need to start out with an idea of exactly what you want to get out of the learning intervention. Things you should consider include: 

  • Which are the results your stakeholders are looking to impact?
  • What are the business targets?
  • Which behaviours are key to drive those results and achieve the targets?
  • What learning objectives will develop those behaviours?

We call this the learning impact map. To get your learning impact map in place, follow these five steps:

1. Identify your organization's objectives and desired results.
2. Outline the employee behaviors that will help you obtain these results.
3. Outline the intentions, attitudes, and knowledge that will drive this behavior.
4. Define the measurable learning objectives of the program.

This learning impact map will give you a quantitative way of determining the impact of your training and development through measurements.

Step 2. Write questions that measure behavior

To measure behavior, we suggest using critical incident questions. A critical incident is any situation that makes a positive or negative contribution to a person’s key job results. This type of question focuses on historical incidents and asks the respondent to quantify their action. Critical incident questions only focuses on historical incidents when you want to measure historical patterns of behavior. Critical incident questions can also be used to measure future intentions; we can look into the future to ask hypothetically how the respondent would behave or what they would do in a particular scenario. The quantification could be over a number of occasions or over a set period of time.

For example, you could begin a critical incident question by asking:

“Think back over the last five times you encountered (situation). How many times did you (behavior)?.”

Or

“Think back over the past three years. How many times have you (behavior)?.”

The period of time you choose could be days, weeks, months or years, depending on the nature of the situation. If you are following a training evaluation model such as the Kirkpatrick model, you may use this type of question when assessing Level 3: Behavior. This evaluation typically takes place several months after the training and the goal is to measure whether the training has made an impact on the participant’s day-to-day work. This would give you a set period of time and help you choose the most appropriate number of occasions.

Step 3. Write questions that measure intention

Now that you’ve written questions that measure behavior, you can follow your learning impact map to measure intention. We suggest measuring intention with Likert 5-scale responses. For instance, such questions could look like:

"How likely is it that you will (critical behavior) if you are facing (problem)?"

"I intend to spend more time addressing time management within my unit’s teams."

You can also measure intention using single-choice or multiple choice questions using critical incident questions. An example of a single-choice question could look like this:

“Imagine the following scenario: Your sales team has failed to meet its target for the past three months. Your manager has asked you to discover the reason for this performance. You discover that one of your sales representatives has adjusted prices without consulting you. What do you do?

A. Write a report and submit to your manager.
B. Consult your sales team for an internal review.
C. Initial disciplinary action.
D. Don’t know.

We would define this as a single-choice question because the respondents are being asked to select one answer out of four alternatives. By default, Kodo Survey includes a “Don’t know” option for all single-choice questions. This encourages respondents who aren’t sure to select this option, instead of guessing the answer to the question. When writing this type of question, make sure that the alternative answers are equally likely to the ‘untrained eye’.

Employee Training Survey Questions

 

Step 4. Write questions that measure attitude

When measuring attitude, Likert 5-scale questions are ideal. However, most respondents have a tendency to score themselves quite highly. If you are measuring intention prior to training, this will create a cap-effect on your results before your learning intervention has taken place. To avoid this, you can use extreme words such as ‘absolutely’, ‘highly’ or ‘very’.

For instance, consider the following question:

“I ensure that my staff receives regular feedback.”

This Likert 5-scale question would likely see many respondents grade themselves as a four or five. To push the results down, you could add the word ‘absolutely’, as follows:

“I absolutely ensure that my staff receives regular feedback.”

This question will help you avoid a cap-effect and will let you measure the results of your learning intervention more effectively.

Step 5. Write questions that measure knowledge

When it comes to measuring knowledge, single-choice or multiple choice questions give you the highest level of objectivity. Asking respondents to evaluate their own levels of knowledge can be quite subjective and the results won’t be useful. Knowledge questions must be defined depending on the taxonomy level of learning that it is supposed to measure.

For learning targeting the first level of Bloom’s taxonomy – Remembering – you would need questions that assess the respondents ability to tell, list, name or describe something in simple terms. For a course about the GROW model of coaching, a good example would be:

“What is the role of the coach in the GROW model of coaching?”

A. To offer opinions on the employee’s goal.
B. To ask effective questions.
C. To help the employees achieve their goals.
D. To set goals that are achievable.
E. Don’t know

While many people would identify this as a type of multiple choice question, here at Kodo Survey we define this as a single-choice question because the respondents are being asked to choose one answer. To us, a multiple choice question is one where a number of options must be chosen. For example:

“After completing a Coaching Needs Assessment, which two of the following items are NOT one of the four major coaching roles.

A. Coach as Motivator
B. Coach as Judge
C. Coach as Teacher
D. Coach as Philosopher
E. Coach as Guide
F. Coach as Mentor
G. Don’t know 

This is an example of a multiple choice question as respondents must select two options (B and D) to answer the question correctly.

Here are some tips for writing effective single-choice and multiple choice questions.

1. Add a “Don’t Know” option

Kodo Survey adds a “Don’t know” option to all single-choice and multiple choice by default. This encourages respondents to select this option instead of guessing the correct answer and improves the quality of your results.

2. Make the alternatives look equally right

When writing alternative answers for single-choice and multiple choice questions, make sure that they look equally likely compared with the correct answer(s). Ensure they contain roughly the same number of words or characters so that respondents can’t simply guess the correct answer.

3. Separate questions according to Bloom's taxonomy

It's important to separate questions according to which level on Bloom's taxonomy they are measuring. Questions aimed at Bloom's level 1, Remembering, should be separate from questions aimed at measuring Bloom's level 2, Understanding. For example, how would you ask a question to find out if the respondent understands a concept rather than merely remembers it? 

For example, in Kodo Survey you could ask respondents to watch a movie clip of four different scenarios where someone is coaching a trainee or fellow employee. You could ask the following question to assess their understanding:

"Which of the four scenarios most closely resembles that of good coaching using the GROW model?"

To answer this question, the respondent would need a good understanding of this model of coaching. To give another example, a Bloom level 1 question about SMART goals would be: 

"What does SMART stand for?"

You would write four alternative answers, one of which is correct. Now let's imagine that you want to write a question that assesses Bloom Level 2. You could ask the following question:

"Which of the following four alternatives most closely resembles a SMART goal?"

You would write four alternative answers, only one of which contains all the elements of the SMART acronym. To answer this question, the respondents must show that they understand the concept of SMART goals rather than merely being able to repeat basic information. 
 

Determine ROI of training

 

Tips for writing great questions

Now that we’ve covered the five steps of how to write great employee training survey questions, you’re ready to start writing your questions. However, before you start writing your employee learning survey questions, it’s important to know that there are only two main question types: objective (factual) questions and subjective (opinion) questions. The type of questions must match your survey objectives and will be influenced by your organization's goals.

For example, if you are following a training evaluation model such as the Kirkpatrick model, and want to conduct a level 1 ‘Reaction’ survey to measure the employee’s reaction to training, you’d want to ask subjective questions, based on learner’s opinions.

However, if your survey is designed to capture facts, figures and specific data, you’ll want to ask mostly objective questions.

Before we get to the actual questions themselves, here are five simple tips to keep in mind.

Tip 1. Be concise

Let’s be honest, completing a survey is a chore for most people. So don’t waste their time. Word your questions as simply as possible to maximize your survey response rate.

Tip 2. Quality over quantity

Limit your questions to a reasonable number – lengthy and complicated surveys aren’t the way to go. Our simple structure of having one high-level metric and then one or two areas of interest will see more responses being submitted.

Tip 3. Avoid ambiguity

Just because you know what you meant when you wrote the survey questions doesn’t mean that everyone will! Always test your survey questions to identify any potential misunderstandings that the survey respondents may have. 

Tip 4. Write in a conversational tone

No-one wants to wade through complex questions. Be direct, simple and conversational – avoid complex terms or jargon.

Tip 5. Ask relevant questions

It can be tempting to ask everything under the sun, but don’t! If you want high response rates, always keep in mind your survey objectives and ask relevant questions. This will give you the feedback you need to generate actionable insights.

Tip 6. Test your survey and get feedback.

We’re almost done! Testing your survey is one of the most important steps of writing good employee training survey questions. You might think that you’ve created the perfect survey with the best questions, but once you put it in front of one of your colleagues or coworkers, they may say: “This just doesn’t make sense to me!”

Always test your survey on a small sample group before rolling it out. Ask the volunteers for written or verbal feedback. Take the feedback you receive on board and use it to make changes that will help your survey achieve a higher completion rate.

Some questions to ask include:

  • Did the survey take too long to complete?
  • Were the questions leading or biased?
  • Where the questions all over the place?
  • Were any questions redundant?
  • What else was missing?

Take this feedback to heart, make the edits and get it on the right path.

Putting it all together

By following the five steps we’ve outlined today, you’ll be well placed to write an excellent employee training survey with high-quality questions. This will provide you with actionable insights that you’ll be able to leverage for your organization. 

To find out more, download our white paper, Determining and optimizing the impact of your training and development, or book a meeting with one of our experts.

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Kristoffer
Kristoffer Laag
HR Strategist