How to Increase Employee Survey Participation

by Niamh Madden, Community Manager at Talivest

Are you getting low response rates with your employee surveys? You’re not alone. One of the biggest challenges HR leaders face is collecting employee feedback. If you want to increase employee survey participation, read on. 

1. Start with Why

Would you complete a survey if you had no idea what was going to happen with your feedback? No, you wouldn’t. To incentivise employees, explain why you care and why participation is important.

As Simon Sinek asserted in Start with Why, ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.’ Why should employees buy into your survey? What’s in it for them? Ask yourself honestly and outline the ‘why’ in your survey communications.

2. Get your Communications Hat on

Create a detailed communications plan for before, during and after your survey. Partner with your internal communications or marketing team. They can help you create messaging and tell you the best channels to land the message.

After your employee survey is complete, don’t wait too long before sharing results. Explain what the positive and negative results were and what areas you plan on working on. This will boost future employee survey participation.

Don’t forget to segment results by team, too. Managers can communicate these results with their teams and create local action plans.

3. Ready for Launch

If you don’t make a big deal out of your survey, then you’re asking for low response rates. Create a buzz about your survey. Share employee success stories that show the value of giving feedback. This will really help you increase participation in your employee survey.

Plan the timing of your launch to coincide with a big work event, e.g. a company-wide town hall hosted by your CEO. Engage all your senior leaders in advance, letting them know what’s in it for them too.

4. Get Manager Support

Get manager buy-in to encourage participation. Employees are more likely to listen to their managers than to a mass email sent to the whole company. Host manager workshops or do roadshows where you explain the value of the survey. Be clear with what you expect managers to do – when to communicate, how and what to say.

Managers will be your biggest advocates so make sure you explain what’s in it for them. They won’t buy in if the results will end up being a finger-pointing exercise.

Instead, think about what will get them excited. For example, they may be able to identify areas for improvement off the back of the survey. This will help them build more engaged teams and keep their top talent

5. This is the Right Time

Don’t keep your employee survey open too long. 7 – 10 days is enough. Be mindful of the time of year, month and day you send.

Be aware of activity happening in your organisation when you launch. Are there any teams that are particularly busy? Are there any burnt out team members? Is it summer and several people are gone on holidays?

Make sure that you know your own organisation well enough to plan a timed launch. It’s important that senior leaders are available during the results period. This will give you the chance to communicate results with speed.

6. Keep it Anonymous

Is your HR team still managing all your survey responses? In-house surveys can erode trust and reduce survey participation. Response rates go up 40% when you switch to an anonymous, third-party provider.

Not only that, but you’ll get different answers when you use an anonymous survey. For example, up to 63% of answers change when companies switch to an anonymous exit survey.

7. Reminders Increase Employee Survey Participation

Send nudges to your employees to complete their survey. These automated reminders save you time sending mails. You can even decide how often you’d like the nudges to go out. You also have the option to send more reminders, while keeping results anonymous.

We recommend scheduling two reminders throughout your survey campaign. We’ve seen response rates peak when the survey launches. There are usually a few stragglers left near the end, which is why reminders are useful!

8. Look at your Sample Size

High response rates are not as important as a good sample size. What does a good sample look like? It’s survey results that represent your organisation at a high level. For example, make sure you get responses from every team, region and layer of seniority.

We spoke about this with Dr. Na Fu, Professor of Human Resources Management at Trinity College. “Don’t just focus on high response rates. Instead, see if your sample is representative of the organisation. Check the survey respondents’ profiles to make sure you’re getting a good sample. A 30% response rate with a high representative sample is better than a high rate, which may not represent your organisation.”

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