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15 Tips for Maximizing Employee Survey Response Rates

Updated: Dec 20, 2023 | Published Apr 27, 2023

Struggling to get feedback from your employees? Looking to increase employee survey response rates and benchmark your satisfaction surveys?

As organizations strive to maximize employee satisfaction and optimize the employee experience, employee surveys have become an essential tool. That said, the success of these surveys depends largely on employee participation rates. 

In this article, we’ll share 15 great tips and best practices to improve employee survey response rates.

What is the average employee survey response rate? 

If you’ve ever spearheaded an employee survey, you will know it’s not always an easy feat. Getting every employee informed about the survey is one thing. Convincing them to complete the survey is another! 

Every organization has a different response rate. Smaller companies tend to have a higher rate. For large corporations, the rate will be lower despite a higher sample size. It mainly comes down to communicating the value of the survey and the ability to reach each employee.

Encouraging participation can really only go so far. Employees need to proactively find the survey, fill it out, and send it in. With busy days at work, finding that time isn’t always at the top of everyones’ to-do list.

Because of the significant differences between how companies operate, it’s difficult to settle on an average survey response rate. The good news is that with the use of technology and more efficient digital channels for accessing surveys, the average rate should increase across the board moving forward.

Survey response rate benchmarks

So what’s a good response rate?

As mentioned, every organization can expect different employee survey response rates. Depending on the company size, number of people, or industry, coming up with a general target isn’t exactly useful or accurate.

As a very broad general rule, we believe employee survey response rate should be at least 50%. If you’re not crossing that midpoint, you’re missing out on half of your employees!

For smaller companies, aim for higher (75 to 85%). Even higher response rates are possible, but it takes a dedicated effort using a mix of effective internal communication, different channels, and digital tools.

An ideal rate that we strive for with our partners and clients is 85%. The best way to get there is with an intuitive and accessible employee experience platform.

Why is high employee survey participation important?

Getting feedback directly from employees gives managers an overview of how your organization is perceived by your employees, and how they feel at work. It shines a light on the real employee experience and your employees’ true thoughts.

The higher the employee survey participation rate, the more representative the results of the entire employee-base will be. Low response rates result in missing out on chunks of the workforce and may lead to operational decisions that don’t take into account key feedback, areas of concern, or innovative ideas.

How often should employee engagement surveys be conducted?

Leaders and HR teams are undoubtedly curious about how employees are feeling at work. But asking to complete too many surveys will lead to survey fatigue.

At a minimum, yearly employee surveys should be conducted across the entire organization. Throughout the year, surveys can be targeted to certain groups, teams, or regions for more tailored feedback for specific topics.

Employee surveys differ from employee performance assessment, which can be conducted yearly as well as continuous performance appraisals throughout the year. 

The value of employee satisfaction survey responses 

Employee surveys, like Voice of Employee (VoE) surveys, accurately measure employee experience to help you understand how employees feel and what they’re looking for. Managers can use this employee feedback to make a positive change to improve employee experiences, making workers’ days better.

Surveys with high response rates directly contribute to policy change, employee experience investments, and a range of other adjustments that can make an organization stronger.

Tips to improve employee survey response rates

     

      1. Guarantee confidentiality for respondents

      1. Ask senior leaders to show their support

      1. Short surveys are better – only ask what you need

      1. Remind employees what’s in it for them

      1. Share ‘Next Steps’

      1. Team Incentives are better than individual ones

      1. Announce your survey formally as well as through managers

      1. Survey within the flow of work

      1. Use app notifications, texts and email survey invites

      1. Choose a designated time and place to take the survey

      1. Choose your survey launch timing carefully

      1. Make sure your user experience is a good one

      1. Collaborations or competitions

      1. After the launch, ask leaders, management and champions to demonstrate participation

      1. Survey results = actions


    Download 100 must-ask survey questions


    1. Guarantee confidentiality for respondents

    Make sure that respondents believe and trust that their responses will be kept confidential and anonymous. One of the main reasons workers are apprehensive about filling in surveys is that they fear that their responses will be traced back to them. They may be worried about retaliation if they answer negatively. 

    Organizations must assure employees that their responses will be kept confidential and anonymous. This will encourage employees to share their honest opinions without fear of repercussions.

    2. Ask senior leaders to show their support 

    Get top-level executives to demonstrate their support for the survey to encourage greater participation from all levels of the organization. There are many approaches to communicate that leadership supports survey engagement and that the results and employee data will be used in a positive way.

    To reach employees, schedule things like information sessions, meetings, town halls, emails, social posts, or video messages that give leaders a chance to speak to the employees directly.

    3. Short surveys are better – only ask what you need

    Avoid long surveys that can become overwhelming for respondents, and instead keep surveys short and concise. Make sure to only ask necessary questions in order to keep the survey quick and easy to complete.

    Along with short surveys, try to optimize text in each question, as well. The main goal is to make sure every employee fully reads the survey questions but doesn’t get bogged down with wordy or ambiguous text. Open-ended questions should be kept to a minimum, instead go for multiple choice as much as possible.

    Every individual has a different degree of attention. Keeping the surveys clear and concise will help boost completion rate.

    4. Remind employees what’s in it for them

    Clearly communicate the benefits of the survey to all employees, so that they understand the importance of participating.

    Depending on your company, there are many potential employee benefits stemming from a survey. For instance, they can be used to improve the work environment (think new coffee machine, different food in the cafeteria, more workplace flexibility, or better parking). Results can also be used to inform changes on internal policy, employee insurances, and even company direction.

    Make it explicit that their opinions and answers will be directly used in shaping the decisions and future of the organization.

    5. Share ‘Next Steps’

    As we just mentioned, it’s definitely imperative to let your employees know what they’ll get out of the survey. Show that you’re taking their responses seriously with a concrete action plan. 

    Sharing the next steps – what will happen after the survey is completed – explains to your employees what to expect and underlines the importance of their participation.

    6. Team Incentives are better than individual ones

    Consider offering incentives that are team-based rather than individual-based, in order to encourage collaboration and teamwork.

    Incentives can be a powerful tool to encourage participation in employee surveys. 

    Things like a team outing or a team lunch are a great idea. Individual incentives are also possible, but be careful as they may create unhealthy competition and may not encourage collaboration.

    7. Announce your survey formally as well as through managers

    Create a formal announcement about the survey that is communicated to all employees in order to raise awareness and encourage participation. 

    This announcement can be shared through email, a newsletter, an internal social post, or even posters if your place of work still uses paper (just be sure to include a QR code for easy access on a mobile device as well).

    8. Survey within the flow of work

    Incorporate staff survey communications into the regular flow of work. This helps to ensure that all employees are aware of the survey and its importance. 

    Create time and space for people to complete it during work and make sure to give employees sufficient flexibility and a suitable environment in which to complete the survey.

    9. Use app notifications, texts and email survey invites

    Use multiple communication methods and digital channels to reach all employees, including app notifications, texts, and email survey invites.

    It sounds simple, but employees will not be able to complete a survey if they can’t find it. Give them multiple options to locate the survey and make it as easy as possible for them to participate.

    10. Choose a designated time and place to take the survey

    Schedule a specific time and place for employees to take the survey in order to make it easier for them to participate.

    Whether that’s in a physical office in a designated room, or a specified time for remote workers, scheduling an event will be sure to attract a number of employees. 

    Make the meeting a social experience by having a coffee break (either physically or through video) after the survey is over.

    11. Choose your survey launch timing carefully

    Choose a time to launch the survey when employees are likely to have the time and energy to complete it. 

    If your organization has cyclical periods of high activity (like the end of the quarter for accountants, for example), choose a time that is typically more quiet. Your employees will be able to dedicate more energy to the survey and not have extra pressure of deadlines preventing them from completing an optional (but important!) task.

    12. Make sure your user experience is a good one

    Have you ever tried to fill in an online survey, only to be confused and lost as to how to find it and fill it in?

    Missing out on employee engagement due to a poor user experience is completely avoidable. Using specific employee engagement survey software, like within an employee experience platform, ensures that employee surveys are easy to find and intuitive to complete.

    Along with using technology to make surveys more streamlined, focus on creating a survey that is easy and enjoyable for respondents to complete to encourage participation and improve response rates.

    13. Collaborations or competitions

    Working together, within a team or throughout the organization, to complete employee surveys can be a great motivating factor for individuals.

    We touched on team incentives and collaboration. That’s a great option to boost engagement, but team competitions can also encourage participation. 

    For further incentive, you can propose a prize draw to teams who complete their surveys.

    14. After the launch, ask leaders, management and champions to demonstrate participation

    Encourage leaders, managers, and champions to demonstrate their participation in the survey to build momentum and encourage engagement.

    Leadership and line managers across the organization can fill in the survey and send an email or make a social post (don’t be afraid to use some humor) about how they’ve completed the survey. This type of gentle nudge can be a great motivator for their staff to do the same.

    15. Survey results = actions

    Make sure to deliver on any promises made as a result of the survey. Following through will build trust with workers and encourage future participation.

    If after years of employee surveys, no action is taken based on the results, employees will be skeptical. Make a plan and take action on the survey results and employees will be much more likely to participate in the future.

    Let’s Boost Your Employee Surveys Response Rate

    Ready to make your employee survey more comprehensive, actionable, and accurate? By following our tips, and harnessing the flexibility of an intuitive employee app, you’ll be sure to maximize employee survey response rates.

    Want to learn more? Ask our experts about employee pulse polls and surveys.


    Download 100 must-ask survey questions


    Teri Maltais
    Teri Maltais

    Specializing in digital marketing programs for industrial and commercial technology solutions.

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