5 tips to boost your employee engagement survey response rate

Dhruv Patel

27 Nov, 2019

Dhruv Patel

So you’ve sent out your employee engagement survey and are looking forward to seeing the results. Unfortunately, when the survey closes and the answers are collected, your response rate is lower than expected. This is not only disappointing but also limits the accuracy of the insights revealed. Why might that be and what can you do to change this?

Achieving a good response rate is harder than we may think. In this blog post, we will share a few tips on how to encourage your employees to participate in your staff survey and drive a high response rate.

What is a ‘good’ survey response rate?

We consider 70%+ to be a good response rate. This allows you to make certain assumptions based on the data as the majority of the population have responded. The average response rate across our clients is 71% with some reaching response rates of 95%.

Why is this important?

When analysing the employee survey data, any recommendations drawn from the insights will have an impact on an organisational level. If the findings are based on 30% of the population responding, the conclusions drawn aren’t as accurate and may not correctly reflect the levels of employee engagement.

It is crucial to collect a diverse range of opinions from across your workforce so that you can make changes that are truly representative of your unique work culture.

5 tips to drive higher response rates:

  1. Keep it short.

    It should come as no surprise that asking fewer employee engagement survey questions leads to higher completion and participation rates. Nobody wants to answer 100 questions in their annual survey and neither should they be expected to. We find asking between 16 - 25 research-backed questions to be the perfect balance between collecting enough useful and not exhausting your employees.

    TIP: Of course, open text questions will take longer to answer than closed box questions. As a general rule of thumb, try and consider how long it would take to complete the survey. Take into account the employee experience, anything over 15 minutes, employees are likely to exit the survey midway or not participate in the first place. 

  2. Ask Questions at the right time, not all the time

    Employees are often willing to give open and candid feedback, but not if they are asked the same thing over and over again. Asking the same pulse surveys every week can become tiring and repetitive. Survey fatigue will set in if changes aren’t made quickly enough in line with the cadence of employee feedback. What might seem at first an ‘always listening’ approach, will soon become ‘always asking’.

    TIP:  Can you maintain the pace of your current survey strategy? Conduct a review of how many surveys your company is sending out. Surveys should be carried out in line with your leadership team's decision-making cycles so that change can be made prior to future questions being asked. We often recommend to our customers asking questions quarterly to give you enough time to listen and make changes.

  3. Create a Communications Plan

    One of the main things that will help achieve a healthy response rate is good communication. How surveys are communicated and promoted really makes a difference in how many people respond and the quality of their feedback. Of course, we want as many employees as possible to respond but we also want employees to answer openly and honestly.

    TIP:  Review the current communication strategy used to promote the survey. We typically recommend a mix of survey communications both before, during and after a survey in a 2 week sprint. As a guide take a look at our basic communications plan below:

    How do you ensure a good response rate

    • An email to promote the survey is a good start but you have to keep the cadence of communications going throughout the survey to drive participation?
    • Consider what your company’s main communication channel is and use that to spread the work e.g Instant messaging (Slack), Internal wiki, text message.
    • Create prompters such as posters (digital or physical) in breakout areas or canteens.
    • Take into account when communications are sent out - depending on your workforce you might achieve a greater response at different times of the day.

  4. Have Managers champion survey response in their teams.

    Encourage line managers and senior management to actively promote survey completion amongst their direct reports. If senior management and managers are seen engaging with the survey and giving it importance, a natural knock on effect will result in more employees participating in the survey. Managers can encourage employees to do the survey during team/department meetings and if required set out specific time to complete them.

    Tip:  Give line managers the resources they need to promote the survey within their teams. When the survey is live, communicate to line managers their team’s percentage % participation rates in comparison with the rest of the company / division / geography. Framing it this way will introduce a level of competition amongst teams which will help to drive up participation.

    In addition to this, having senior management embedded in the process by highlighting the importance of surveys and their completion at events such as town hall meetings can lead to higher response rates.

  5. ‘You said, we did’ communications

    Actively listen to the results of your survey and acknowledge how the company has taken on board the feedback and is intending to change. Remember employees will only feel encouraged to provide feedback in the future if: a) they feel they are being listened to. b) their feedback is being acted upon by the organisation. Listening alone isn’t enough, action is required for employees to continue to give insightful feedback.

    TIP:  At the end of a survey cycle, once all of the results have been collected, management must agree upon a set of actions that will be taken on the back of the feedback. It is then pivotal that within 2 weeks of completing the survey, Leadership must then do 3 things:
    1. Thank all employees for their feedback.
    2. Share the high level findings from across the organisation.
    3. Commit to a series of changes that they will be making on the back of what they have learnt from the survey.

At Qlearsite, we feel these are some of the initial things to consider for your next survey. Whether it be for employee engagement surveys , diversity & inclusion surveys or organisational fitness surveys  - turn the disappointment of low response rates into good response rates with plenty of insight. Good luck!


Topics: Employee Engagement

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