5 tips to boost your employee engagement survey response rate

19 Oct 20 | Blog

So you’ve sent out your employee engagement survey and are looking forward to seeing the results. However, when the survey closes and the answers are collected, your response rate is lower than expected. Disappointing, but it also limits the accuracy of the insights you’ll get. So, why is this and what can you do to change it?

Encouraging a good response rate is harder than it seems. In this blog post, we’ll share a few tips on how to increase employee engagement survey participation.


Average employee engagement survey participation: what to aim for

We consider 70%+ to be a good response rate once you’ve got your survey results back. This lets you make more accurate assumptions as the majority of your teams have responded. The average response rate across our clients is 71%, with some reaching 95%.

Why is good employee engagement important?

When analysing the employee survey results, any recommendations you make from the insights will have an impact on an organisational level. If you don’t have engaged employees, and the findings are based on 30% of them responding, the conclusions won’t accurately reflect the levels of employee engagement.

That’s why you should be measuring employee engagement, as well as looking at the results themselves. It’s crucial to collect a diverse range of opinions from across your workforce so you can make changes that are truly representative of your unique work culture.


5 tips to increase employee engagement survey response rates:

1.  Keep it short.

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

TIP: open-ended questions will take longer to answer than closed box questions. As a general rule, try to consider how long it would take to complete the survey. Take into account the employee experience – anything over 15 minutes means people 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

Your teams are often willing to give open and candid feedback, but not if they’re 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 employee feedback. What might seem at first an ‘always listening’ approach, will soon become ‘always asking’.

TIP: review how many surveys your company is sending out. You should do surveys at the same pace as your leadership team’s decision-making cycles. That way, you can make changes before asking more questions. We often recommend asking questions quarterly to give you enough time to listen and make meaningful changes that improve employee satisfaction.

3.  Create a Communications Plan

Communication is one of the main things that will help with a healthy response rate. How surveys are communicated and promoted really makes a difference in how many people respond, as well as the quality of their feedback. You want as many employees as possible to respond but you 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 before, during and after a survey in a 2-week sprint. As a guide, take a look at our basic communications plan below:

Get great survey response rates
  • An email to promote the survey is a good start. But you have to keep the speed of communications going throughout the survey to drive participation
  • Whatever your company’s main communication channel is, use that to spread the word – whether that’s instant messaging (e.g. Slack), internal wiki, or text message
  • See if you can get marketing teams to work with human resources to create a mini campaign. Graphics, emails, posters in canteens etc.
  • Think carefully about when communications are sent out – depending on your workforce you might get a better response at different times of the day

4.  Get managers to champion survey response in their teams

Line managers and senior management should be actively promoting the survey. If they’re seen to be engaging with it and giving it importance, a natural knock-on effect will mean more employees participating in the survey. Encourage employees to do the survey during team meetings, or prioritise their workload so they have time to complete it.

Tip: Give line managers the resources they need to promote the survey within their teams. When the survey is live, share 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.

Plus, senior management should be talking about the benefits of surveys, promoting them in any company comms or events such as town hall meetings.

5.  ‘You said, we did’ communications

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

TIP: At the end of a survey cycle, once all of the results have been collected, you need to agree a set of actions that you’ll take on the back of the feedback. It’s then vital that within 2 weeks of completing the survey, you do these 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 based on what you’ve 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 and inclusion or organisational fitness surveys – turn the disappointment of low response rates into good response rates with plenty of insight. Good luck!

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