Employee Engagement, Employee Surveys

Confidential survey vs Anonymous survey

Dhruv Patel

The terms ‘confidential’ and ‘anonymous’ often get used interchangeably, but there is a big difference. We get asked this question a lot – what’s the difference between a confidential survey and an anonymous survey?

‘The survey is anonymous and confidential’ – what does that mean?

Confidentiality – Data is held confidentially but is linked to an individual, usually by a unique identifier. This means it is secret but not anonymous. However, here at Qlearsite, all of our tools are built to report results in a way that nobody can be identified – even in a confidential survey.

Anonymous – Anonymity means there is no register file or identifiable data to link responses back to an individual. You can use an open link survey to get anonymity through a survey. When a survey is anonymous it is impossible to know whether or not an individual participated and, therefore, there is no way to determine the connection between individual participants and their own results. If participants are told that their answers will remain anonymous, it cannot be mandatory to ask for any personal information that could possibly give away their identity.

The majority of the surveys we’ve done here at Qlearsite are confidential. There are 2 main reasons for this:

  1. All Qlearsite tools display results and reports so nobody can be identified.
  2. Confidential surveys let you split the data in multiple ways when analysing. It can be filtered and cross-referenced for additional analysis.

However, there are advantages to both confidential and anonymous surveying. The main advantage with anonymous surveying is that people are more honest when they answer them if their responses aren’t traceable.

Anonymous, confidential – what’s the best option?

These are the big advantages from confidential surveying:

Greater insight

Confidential survey results lets us split data in a number of ways. We can give you the overall engagement score, gender engagement scores and then location-specific engagement scores. We can also split the free text results in the same way.


In fact, we can cross-reference any data to see how it affects everything else, provided that data is in the register file and the DPA (Data Protection Act, 1998) limit isn’t reached. DPA is a United Kingdom Act of Parliament which was passed in 1988. It was developed to control how personal or customer information is used by organisations or government bodies. It protects people and lays down rules about how data about people can be used.  Here we use DPA limits to ensure that respondents are unidentifiable.

In this graphic, information like gender, age and managerial level are in the register file. This means we can filter it to see specific results. In this case we want to analyse the responses of female senior managers who are 21-30 years old. This can also be done through anonymous surveying, however you would have to collect demographic information, which could or could not be accurate.

Confidential surveys gets the best out of our full range of products

Confidential surveys graph

Not only do you get greater insight, but you can also use the Qlearsite Predict tool. This lets you analyse trends over time and predict what happens in the future, based on historical data. So analysts would be able to conduct complex analysis such as what female attrition in the finance department will look like in the next 3 months and how much that will cost the organisation based on their responses. This is only possible when we can link responses with an individual.

When we have lots of confidential surveys, our Predict tool can look at historical trends and predict what will happen in the future. In this instance what we can see is that women were originally more likely to leave the organisation in the next 3 months based on their historical behaviour. However, if we bring their attrition rate down to the same as men, the company can save £505,000 in the associated costs of 51 women leaving. They’re happy, you get longevity, you retain talent, and you keep knowledge in the business. It’s win-win.

Confidential surveys also shows how results have changed from survey to survey (provided the questions are the same)

Dashboard image

You can do this through the dashboard to see changes in the results of your organisation. This also extends as far as any splits you may have requested such as age, location or gender.

When using confidential surveys, you’re able to see how the scores have changed from the previous survey. The drop-down menu in the top right hand corner shows you the surveys carried out, all of which you can access a dashboard for. At the bottom of the graphic we see the gender engagement breakdown, again with a comparison to the previous year.

Our view here at Qlearsite is that a confidential survey delivers greater insight in line with our tools but we also acknowledge the benefits of anonymous surveying. Which is why we offer that too, through something called ‘open link’. Often we find organisations use open link after a survey or for continuous listening strategies as opposed to full surveys.

Anonymous, confidential – all the surveys you send with Qlearsite can give you change-driving insights.  Watch our demo to learn more:

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