Humans love routine. Once we get into a pattern of behaviour it’s difficult to break it - we find routines comforting. They say variety is the spice of life, but deep down we love it when a plan comes together.
Having surveyed thousands of employees, we have built up a real clear picture of when people are most likely to complete a survey. There are 3 key windows throughout the day that account for 85% of all survey responses. If you can create a communication plan to fit around these 3 windows, you are bound to improve your employee survey response rate.
Excuse me, do you have a moment for a quick question?
It’s important to remember routines when sending out employee engagement surveys. A survey will interrupt daily patterns. When we ‘ask’ for feedback, we take time away from normal activities, which can feel like an additional burden.
As an aside, a strong communication plan is crucial. If you let people know that a survey is coming, and why it’s coming, people can work it into their routines without it being too much of a surprise.
So what’s the ideal time to send a survey? When will disruption be minimised and when are we most likely to get people’s attention? We know it’s important to manage the length of a survey but when will we minimise the stress of receiving the survey itself?
The chart above shows a typical survey response pattern. There are 3 distinct peaks of activity for someone who has a standard working hours contract:
- 07.00 – 09.00. The ‘early birds’ who respond before the working day = c.25%
- 11.00 – 13.00. The ‘grazers’ who respond while eating lunch = c.33%
- 17.00 – 19.00. The people who do it as ‘one last thing’ before going home = c.25%
Collectively, we get 85% of all survey responses in these three windows. Before 9am, after 5pm or during lunch. In other words, people are mostly completing a survey outside of their core working hours. In most cases, responding to a survey is an extra piece of work to fit into an already busy day.
People have indicated from their response times when they have the mental capacity or the available time to give feedback. We can use this information to be more sympathetic about when we send reminders or when the survey itself lands in people’s crowded inboxes.
If this is when they respond to the survey, shouldn’t those also be the times when we communicate?
Tip #1 - Help the 'early birds' 🐥
Let’s help the ‘early birds’ - land the survey before the working day starts.
It’s Monday morning. You’re on your way to work and planning your week. An email drops into our inbox, neatly formatted but using a friendly tone - it wishes you a good morning, acknowledges it is still early in the day and asks if you can find a few moments in your busy week to share feedback.
The timing is such that many ‘early birds’ might immediately respond, they could even feel satisfaction from quickly completing a task right at the start of the week. We typically see more responses on the first day of a survey than on any other day.
Importantly, if you do send early, do remember to always acknowledge that the survey has been sent before many people start work. This helps prevent complaints that the email encroaches on time that should be spent outside of work.
Tip #2 - Nudge the 'grazers' 🍱
Let’s nudge the grazers when they take a few moments out from work at lunch.
Response rates are dropping off, the survey has been open for four days and it’s time to send the first friendly reminder to all those people who haven’t yet completed their survey.
Grazers probably saw the email from early on Monday morning. The problem is, the grazer was busy then but noted it for later. The middle of the day is the perfect time to give them a gentle nudge.
This very large group of people, almost one-third of all recipients, clearly have the most available mental capacity during the middle of the day. A nudge at this time can dramatically improve overall response rates for the next several days.
Tip #3 - Remind those with 'one last thing' ☝️
Let’s do a final reminder for the people who have ‘one last thing’ to do.
It’s the last few days of the survey. Some people still haven’t responded and time is running out. We are due to send one final reminder, to help boost responses. The ideal time is towards the end of the day.
There will be some people who really want to share their feedback but have been busy. The reminder helps move it to the top of their to-do list, as they get to the end of their working day.
You’re now targeting the last 25% of people with a reminder. Anyone who likes to get tasks done at the end of the day are most likely to respond.
Tip#4 Don't forget those 'burning the midnight oil' 🌛
Take into account the night-shift. Not everybody is Dolly Parton.
Most people expect the working day to be 9 to 5. It’s still the norm for many workers but it’s not an assumption you can rely on. Since the famous song was written, an increasing number of workers have unusual hours. Especially in industries that are ‘always on’.
Industries or companies that have large numbers of shift workers need extra consideration when scheduling surveys. It’s going to annoy people if you send a reminder at 5pm titled “Before you go home, give us your feedback?” to someone about to work through the night.
Smart approaches to the timing of survey communication must be smart for everyone.
If feedback is a gift, give some time back?
Some people will always struggle to find the time to share feedback. For example, call centres are driven by targets and taking time out from helping customers can penalise the performance of your team. Sometimes, it’s simply easier to not do the survey.
Some organisations we’ve worked with have
asked managers to schedule downtime. Sometimes as a team collectively, everyone takes a break simultaneously. Sometimes allowing people to take more time away to complete the survey.
This is a great signal. It tells people that feedback really is important and valued. It shows that you want people to devote time to do the survey thoughtfully and carefully.
Surveys sent at busy times can be disruptive to people’s daily working routine.
- Be sympathetic to how busy people are. For best response rates, send in downtime moments:
- Start of the day for ‘early birds’. 🐥
- A few days later, send the first reminder in the middle of the day for ‘grazers’ 🍱 who find time at lunch.
- Send the final reminder at the end of the day for the people who do it as 'one last thing' ☝️before they leave.
- Don’t forget shift workers or other people with unusual daily routines.
- Consider creating downtime to allow people to respond.
To find out more about how to build an engagement survey that will guarantee a good response rate from your people, take a look at our Ultimate Employee Engagement survey guide: