Better feedback tips, Employee Surveys

How to avoid employee survey response fatigue

Lydia Watson

From “what’s for dinner?” to customer service questionnaires, it sometimes feels like we’re constantly answering questions. So when you’re sending employee surveys, it can be a struggle to get the feedback you really need. 

You need to think about how to cut through – so your teams know that your questions are the ones worth answering. 

What is survey fatigue?

If you’ve been sent a survey, started filling it out, and got bored halfway through then you’re not alone. Maybe you gave up, or picked random answers to get it over with – and that’s what survey fatigue looks like in practice.

“Pre-survey response fatigue” is a similar phenomenon, where you’re so tired of being sent surveys that you don’t start it at all. For organisations, both are a problem because quality employee feedback is absolutely crucial for your change-making efforts.

Why it negatively affects your employee survey results:

  • Lower response rates: The high risk of survey attrition (abandoning the survey completely) means lower response rates. If you’re not getting feedback from the majority of your employees, it could mean misleading results – and that means any change-making initiatives could do more harm than good.
  • Poor quality data: If employees rush through a survey they could, inadvertently or not, give inaccurate, made-up, or nonsense answers that confuse your results. Again, that means you’re in danger of making decisions based on bad data.
  • Irritated employees: Do you want your employees to feel like you’re wasting their time? No-one likes being nagged to do something, especially if they don’t see the point of it – or resent how much time it makes. It could damage your organisational reputation.
  • Wasted time and effort: We’re all busy people, so you don’t want to expend energy surveying your people if there’s no point to it. Bad data or low response rates will make your best efforts ones that are wasted.

6 ways to avoid survey fatigue & meet your employee survey objectives

1. Explain the purpose

Survey communications are crucial. Before every survey, you should send an email, text, or publish a statement explaining A) that a survey is coming, and B) why it’s being sent. If your employees know that filling it out could lead to positive outcomes for them, they’ll be more likely to do so.

2. Keep each survey short

If you’re asking 50+ questions in one survey, you’re making a mistake. There may be a lot you want to know, but few people have the patience to tell you – so cut it way down. Short surveys (>20 questions) get higher response rates and mean they won’t regret clicking on the next one you send too.

3. Don’t be repetitive

There’s one easy way to keep it brief: don’t repeat yourself. “How happy are you?” “How would you rate your happiness level?” “Are you feeling unhappy at all?” – there’s no need to ask the same employee survey question three ways, and it could be confusing – making them wonder if they misunderstood what you were asking.

4. Make every question relevant

Stay relevant both to the survey topic (and keeping that laser-focused can be a good idea) and to your organisation and its people. You probably have a rough idea of what matters to your employees, so make sure the questions you ask speak to that. 

5. Adjust your survey schedule

You might just be sending too many surveys (and yes, surprisingly, there is such a thing). Value your employees’ time, and your own, by picking the right moment. Several times a year, after or before key events – like crisis situations, or structural changes – or at certain times in the employee lifecycle are all good options. 

6. Prove it’s worth their time

You can reduce survey fatigue by proving it’s worth the effort. That means sharing the results openly, making the next steps explicitly clear, and communicating what’s happened as the result of any initiatives. Show and tell that your employee surveys are designed to drive change. 

Want more advice about sending employee surveys? Talk to the team. They’re always happy to help you improve working lives:

It’s time to start the conversation

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