Tuesday, June 23, 2009

7 Ways to Increase Response Rates on Employee Surveys

No doubt you want to maximize the survey response rate. Low response rates reflect poorly on a project and can inadvertently undermine the validity of the data gathered. For an accurate assessment with any employee engagement or attitude survey, honest responses and high participation are key. The following tips will help boost the number of responses you get the next time you survey your employees.

Communicate Your Commitment to Respondent Anonymity
Employing a third party to collect the data and generate the reports gives you that credibility. Employees feel more comfortable and respond more openly and candidly when they know their responses are being handled by an outside organization. Whether you are conducting your survey online or via paper, having a third party to take care of this will not only improve your response rate, but you will see it in the quality of responses. If you already know that trust is a problem in your organization, give extra thought and attention to this issue. Even if you do not think trust is a problem, don't underestimate the value of ensuring that employees feel as comfortable as possible responding to the survey. The only way to get an accurate measure of your overall employee attitude is via anonymity.

Get Sign Off and a Concrete Endorsement from Senior Management (especially the ones who employees most respect!)
In the weeks or days before the survey, share letter s or notes from the CEO, GM or some other organizational leader that highlight the importance of responding to the survey. These communications should explain why the survey is being conducted and what the organization and the employees stand to gain from it.

Manage Employee Expectations about the Survey Length, Especially if You Can't Keep the Survey Brief
Longer surveys have lower response rates. Nonetheless, collecting enough data for analysis and actionability is essential. A short survey with high participation may lack sufficient depth to provide insights that matter. Regardless of the length of your survey, tell people up front how long it will take them to complete it. Be accurate in your estimate by having people pre-test it. It is better to err in the side of an estimate with a longer time rather than a shorter time. People will feel pleasantly surprised when they finish early!

Explain the Benefits to All Employees
By clearly communicating how employees and the organization as a whole will benefit from the employee attitude survey, you give people a reason to fill out your survey. Response rates will be higher and your employees will be more honest about their opinions.

Explain the "Next Steps"
Communicate clearly what you intend to do with the information you gather from the survey. If you plan to share the results with employees, let them know that. When you share with people what you plan to do with the survey results, you show them that you are serious about what you are doing and that you have given thought to the entire process. They will realize that the time they invest in completing the employee attitude survey will not be time wasted. And, in turn, this will increase response rates the next time you survey your employees.

Follow Through on Your Promises
If you tell your employees what you plan to do with the survey results, be sure you follow through. If you don't, the next time you want to gather information or conduct an employee attitude survey, you will have lost credibility and your response rate will suffer. Be sure to not only follow through on your promises, but do so publicly. Get credit for listening and acting on survey feedback. Remind people of what you promised and show them the results.

Offer Company-Wide, Rather Than Team Incentives
Consider offering modest incentives to the organization as a whole, instead of creating competition between teams or work groups who have the highest response rates. Creating winners vs. losers can exacerbate perceptions of unfairness. Ideas might include a Friday pizza lunch or a cookies. The incentive should fit with your organization's culture and appeal to all employees equally. Insightlink offers what we call "the cookie question" so people not only have an incentive, but a reason to make it all the way though the survey to offer their "vote" on a favorite cookie!

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