Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Boosting Participation without Incentives

Embedded Questions - Even Cookie Preference - Can Boost Participation on Employee Engagement Surveys.

Insightlink's 4Cs survey is designed to be sufficiently engaging and motivating to achieve high participation and completion without the use of incentives. During our issues meetings with clients, we discuss the nature of the organization's work force to assess whether incentives are warranted. Incentives are something many survey providers grapple with, since there are pros and cons to using them. The issue of whether or not to use incentives to boost participation in employee surveys comes up regularly. Inevitably, somebody suggests encouraging managers to tell their employees that there will be a company-provided celebration (probably the most common is a pizza party or other type of lunch) for any department that can boast 100% participation in the survey. Other organizations set up "contests" where departments vie to see which can achieve the highest participation - again, with some sort of company-sponsored prize going to the winner(s). A few have attempted to enter individual participants into drawings, often with multiple prizes. So what does Insightlink recommend?

As a general rule, we advise clients not to make participation in the survey a competition. We generally recommend against individual winners or rewarding teams. If you do choose this route, however, be sure to communicate the incentive plan often and well. Be sure you have consistent and fair rules. Instead, consider a company-wide incentive. Make it meaningful to employees and feasible for the organization. For some, this may be donating to a charitable cause if they achieve their participation goal. Employees are less likely to view this type of incentive as a bribe, since it does not benefit employees directly. Insightlink's research team recently experimented with a new way to encourage survey completion that is employee-driven, not externally driven. Our client planned to have an "Employee Cookie Day" at the conclusion of the employee survey. So at the end of the survey, we added a question giving employees the opportunity to vote for their favorite cookie.The primary goal was to create a concrete way to show employees that HR was really listening to the survey results. A secondary benefit was that the symbolism of treating employees to a day with cookies, provided in quantities similar to the vote outcome, gave the organization time to do short, medium and long-term action planning. That such actions boosted participation was an added bonus. Adding a question about cookie preferences concluded the survey in a positive and unexpected way - and even provided a survey question that was okay to discuss around the water cooler. It created buzz about the survey and prompted more staff to want to offer their two cents - which they only could do by answering the entire survey, since the cookie question was strategically placed at the end.

And yes, chocolate chip was the winner!

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