Top 20 Tips for Employee Engagement Survey Communication
One number changed by just one percent over the past year.
Normally, this wouldn’t be worth commenting on, but the number comes from the data of millions of employees, and that one percent represents well over 100,000 workers.
The number I’m referencing is the average response rate on census surveys from the Perceptyx benchmark database. The average response on census surveys for Perceptyx customers declined by one percent in 2021.
This doesn’t mean the sky is falling but it can be an important broad indicator. The average response rate is still far more than is required for Perceptyx customers to have a statistically valid sample from their employees. But these surveys are not just about quantitative research – they are about connection, involvement, and giving employees a voice.
There are multiple factors that can influence this number, and we’ll briefly count down a few before getting into the main issue and what organizations can do about it.
3. Decreased sense of connection. Organizations’ shift to remote work has many benefits, but one downside is a loss of connection and a sense of belonging. If work feels more transactional and less relational, employees may be less inclined to provide feedback through employee listening programs. This decreased sense of connection and identity is also an important factor when understanding increases in voluntary attrition.
2. Survey fatigue. As many organizations evolve their employee listening strategy, ultra-frequent surveys can lead to a sense of complacency. While survey fatigue is real, and organizations may want to consider exploring options that protect employees from being bombarded with survey invitations, this is not the primary issue linked to declines.
1. Lack of clear impact. “We do these surveys, say the same things, and nothing ever changes.” How many of us have heard similar comments, especially in the past few years? The truth is, organizations often make significant improvements directly related to feedback gathered on surveys but if it’s not clearly communicated, employees rarely connect the dots between their feedback and the resulting changes within the business.
Communication is key. Declines in response rate year-over-year can be an indication that prior results were not sufficiently communicated and that employees don’t see the value in investing their time to respond again.
Saying organizations have had a lot to communicate in the past two years feels like a gross understatement. However, when it comes to participation and maximizing the positive impact of employee listening, it’s a foundational issue.
Maybe survey fatigue doesn’t come from organizations asking too much, but from organizations doing and following up on too little. In the interest of encouraging the best possible outcomes, here are 10 tips for pre-survey communication and 10 tips for communicating once you’ve collected data.
20 Tips for Effective Employee Engagement Survey Communication
Employee engagement survey communication turns a research project into a change management initiative. Effective communication is the critical element that shifts an employee engagement survey from something that measures engagement to something that actually inspires further engagement. Engagement survey communication to employees changes their role from that of subjects in a study to active change agents who are participating in bringing about the improvements they wish to see in the organization.
Engagement survey communication to employees goes beyond messaging high-level results and welcomes employees to engage in an ongoing dialogue. It’s an opportunity for leaders to get involved in finding practical and specific solutions to the challenges that might be limiting employees’ ability to anticipate success with the company and fully engage on the job.
10 Tips For Employee Engagement Pre-Survey Communication
- Get the word out. The first tip for pre-survey communication is to not neglect it. Especially with the prevalence of IT warnings about suspicious links and phishing attempts, you want to make sure people expect the invitation and trust the link. The average response rate for Perceptyx clients is over 80%; that tells us most companies are doing a good job in this area.
- Focus on the “why.” Pre-survey communication is a great opportunity to reinforce the reasons why the company invests in employee listening. This isn’t a check-the-box exercise — it’s an opportunity for employees to provide honest and candid feedback. Remind people of this through pre-survey communication.
- Enlist support. While the listening program may live within HR, consider enlisting other leaders from across the business to participate in — and contribute to — the communication plan. Some Perceptyx clients embed a video from their CEO or another leader with a message about an upcoming survey.
- Set and meet expectations. Early communication should let employees know what to expect and when they can expect it. This includes data collection dates and advanced notice of analysis, presentations, and communication back to the organization after the results are final. Setting those expectations and following through on them can build anticipation for what will come and help encourage participation in the survey.
- Build trust. Trust is critical with employee listening. Clarify that individual results will be confidential (not to be confused with anonymous), the data will be managed by a third-party organization like Perceptyx, and none of the employee’s colleagues will have direct access to the data.
- Make it personal. Personalize messaging to employees. Mail systems can automatically fill in the recipient's first name and department name.
- Communicate in context. Pre-survey communication shouldn’t be generic. The message should explain why the company is committed to employee listening, what the organization has done with past data, and how it plans to use survey results in the current business context.
- Consider the brand. Effective early communication aligns with the brand of the company overall, and many Perceptyx clients choose to brand their listening or survey program. Review all messages associated with employee listening and pre-survey communication to make sure they align with the company’s branding and voice.
- Make it inclusive. Employee listening has the potential to be one of the most inclusive things an organization does. However, oversight can cause some people to feel excluded and less valued than others. Review language requirements and consider offering communications in multiple languages. Also, consider reviewing pre-survey communications with an internal accessibility team, or using the Perceptyx technology, which remains current with tools like screen readers for employees with visual impairments.
- Foster a conversation. Effective employee listening programs go beyond research and allow for effective conversations. Pre-survey communication sets the stage for the dialogue that will take place during and after the data collection, then during the action planning stage — as well as the ongoing conversation within the organization.
10 Tips for Employee Engagement Post-Survey Communication
- Time matters. Silence following an employee survey sends a loud message, and it isn’t the message you want. Timely follow-up — acknowledging responses and thanking people for participation — shows leaders care and sets an expectation that they’ll use the feedback to take action on things that matter to employees.
- Provide themes for scaled and qualitative data. You can compile information about the overall themes and trends arising from survey results fairly quickly, even before a full analysis is complete. Sharing comment themes and an overview of the most and least favorable questions or dimensions shows leadership is paying attention and willing to be transparent.
- Help people connect the dots. On their own, respondents often do not see the connection between their feedback and improvements that are made after the survey’s close. Remind them of the survey feedback when making improvements. Without this important step, the perception may be that nothing happened after the survey.
- Balance the messaging about strengths and opportunities. Avoid the temptation to only focus on things to “fix.” This is also a time to acknowledge and celebrate wins. The least desirable outcome is for the organization to feel bruised based on the results. Highlighting positives helps dispel the potential perception that employees are being punished with more work for providing honest feedback.
- Use benchmarks (comparisons to external, industry, or overall company scores), but use them sparingly. These can be helpful to put results in context. However, avoid creating the perception that leaders only care about score comparisons. Instead, focus on employees’ experiences and what they are telling you.
- Focus on the employee experience. This is a chance to make it real for employees. When action planning and setting goals, it’s ok to track outcomes like engagement — but help employees understand what’s in it for them and how they can influence the things that matter most to them, like development, empowerment, resources, and work/life balance.
- Don’t attempt to “boil the ocean.” Too often leaders identify five, 10, or 15 things they want managers to incorporate into action plans — this approach can be overwhelming. Managers are already busy. When they are asked to do the additional work needed to simultaneously incorporate multiple improvements, they often anticipate failure and disengage from the process. As a result, nothing gets done. Meaningful improvements in one area will yield secondary benefits in other areas. If managers can focus on doing one thing a little more, or better, or more consistently, that can make a huge positive impact on workplace culture.
- Keep it simple with the 1-2-3 model. At Perceptyx, we encourage clients to:
- Identify one theme or focus area.
- Develop two strategies to address the issue.
- Talk about what was done to address the issue at least three times with employees to help them connect the dots. This simple approach shifts the focus away from action planning exercises and puts it on execution and driving meaningful change.
Following these tips for employee engagement survey communication will ensure that you get the most benefit from your surveys — with higher participation rates, clear action items, and higher levels of future engagement. Effective communication is the first step in setting a cycle of continuous improvement in motion.
An effective employee survey program can help your organization see the way forward to greater success.
At Perceptyx, helping companies get the most out of their employee survey programs is our mission. With custom surveys paired to our people analytics platform and expertise in all aspects of survey design, strategy, and communication, we can help you increase employee engagement and boost productivity. Get in touch and let us show you how.