Want To Increase Your Survey Response Rate? Communication Is The Key

By Mark Gonzales - November 29, 2018

Business leaders often ask how to improve employee survey response rates, and in some ways, it’s a chicken-and-egg question; the factor that most impacts survey participation is having done everything right on the previous survey. That includes communication of survey results, taking action on the issues important to employees, and reminding employees that these actions are being taken in response to their survey feedback.

The average employee survey response rate across all types and sizes of organizations falls in the 30–40 percent range—a number that can frustrate many leaders—Perceptyx observes a much higher average of 81% among our clients. Over the years we’ve determined that such high participation rates are more reflective of how the company has been engaging employees 365 days per year than it is of attitudes toward the survey.

The short answer to “how can I increase survey participation?” then, is to already be engaged in a cycle of asking employees for feedback, listening, responding in a meaningful way, and then asking again for feedback. In organizations where this internal conversation is the norm, survey participation feels natural for employees and will usually be higher as a result.

But what if your company isn’t already engaged in this cycle of asking, listening, and responding, or if there was no follow-up communication or action after your last survey? The following are strategies you can use to boost participation on your next survey, and they all rely on open communication.

See how you can use smart people analytics to kick-start important conversations in your company. Schedule a demo of the Perceptyx platform today.

If Your Follow-Up Game Has Been Off, Here’s How To Increase Survey Participation This Time Around

If your company didn’t follow up with communication or action after your last survey, increasing participation will be a harder lift.

Communication is the key factor in improving your response rate if you’ve made mistakes in the past. An internal marketing campaign leading up to the survey explaining why the survey is being done, how the data will be used, and reassuring employees about survey confidentiality should be launched three to six months before the survey. Enlist leaders with influence in the organization to help deliver the message in a way that’s natural to the culture of the company.

In the vein of “Is a thank you ever too late?” it may be beneficial to acknowledge past deficiencies in survey follow-up—unless it feels odd for the company’s culture or the apology is delivered so close to the next survey that it looks like a ploy. In most cases, though, it’s never too early or too late to start an organizational conversation. If you haven’t been communicating about results and taking action after previous surveys, it might be time to be open and authentic with employees to demonstrate you’re serious about getting their feedback and taking positive action.

In these scenarios, follow-up communication and action after the survey are even more crucial. Whether you’ve conducted a campaign to assure employees that their feedback is valued or you’ve acknowledged past deficiencies in handling survey results, failure to follow up on the next survey will cement the impression that no one is really listening—and you can expect an even bigger hurdle in increasing response rate on the survey that follows.


Does A Low Survey Participation Rate Yield Invalid Results?

Some leaders fall into the trap of believing that a higher survey response rate necessarily equates to better data, or that results aren’t relevant unless an exceptionally high percentage of employees responded. Typically, this is not true. With a higher response rate, the results will usually be about the same: In a larger group, responses generally repeat the pattern of those given by a smaller sample group. The practical reason a higher response is desirable is as an indicator that employees feel included and motivated to participate.

The important thing to keep in mind is what is being measured: people’s perceptions and experiences. Those perspectives are relevant, even if the survey participation rate doesn’t rise to a level of statistical significance in a small group. If the response rate doesn’t meet your expectations, the survey still gives you feedback from those employees who were willing to share their experience, and, importantly, allows you to start a conversation. You can act on the data you get, which may increase survey participation in the future—but it’s the action on results and the conversation which are really important. Low participation in the survey followed by positive action is preferable to high participation followed by no action.

Other Ways Of Improving Employee Survey Response Rates

One of the easiest ways to boost survey participation is to make it convenient for employees to participate. This means getting the survey to people where they normally consume organizational messaging. SMS launches—in addition to email—can be effective, and internal reminders about the survey closing can nudge those who may have forgotten to complete it.

A personal survey component providing individual feedback might help encourage participation in some organizations, but it is probably more useful as an enhancement to hold employee interest in companies where a listening culture is already established.

Tactics that don’t usually work: Some businesses offer incentives for survey participation, such as holding a prize drawing. While this strategy might work to boost participation in the short term, it’s a gimmick and may undermine the seriousness of what you hope to accomplish with your survey and follow-up.

Also, tech solutions and incentives may help increase participation by a few points, but their impact pales in comparison to the effect of open communication. These strategies can be used in addition to communication, not as substitutes.

Keep the important conversations going in your company.

A high survey participation rate is a product of a cycle of asking, listening, and responding. Smart people analytics will help your company build momentum to start or keep the important conversations going. Get in touch with Perceptyx to see how insightful data can inform the conversations most important to your business’ success.

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