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Removing Barriers to Employee Survey Participation

Removing Barriers to Employee Survey Participation

I recently had a customer reach out to discuss the issue of survey participation. While they had ample data to form a representative sample of the organization, they were concerned about certain groups with participation rates significantly below the company average. Analyzing data gaps is challenging, so we approached the issue through the lens of means, motive, and opportunity.

Means, motive, and opportunity, often discussed in criminal proceedings, provide a structured way to identify barriers to employee survey feedback and strategies to overcome them. Each element is crucial for employee participation in surveys, which are vital for understanding organizational culture, engagement, and health.

Means: Accessibility and Ability to Participate

Before addressing the specific barriers and strategies related to the means of participation, it's essential to recognize the foundation of any successful survey: accessibility and the ability of all employees to participate. Without ensuring that employees can easily access and understand the survey, engagement will likely be low. 


  • Lack of access to the survey due to technological issues or a digital divide can deter participation. Employees without regular access to computers or the Internet may find it impossible to take part.
  • Complex survey design can confuse participants, leading to incomplete submissions or avoidance. Surveys with technical jargon or ambiguous questions can frustrate employees, reducing their willingness to engage.
  • Time constraints during work hours can prevent participation. Employees swamped with tasks may view survey completion as a low priority, especially if they feel pressed for time.

Strategies to Enable Participation:

  • Ensuring the survey is accessible on multiple platforms (e.g., mobile, tablet, desktop) can bridge the digital divide, allowing employees from various backgrounds to participate without hassle.
  • Designing surveys with simplicity in mind, using clear language and an intuitive interface, can make the process welcoming and straightforward for all employees, encouraging wider participation.
  • Providing time during work hours for survey completion, along with organizational support, highlights the importance of feedback, making employees more likely to take the time to participate.

Motive: Incentive and Motivation to Participate

The motive behind participating in a survey is as crucial as the means to do so. Without a clear incentive or motivation, even those who can participate may choose not to. 


  • Perceived lack of confidentiality can lead to fear of repercussions, deterring honest feedback. Employees worried about being identified may censor their responses or avoid participation altogether.
  • Doubt about the organization's action on survey results can diminish interest. If employees believe their feedback will be ignored, they're less likely to see value in contributing.
  • The absence of direct benefits or incentives for participating could reduce motivation. Without a clear reason or reward, employees might not see the point in taking the time to provide feedback.

Strategies to Encourage Participation:

  • Guaranteeing anonymity and confidentiality, and communicating this clearly, can alleviate fears of repercussions, encouraging more honest and open feedback.
  • Committing to sharing survey outcomes and following up with actions demonstrates that the organization values feedback and is willing to make changes, boosting participation.
  • Clearly communicate actions from past listening events. It's crucial to revisit and highlight the changes implemented from previous employee feedback. By actively showcasing how past feedback has led to meaningful changes, you can significantly encourage more employees to engage in future surveys. Regularly sharing, “You said X and we did Y” creates a positive expectation for employees.

Opportunity: Creating the Right Environment

Finally, creating the right environment for survey participation speaks to the opportunity employees have to engage. Even if employees have the means and motive to participate, without the right opportunity — created by a supportive organizational culture and effective communication — participation rates may still fall short. 


  • An organizational culture that does not value openness or employee input can stifle participation. If employees feel their opinions are undervalued, they may be less inclined to share.
  • Lack of awareness about the survey or its importance can lead to low participation rates. Employees uninformed about the survey's objectives or how it benefits them might not see a reason to participate.
  • Distributing the survey at inconvenient times or with a too-short completion window can hinder participation. Busy periods or insufficient time to respond can make it difficult for employees to participate.

Strategies to Create Opportunities:

  • Fostering a culture of transparency and continuous improvement makes employees feel valued and heard, increasing their willingness to participate in surveys.
  • Launching a communication campaign to highlight the survey’s purpose and importance can enlighten employees about its benefits, motivating them to take part.
  • Choosing an optimal time for distribution and providing ample time for completion can ensure that employees have the opportunity to participate without feeling rushed.

Partner with Perceptyx to Lift All Voices 

Implementing these strategies requires understanding the diverse needs of your workforce. By addressing the means, motive, and opportunity for survey participation, organizations can boost engagement levels, gather insightful feedback, and drive meaningful workplace improvements. Schedule a meeting to learn more about how Perceptyx can help your organization. 

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