How to Increase Employee Engagement Survey Participation

The holidays have long past. Winter feels never-ending – oh, those March blizzards – and summer vacation is months away. With the buzz of New Year goals fading, it’s not uncommon for employees to experience a slump. (Gray, slushy streets will bum you out every time).

Taking a moment to pause, reflect, and realign organizational priorities is not only practical but also invigorating. Conducting an employee engagement survey might be just the jumpstart your employees need to get their umph back.

That said, a challenge organizations face is low response rates to employee surveys.

Why are survey response rates so low?

Employee survey response rates can be low for several reasons. Consider these factors if you’re not getting the feedback you expect:

Perceived Lack of Anonymity:

Employees may fear that their responses won't remain confidential. This leads to reluctance in providing honest feedback, or any feedback at all.

Poor Communication:

What communication plan was in place even a month before the survey process began? Poor communication about the purpose and importance of the survey, about when employees can expect to receive a link to the survey platform, how long it will be available, and when they will receive initial feedback can result in employees overlooking or ignoring survey invitations.

Survey Fatigue:

Another survey? Surveys take time. And if employees feel like they’re constantly filling out surveys and never see actions or changes based on their input, they will probably delete that email.

Lack of Trust:

Why bother? If this is the attitude of your staff, take note. Employees will not take the time to participate in survey processes when they believe the leadership will do nothing. This perceived irrelevance of the questions and survey itself will lead to disinterested employees.

Time Constraints:

Is this just another thing to do on a list of chores your workers already have. Without understanding the importance of the process, knowing it will have a meaningful impact on their work, most employees won’t prioritize it.

Technological Barriers:

Don’t assume everyone has access to good internet. Likewise, some employees without the technological know-how might have difficulty accessing or navigating the survey platform. This is especially true for remote and non-desk-based employees.

How to increase employee engagement survey participation:

What is a good response rate?

Participation rates on employee surveys vary widely from one organization to the next. Some organizations achieve nearly 100% participation, while others struggle to get even half of employees to respond to the survey. Clearly, the more responses the better, but it's important to consider specific circumstances of each organization to determine what "good response rate" is.

Here are ways to increase employee participation and improve your survey process:

Anonymity Assurance:

Employees will only provide candid feedback when they know their responses will not result in repercussions. There are a few things you can do to reassure them:

  • Hire an independent survey company. Be sure to let employees know that their individual responses will not be seen by anybody inside the organization. Let them know that results will only be viewed in aggregate, and clarify the minimum group size that will be used when viewing the survey results.
  • Do not use identifiable data or variables when sending out the survey.
  • Include a survey disclaimer: The data collected in this study are completely anonymous. No personally identifiable information will be collected and the information you choose to provide in this study cannot be connected back to you.

Clear Communication:

Establish a communication plan. When employees know how their participation in the survey will not only benefit the company but also each employee, they are more likely to participate. Clearly communicate the purpose, importance, and potential impact of the survey to employees. Explain how their feedback will be used to drive positive changes within the organization. Use multiple communication channels, including email, intranet, posters, and team meetings, to promote the survey and send reminders. Timing reminders strategically, such as before weekends or holidays, can prompt action.

Leadership Endorsement:

A survey process will not be successful without organization leadership endorsing it and supporting it. Leadership has to prepare the organization for the survey. Moreover, healthy feedback shouldn't be a once/year deal. When people see that their managers value their input and are committed to taking action on results, they are more likely to participate in the employee survey process.

Incentives and Recognition:

Offer incentives or recognition to encourage participation. Publicly acknowledge and appreciate departments or teams with high participation rates. Offer a fun survey prize – the department with the most respondents will win a breakfast/brunch, a late-start day, a weekend snow-shoeing experience, etc. Be creative and keep it meaningful and fun.

Why are employee engagement surveys important?

A survey is your organization’s blueprint for how to motivate and engage your team. The information and feedback you get from a survey process will:

1. Give your employees a voice, allowing them to share their concerns and ideas, creating a healthy feedback loop.
2. Help you evaluate your organizational culture.
3. Identify high-performing groups and areas that need more support.
4. Identify training needs.
5. Identify trends – like high stress – with employees.
6. Give you the numbers and information you need to drive decision-making, taking effective action on areas of opportunity.
7. Give you the information you need to implement meaningful actions and improve business outcomes.

Improve your employee survey process and increase the number of participants.

There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow. It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it. -Jack Welch, former CEO of GE

How to Increase Employee Engagement Survey Participation

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