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Increase Response Rates on Employee Surveys

If you are planning to survey your employees, no doubt you want to maximize the survey response rate. Low response rates reflect poorly on the assessment project and call into question the validity of the data that are gathered. For an accurate assessment with any employee attitude survey, honest responses and high participation are essential. The following tips will help you increase the number of responses you get the next time you survey your employees.

Ensure Respondent Anonymity

The best way to do this is to employ a third party to collect the data and generate the reports. Employees will feel more comfortable and respond more openly and candidly when they know their responses are being handled by an outside organization. Whether you are conducting your survey online or via paper, having a third party to take care of this will improve not only the response rate, but also the quality of responses. Many employees are reluctant to give their honest opinion on employee attitude surveys. The third party can alleviate this reluctance. If you already know that trust is a problem in your organizaztion, pay particular attention to this issue. Even if you do not think trust is a problem, don't underestimate the value of ensuring that employees feel as comfortable as possible responding to the survey. The only way to get an accurate measure of your overall employee attitude is via anonyminity.

Secure an Endorsement from Senior Management

When distributing the survey to employees, a letter of endorsement from the CEO, GM, or some other organizational leader will communicate the importance of responding to the survey. The letter should explain why the survey is being conducted and what the organization and the employees stand to gain from it.

Keep the Survey Brief

Longer surveys have lower response rates. It is as simple as that. Regardless of the length of your survey, tell people up front how long it will take them to complete it. Be accurate in your estimate. It is better to estimate a longer time rather than a shorter time. Let people feel pleasantly surprised when they finish early. If your survey is relatively long, consider setting aside a designated time during the workday when employees can all fill out the survey at the same time.


Explain the Benefits to All Employees

By clearly outlining how employees and the organization as a whole will benefit from the employee attitude survey, you will give people a reason to fill out your survey. Response rates will be higher and your employees will be more honest about their opinions.

Explain the "Next Steps"

Communicate clearly what you intend to do with the information you gather from the survey. If you plan to share the results with employees, let them know that. When you share with people what you plan to do with the survey results, you show them that you are serious about what you are doing and that you have given thought to the entire process. They will realize that the time they invest in completing the employee attitude survey will not be time wasted. And, in turn, this will increase response rates the next time you survey your employees.

Follow Through on Your Promises

Now that you have told your employees what you plan to do with the survey results, be sure you follow through. If you don't, the next time you want to gather information or conduct an employee attitude survey, you will have lost credibility and your response rate will suffer. Be sure to not only follow through on your promises, but do so publicly. Remind people of what you promised and show them the results.

Offer Team Incentives

Consider offering modest group incentives to teams or workgroups who have the highest response rates. Ideas might include a Friday pizza lunch or a matinee movie outing. The incentive should fit with your organization's culture and appeal to all employees equally.

What is a "good" response rate on an employee survey?

The answer varies, but generally, if you get less than 65%, you can consider that your response rate was too low. If you get more than 75%, you can consider that your response rate was pretty good. If you follow the above suggestions, the response rate for your employee survey might be in the 80% to 90% range, but this depends on the level of trust and the culture of your organization.

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