7 ways to prevent survey fatigue

Post by Saskia Jones, strategic comms expert

Tuesday 19 June 2018

Image of a pen ticking off a list

Frustrating, isn’t it? Low response rates to surveys and employee cynicism that anything will happen as a result. Surveys are a great way to gauge feedback from employees in a quantifiable way. But how do you get employees motivated to take part? With these seven tips, you can get your survey response rates rocketing.


  1. Say what’s in it for them


What difference will completing the survey make to them? Improve employee benefits? Improve workplace communication? Or simply give them a place to anonymously share ideas or concerns. Tell employees clearly what the benefit will be for them to take part. Every time you advertise it, make this your primary message.


  1. Act fast

Have a clear timeline for sharing results before you start. Agree this with your leadership and communicate it to employees. Stick to the timeline and show employees that you deliver on your promises. Employees will much prefer it if you communicate results quickly and honestly, acknowledging what has been fed back and that action will be taken.


  1. Be brave

If you’re getting lots of requests for sending out employee surveys, challenge the team on how necessary a survey is. See yourself as the protector of colleague interests and time. The more surveys people get, the less they’ll answer. Often, by exploring it together, you can find a different way to gather colleague feedback. Focus groups, online polls, or more informal methods like phoning a selection of colleagues can work well too. Encourage the team you’re working with to try out alternatives.


  1. Scale it back

The temptation is to always survey all employees on a topic. Whilst this is sometimes appropriate, such as for an annual engagement survey, a smaller group is often just as powerful. Consider surveying a small, representative sample of your audience instead.


  1. Make it quick

Let employees know upfront how long the survey will take. Don’t disappoint them. People often drop out half-way through a survey because it’s taking too much of their time or more time than they expected. If it’s an annual engagement survey, then employees may give you more time, but for many other topics you may want to keep it to 5-10 questions and limit the number of open-text answers.


  1. Don’t trick them…or yourselves

Employees are more likely to complete your survey if it is anonymous. But make sure it actually is anonymous. For example if your survey asks for department and level of seniority (such as grade A,B,C) you could inadvertently identify someone if there is only one level A in that team. The UK Market Research Society provides helpful guidelines on employee research, including on sampling and confidentiality.


  1. Start with the low-hanging fruit

Combat the biggest criticism of surveys – that nothing happens as a result. Visible action needs to be seen quickly – ideally within three months of the survey going out. Whilst longer term plans are in development, work with leadership on agreeing small steps that can be implemented and communicated at speed. If you follow these seven steps, you’ll smash your target for response rates. You’ll capture employee’s attention amongst the dizzying array of other tasks on their minds. And you’ll show your employees that you care. Not just through the simple act of reaching out and asking for feedback, but through the proactive approach you take to communicate it, listen, and follow up with results and action.


About the author: Saskia Jones is a strategic communications professional with wide-ranging experience. Her latest role was Head of Communications Engagement at Oxfam, responsible for brand, strategy and internal communications. Engaging over 5,000 staff and 22,000 volunteers around the world, her team communicated with staff and volunteers in over 50 countries and 650 shops in the UK. Saskia and her team have won multiple communication awards in recent years. This includes Saskia being awarded ‘Internal Communicator of the Year’ at the Institute of Internal Communication Icon Awards. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn