How to create an award-winning People Survey campaign on a shoestring

Post by Ghazzala Zubair, Communications Officer at GLD

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Internal Comms teams often dread the start of People Survey Season.

Your task is to effectively ask everyone in your organisation what they think of working for it. Even in the happiest businesses, you’re opening the door to a conversation about pay (always too low), stress levels (usually too high), and your colleagues’ attitude towards their senior leaders (generally middling), among other things.

But the worst thing about taking stock of your organisation isn’t hearing dissenting views; it’s the risk of a low completion rate.

If people don’t air their thoughts in the survey, no one can act on those thoughts or suggestions, and things stay the same – usually to the detriment of the whole team.

The challenge

At the Government Legal Department (GLD), our aim when campaign planning for the 2017 People Survey was simple: we wanted a high response rate and we wanted our people to tell us what they thought of GLD with as much gusto as possible, regardless of their views. Our team faced a challenge in the form of competing campaigns, as well as the structure of our organisation: half our teams are based in centralised office buildings in London and Croydon, while the others are dispersed among most ministerial (and some non-ministerial) government departments.

The result

We ended up with a 78% response rate (11% higher than the Civil Service average), beating our score from the year before, and answers which helped us to begin action planning with a view to actually improving our workplace. We had the honour of winning the Government Communication Service’s ‘Campaign of the Month’ for our effort.

How did we do it?

We built our success upon 5 key principles:

  1. Don’t be shy. Rather than creating a quiet or incremental campaign, we focused our resources on creating something bold. We designed an ‘Around the World in 30 days’ theme: each individual team was sent a bespoke poster in the form of a ‘round-the-world ticket’. The more people in any given team had filled out the survey, the further they were around the world. Creating something fun, playful and thematically memorable kept the survey in the mind’s eye of our colleagues.
  2. Keep your senior leadership engaged. Before the People Survey began, we issued messages from our Board of Directors encouraging people to engage with the survey, in the form of newsletters and ‘messages from the top’. It’s important that your leaders are seen to be inviting feedback, and involving them early on was cited as a reason for us winning ‘Campaign of the Month’. While the survey was open, we issued weekly emails from our People and Change Director in the form of ‘postcards’ from around the world. Senior leaders would receive an update on how far they had reached in their ‘global’ challenge, and how well the People and Change directorate was doing.
  3. Make friends. Some people just don’t want to engage with the People Survey, for a variety of reasons. But where some were on the fence about filling it in, we recruited voices from our Diversity Networks, our Senior Leadership Team, and local teams to encourage everyone to participate. Regular articles were pushed out in our weekly newsletter and featured on our intranet. The Internal Comms team had minimal involvement in the writing process to ensure local voices were as clear as possible.
  4. Get all hands on deck. Staff engagement representatives, who were members of local teams, were sent weekly guidance on how well their team was doing and encourag

    We designed fun, playful post cards to encourage teams to fill out the survey

    ed to fill their local environment with enthusiasm. Posters, emails and newsletters can be effective, but there’s nothing like a face-to-face conversation to create the impetus to do something.

  5. Be prepared to be honest. We tried to make clear to our people how their views led directly to change, by spelling out the process. As much detail as possible was given on how action planning based on results would be taken forward in earnest. For example, we explained how we would track results, how the results were anonymised, that comments would be read individually, and how key themes would be taken to our Board.

The campaign was created entirely for free, though it caught the attention of most people across GLD and looked as though it had been commissioned. Stay tuned for my top tips on creating a killer campaign for free.

Ghazzala Zubair is a Communications Officer at GLD