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Internal Communications

4 min read

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Person typing on notebook while checking phone

9 employee survey best practices to boost participation

Fifty-four per cent of employees don’t believe their company will take action on their responses to employee engagement surveys. And more than half of employees admit to not being completely honest when giving feedback to HR. Below, we’ll walk you through best practices that will help you boost survey participation rates and the quality of your survey data.

How do you conduct an effective employee survey? 9 best practices

1. Build trust with your employees first.

Employee surveys mean nothing without a foundation of trust. In 2022, AllVoices surveyed more than 1,000 full-time employees and found that more than half are not totally honest when they give feedback to HR, citing concerns of retaliation and that the organization doesn't actually want the truth.

If employees don't believe their feedback will be taken seriously, or if they feel it will be used against them, they won’t want to complete the questionnaire or answer it honestly.

2. Conduct employee surveys at least once a year, but no more than once a month.

Employee survey frequency can be tough to nail down, but Quantum Workplace has some data to help you decide how often to ask for feedback.

  • The higher the survey cadence, the higher the level of employee engagement. 
  • “Survey fatigue” sets in at a monthly or more cadence.

Of course, ultimately, employee survey frequency depends on your workforce. But a good place to start is quarterly or monthly.

3. Know the difference between “confidential” and “anonymous” surveys—and be careful what you promise.

Returning to that AllVoices survey mentioned above, 57% of the employees who weren't completely honest in their feedback said they'd be more inclined to be truthful if they could do so in a truly anonymous way. In fact, they favoured anonymous surveys.

But HR and employees alike can get the two terms confused, so let's clarify the difference between an anonymous vs. confidential survey:

  • Anonymous means the survey participants cannot be identified, and their responses cannot be linked back to an individual.
  • Confidential means the responses will be kept private, as in, only those authorized within the organization to view the data can view it. That might be the HR team or select executives, but the data will not be shared publicly, such as in a company blog post. 

Something to keep in mind, though: Anonymity can be tough to guarantee. Even if a survey is anonymous, as in, it doesn’t collect participant names or job titles, their identity could still be deduced by their answers, especially on a small team.

4. Only ask necessary questions (cut the fluff!).

The more questions you add, the less likely an employee is to complete the survey. So, if you want higher completion rates and higher-quality responses, keep the survey as short as possible. According to SurveyMonkey data, for surveys that took more than 7-8 minutes to finish, abandonment rates increased as surveys got longer.

5. Keep the wording clear and concise.

The more words you add, the more convoluted the question becomes. This can muddy the quality of the answers because the survey-taker has to spend more time and energy deciphering what you're really asking.

Too wordy: Do you feel that the company has equipped you with the necessary resources for you to do your job well?

Concise: Has the company given you the resources to do your job well?

If you’d like more examples, check out these employee survey questions.

6. Avoid double-barreled questions.

Sometimes, in an attempt to keep the survey short, you may feel tempted to kind of squeeze two questions into one–don’t! This is known as a “double-barreled” question, and it skews your data because your respondent has to give one answer to what is essentially two questions. Ask one question at a time. 

Double-barreled question: How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the online courses and in-person training the company offers?

Better: How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the online courses the company offers?

How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the in-person training the company offers?

7. Don’t make surveys mandatory.

While you might boost participation rates by making employee surveys mandatory, you could also skew your data. If someone feels forced to take a survey, they're unlikely to give quality or honest answers.

What is a good participation rate for an employee survey? According to Culture Amp data, a “good” participation rate depends on company size:

  • Fewer than 50 employees: 80-90%
  • 500+ employees: 70-80%
  • 1,000+ employees: 65-80%

8. Show employees concrete evidence that their survey participation matters.

Instead of forced participation or the use of monetary rewards like gift cards, the best gift you can give to survey respondents is proof that their feedback matters. After you conduct a questionnaire, be sure to share how you put the participants’ responses into action.

9. Take advantage of pulse surveys and informal polls.

A lot of companies focus on that big annual employee engagement survey, but don't neglect pulse surveys and informal polls! These shorter, more frequent surveys get higher engagement and help you keep your finger on the pulse of your organization. This helps you take action more quickly instead of waiting to hear from your people just once per year.

A great example of this is Adidas. The apparel company used to rely on a 90-question annual employee survey but switched instead to monthly pulse surveys of 7-8 questions each. This makes it much easier for employees to participate, as each one takes only a few minutes to fill out, and it helps the company be more agile about approaching its employees’ happiness and engagement. 

Another low barrier to entry when it comes to survey participation is a one-question poll. Just type a question, add up to five responses, and post it to your employee app newsfeed. It's like social media, making it both familiar and fun for your team to answer.

Boost employee survey participation with a mobile employee app

Here's a bonus best practice for you: Get more employees to participate in your surveys by distributing them virtually via an employee app. Flip presents content in a social media newsfeed style, making it easy for you to distribute links to surveys and boost engagement. On top of that, Flip empowers you to quickly make one-question polls to do things like gather real-time feedback on a social event you just held or figure out the best time to schedule a meeting with a particular employee group.

Explore how the hardware store chain toom connects its 18,000 employees across 330 stores with a single mobile app. They distribute their annual employee survey via Flip!

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