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Boosting survey response rates

August 8, 2019

We are often asked by clients how to encourage people to respond to surveys. It is a logical question and we often respond by providing suggestions which centre on incentivising the process i.e. donations to charity for each completion or a prize draw for those who complete.

However, whilst it is worthwhile encouraging responses and ensuring that there is adequate time and/or facilities to complete the survey for those who want to, the fact that in some organisations employees choose not to complete the survey is important feedback information in its own right.

We often find in organisations where there has historically been a lack of commitment to feedback, poor communications and a lack of resulting action that survey completion rates are the lowest. In these circumstances, it is important to ask yourself what can be learnt from the poor response rate and what needs to change as a result to prevent repetition in the future. In this situation actions probably speak louder than words – the more action results from the surveys the more employees will see the value and the more completions you will see year on year if your commitment to the process is consistent.

However, there are some organisations where communication is good and resulting action is promising plus response rates are generally high but there is still a significant level of non-completions – can anything be done to help with this? Well one possible solution may be to help reduce the resistance change. When surveys are rolled out some employees may dread what happens as a result – sceptical about what it will mean for them and change to their job role or working environment.

How can you help those resistant to change get on board and relish the opportunity to get involved and have their say?

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review (Ford & Ford, 2009), the first two things you can do when dealing with resistance to change are: boost awareness – when you are about to set a survey to go live you have probably spent ample time planning and processing it, for those not in the loop publicising the go live date way before may help them to adjust to and accept the process; return to purpose – ensure that you communicate why you are doing this in addition to the what, when and how you are doing it – state what you hope the outcome will mean and what commitment you are making, if possible provide a timeline so that individuals have something to anchor themselves to.By ensuring that employees who may be resistant to change are prepared for what to expect, when to expect it and what the potential outcomes may be, you may be able to help to engage some further employees into the process and improve response rates. A combination of incentives which help to motivate employees to complete surveys along with adherence to a systematic communication process before, during and after a survey may help to galvanise the workforce even further to provide a more united voice on which subsequent action can be based.

Reference: Ford, J. Ford, L. (2009). Decoding resistance to change, strong leaders can hear and learn from their critics. Harvard Business Review, April pp.99-103

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