Employee surveys are key tools for any business. They can measure the mood in a company, allow employees to give input and see how an employer is doing on certain issues.
To make employee surveys work, however, you need a sufficient amount of employees filling them in. Having high degrees of non-response can cause your survey to be less reliable and can cause biases to arise.
Luckily non-response in employee surveys has been studied extensively before and with it a range of strategies to combat it (see for example this paper). In this blogpost we will walk you through some of the reasons why employees ignore surveys and how you can make sure your employee survey becomes a success.
So, to start, what is a good percentage of employees to have filled in a survey? Well, it depends. A study of 1607 US studies using employee surveys showed an average response rate of 52,7%. But this number depends heavily on the organization. Smaller companies will most likely have, and need, higher response rates than bigger companies, who will generally have lower rates.
What causes employee non-response?
Studies show there are two types of employee non-response: active and passive.
- Passive non-response refers to someone who wants to fill in the survey, but who doesn’t do so because of a non-conscious decision. Maybe they simply forgot, maybe they have too much work or maybe they weren’t in the office at the time of the survey.
- Active non-response refers to an employee who actively refuses to fill in the survey because of organizational dynamics. They might have a negative perception of their employer (or a positive one: “why should I fill it in if I think everything is alright?”), they might not trust the anonymity of the survey or they might think filling it in will not change anything.
Sometimes employees will also not answer surveys honestly. The reasons for this overlap strongly with those for active non-response, by combating active non-response you will also make employees answer the survey more honestly.
Researchers developed a range of strategies to combat both types of employee non-response. We combed through them for you and listed the 6 most effective ones below.
1. Pay attention to survey design
This might be stating the obvious, but employee surveys are still surveys, so pay attention to survey design. Don’t make the survey too long, ask clear questions and don’t send out too many of them. You can look at this previous blog posts from CheckMarket and apply the tips provided to your employee survey.
2. Use incentives
Just as in regular surveys, giving incentives to respondents will increase response rates. These rewards can be small, for example a pen or a piece of fruit, or they can be bigger: such as giving the department with the highest response rate a teambuilding day.
3. Remind them
Another strategy that can be ported over from regular surveys is to simply keep reminding employees to fill in the survey. Give employees advance notice that a survey is coming up, tell them when to expect it and why it is important they fill it in. That way they can plan ahead and mark it in their schedules. After the survey has been sent out also don’t forget to regularly remind employees to fill it in.
4. Do something with the results
Reminders and incentives are some of the most effective tools to combat passive non-response. Active non-response, however, is harder to minimize, primarily because it is often fueled by skepticism towards an employer.
A first step in minimizing active non-response is by promising to do something with the results of the survey. When announcing the survey make sure to stress this issue and, after the survey is done make sure to follow up. Use the survey results to make actual changes, and communicate how the survey made this happen. This way the survey becomes a communication channel between employee and employer, and the possibility of actually changing things will also convince skeptics to participate. Skeptics are also more likely to respond honestly to a survey when they know their opinion can have an impact.
5. Guarantee privacy
Make sure privacy is maintained, since employees can sometimes think they might get into trouble for the answers they give, and that they can honestly give their opinion. Make sure to communicate that the survey cannot be traced back to an individual employee, and clearly explain that their privacy will be maintained. Whenever possible also let the survey be conducted and analysed by a person, or team, that has a neutral character and is trusted throughout the workplace. You can use the CheckMarket tool to easily de-identify your surveys.
6. Involve employees
A final strategy that can be of use is to involve employees in the design of the survey. Allow employees to suggest topics, and talk to teams and individuals about what they would like to see in the survey. This way even sceptical employees can give feedback, and it will show how the survey is being taken seriously.
Ready to conduct your own employee survey?
CheckMarket provides you with all the tools to create them, so you can get all employees in your organization involved. Create a free test account and get started right away.