Tired of Low Response Rates on Your Surveys? Invest in This.

Alyse Matteson, Implementation & Marketing SpecialistCommunication, Employee EngagementLeave a Comment

The hard work is done. You’ve thoughtfully designed your survey, you’ve accounted for all the ways you want to view the data and you’ve taken steps to ensure a great user experience.

Now, one question remains - will people actually take it?

At Newmeasures, one of the first topics we address with clients when kicking off a survey project is the need to establish a clear and comprehensive communications plan… the earlier, the better. Time and time again, we see a strong correlation between organizations who prioritize this step in the process and the participation rates they generate.  

That’s because participation is ultimately a reflection of trust in the process and whether or not respondents see the survey as a priority with strategic purpose.

  • Employees need to trust that their responses will be kept confidential and that action will be taken to make improvements in the areas that matter most to them
  • Teams need to understand the purpose of the survey and what the organization is hoping to measure so that they comprehend the “why” behind the ask
  • Leadership needs to prioritize the survey initiative and encourage participation to reinforce that feedback is valued

Setting Expectations  

Equally as important, your survey communications provide a platform for establishing transparent and realistic expectations from the start. Stating clear objectives and letting employees know how you will respond to their feedback ensures alignment from the get-go and fosters buy-in to the process.

In setting expectations, it’s just as important to state what you aren’t going to do as it is to address what you will do with the results. It’s appropriate to acknowledge that the survey will produce a wide range of information and that you will be analyzing the results to understand where action will have the greatest impact. Let employees know that you will be identifying key areas of focus and that, while the degree of action may vary across opportunities, every perspective will inform where you collectively go from here.

In setting expectations, it’s just as important to state what you aren’t going to do as it is to address what you will do with the results.

Furthermore, discuss whose responsibility it will be to drive change. Often, organizations have a false perspective that employee engagement and action planning are “HR tasks” or something that “HR is requiring them to do”. In reality, everyone plays a role and has the ability to impact and influence change. Encourage managers to hold follow-up conversations and consider how to make changes within their teams and empower employees to bring forth and implement ideas. Seek to create a culture of shared ownership over engagement and promote collaboration by informing employees that you will be working together to build a better workplace. 

Start With A Plan

So, where do you begin? Start by mapping out what you’ll say, who you’re speaking to and when you’ll say it. Use our Communications Plan Template to document your plan.

Consider the following:

  • Audience: Who do you need to reach? How should your message differ based on what’s most important to each population? Consider employees, people managers and senior leaders.
  • Sender: Who will your message come from? Whose voice reinforces the purpose of your communication appropriately?
  • Channel: What channel should you use to distribute your message? Consider how your employees typically receive news and updates: company intranet, e-newsletters, stand-alone emails from a department or leader, video, posters or instant message post (such as Slack or Zoom chat). A multi-pronged approach is effective in ensuring top-of-mind awareness.  
  • Timing & Frequency: What do employees need to know 6 months out, 1 month prior and the week of survey launch? How frequent should your communications and reminders be?

Review our Sample Communications Plan below and use this framework as a starting place.

Branding Your Internal Campaign

Another approach that can be helpful in generating awareness of your initiative is to create an internal promotional campaign for your survey. The theme you select can remain consistent year over year, or alternate to keep the message fresh.

Campaigns help to tie the various communications related to your effort together with a similar look and feel. Catchy slogans can boost excitement and draw attention to key details you want employees to retain.

Examples of internal campaign slogans include:

  • Have Your Voice Heard
  • Your Opinion Counts
  • Speak. Listen. Act.
  • Speak Up!
  • Build a Better Workplace

Leverage internal or external resources to develop a design concept around your campaign and consistently brand your communications. Create a toolkit that includes poster templates, email banners, word templates and icons to use in your promotional activities.

Communicating During Survey Administration

Before the survey, it’s important to let employees know that the survey is coming, what you are measuring, how confidentiality will be preserved and how to participate. But, your communications shouldn’t stop there.

During survey administration:

  • Ensure reminders are placed in prominent places and provide quick access to the survey itself.
  • Let employees know how long it will take to complete the survey.
  • Monitor participation daily and transparently share this information internally.
  • Look at participation rates across the company overall, as well as by department or region. Where helpful, reach out to areas with lower participation and ask leaders to encourage participation within their teams.
  • Consider sending a “last day to participate” notice from a leader within your organization

Follow-Up Communications  

Once your survey has closed, don’t wait too long to circle back with employees. Send a short recap within a few weeks that:

  • Thanks employees for their thoughtful input
  • Lists the final participation rate
  • Highlights company-wide strengths and opportunities that surfaced in an initial review of the results
  • Captures next steps and what employees can expect from here – including when a full overview of the results will be shared

Your survey will likely inform strategic action that will take place throughout the year. Tie your message back to the feedback you received in the survey when communicating updates on progress, launching new programs or implementing improvements. This will show employees the impact of their opinions and reinforce that your culture of listening leads to action.

Ready to Launch Again?

As your next survey approaches, leverage the opportunity to remind employees of what has been accomplished since the last time they provided feedback. Summarize key successes and wins, new benefits or programs that were introduced or metrics that speak to cultural change. Showcasing progress can be impactful in shifting perceptions and in ensuring strong participation going forward.

Ultimately, your survey is a platform through which to listen. By communicating appropriately, you will create an environment that supports open discussion and a collaborative approach to engagement throughout the year.