Why your Employee Survey Participation is Low—and How to Fix It

Callie Rushton, Director of ImplementationEmployee Engagement, Pulse SurveysLeave a Comment

When running an employee feedback survey, participation numbers are a common concern. Everyone wants to hit 100 percent, or at least achieve a sample size large enough to feel confident in the results.

This is a valid concern, as it is hard to find much value in a survey if you fail to get a meaningful sample that represents the opinions of the organization at large. The question becomes, how do you most effectively drive survey participation?

Some of Newmeasures’ clients have had success with creative incentive strategies. We have seen organizations raffle off prizes to people who complete the survey and host pizza parties or bagel brunches for departments or locations that meet a certain participation threshold.

These can be fun ways to build enthusiasm for the survey initiative, but they aren’t necessary if you do this one thing: actually take action on your survey.

Seems simple and obvious, right? Yet so often, employees never see how their feedback is used to influence key business decisions or make improvements to the work environment. And if employees feel like their last survey responses ended up in a black hole, it’s natural to feel like it isn’t worth their time to share their voice the next time around.

To change this all-too-frequent reality, you’ll need to demonstrate—in both word and deed—that you do in fact value what your people have to share.


Before, during, and after your survey, communication is key. From the start, clearly convey to employees why you’re launching this initiative and how you intend to use the information people share with you. And if it isn’t your first time surveying, take this opportunity to remind people how their feedback informed decisions or prompted changes in the last year. We often find that organizations do consider their employees’ opinions in the process of making decisions, but they fail to communicate that to people—leaving them feeling unheard and disheartened. Closing the loop helps eliminate that feeling.

Once you collect employee feedback, be sure to communicate out to the whole organization the key findings you uncovered from the exercise—even if you do not have the resources to take action on every single thing. By simply reiterating what you learned and explaining why the organization has decided to prioritize certain issues over others, people will feel heard, respected, and more inclined to participate the next time you ask.


As the old adage goes, actions speak louder than words. While communication is essential, it can quickly become meaningless if it’s not followed by action. When leaders—whether they’re on the front lines or in the corner office—keep their promises and demonstrate a willingness to make needed changes, people start to believe their voice actually does matter. Making a tangible positive difference in the work environment in light of survey feedback is the single most powerful way to incentivize full participation in future feedback initiatives.

And if you’re reading this before you’ve launched your first employee feedback survey, get ahead of the problem by coming up with a plan well in advance for how you will analyze the feedback and decide where to focus—and then follow through on it. Developing a clear action planning roadmap before you begin will set your employee listening strategy up for success for years to come. The question at the heart of driving participation is this: How can we make completing this survey worth everybody’s time, so that they’ll want to share their perspectives? While raffles and prizes might work for some, making positive organizational change based on employee feedback is the one strategy that is sure to deliver strong response rates.