Best Employee Surveys

How to Increase Employee Survey Response Rates

How to increase employee survey response rates

Have you ever invested the time and money into an employee survey, but received a low response rate? It’s so frustrating! If the response is low enough, the data collected won’t be representative of the population. That means you can’t rely on the data and taking action because of the data is risky.

High response rates, on the other hand, deliver valuable information that you can rely on. Reliable employee feedback data empowers businesses to better assess workplace culture and employee satisfaction, as well as identify problem areas that need attention. Read on to learn more about how to increase response rates for your employee survey. 


Everyone Deserves a Second Chance

While it can be disappointing that response rates weren’t as high as they needed to be, abandoning the process is the perhaps the worst thing we can do. Some of the benefits of a do-over include showing your employees that collecting their feedback matters and getting your hands on actionable data.

When you’ve determined what the problem was that caused your low response rate, commit to the process and do it again, learning from the initial mistake.


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Paper or Plastic?

Paper surveys have been used for years and they have a ton of benefits. That said, because they are easily lost and distributed to your employees only once, they often have response rates that are lower than online employee surveys. While work email addresses are the most common distribution method, we also assign access codes to employees who do not have a work email address. Access codes are one way to enjoy the benefits of an online survey (faster project timelines, ability to pre-assign workplace demographics, a smaller price tag than paper surveys, and increased response rates) without assigning workplace email addresses to all your employees.


Identify the Problem

If your response rate to a recent employee survey wasn’t what you had hoped it might be, begin by determining why. When you understand why employees didn’t respond, you can address the problem. Was the process difficult or complicated? Was there a technical problem that inhibited survey delivery or access? Do employee distrust that their feedback will be anonymous? Do employees believe that the organization will take action as a result of data collection or do they worry it will go into the proverbial black hole?

Here are some common issues that lead to low response rates:

Technical Problems 

An employee survey may go awry simply because of technical problems. While online surveys have a ton of benefits like lower costs, faster reporting cycles and even higher response rates, taking steps to avoid common technical issues is a critical step in your employee survey process. Ensure that survey invites make it past your firewall, web-hosted surveys can be used in common internet browsers, and that the survey is open long enough for participants to complete it. Generally, two weeks is plenty of time for an employee survey.

Weak Communication

Strong internal communication is essential in a successful employee survey. Here are some of the things our most successful employers are doing:

  1. Share not only logistics, but goals and culture stories with your leadership team;
  2. Talk about why the survey matters;
  3. Use all-staff and departmental meetings to promote your upcoming survey;
  4. Launch a poster campaign with survey vitals;
  5. Send a note from human resources about how the data will be used; 
  6. Send a letter from the CEO, emphasizing the importance of the survey; and 
  7. Throw a launch party the day your survey goes live!


Lack of Trust

If employees don’t trust that their response data will be anonymous, they’ll be unable to share honest feedback. Consider what it would feel like, to walk into your boss’s office to say, “I don’t understand our long-term strategy, I don’t trust my supervisor, and I don’t plan to be here for the long haul.” We’d never do that if we hoped to have a job tomorrow. It’s too risky. Your employees feel exactly the same way. 

Use these articles to understand the most important reasons for anonymity in employee surveys, how to assure your employees of survey anonymity, and, if needed, how to gain (or win back) employee trust.


Learn More

It's powerful to know what your employees think! You can identify problems like poor supervision, communication breakdown, and mounting plans to leave your company before expensive turnover affects your business.
Watch our free webinar How to Launch the Perfect Employee Survey and begin taking steps to collecting actionable feedback from your own employees. 

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Tags: Employee Surveys, Employee Engagement, Employee Trust, Corporate Communication, Best practices, response rates, goals, Technology

Best Employee Surveys
With more than 15 years of experience and collected data, Best Employee Surveys administers recognized survey tools and delivers comprehensive reporting you can trust. Our customizable options ensure that your organization is capturing data in the most effective way for your reporting needs. Because we survey nearly 6,000 companies and their 1,000,000+ employees each year, you can feel good about using our extensive database as a comparative benchmark for your results; it is of the highest quality and is also used to support trending analyses and ongoing research performed by a number of scholars, authors, and presenters worldwide. Visit for more information.
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