On the eve of the finale of what is one of my favorite TV series, Mad Men, I’m brainstorming tactics for an employee survey campaign. With the goal of encouraging more employees to participate in the company annual survey, I ask myself, "What would Don do?"
My guess is that the leaders from Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce were too consumed with their mid-morning cocktails to be concerned with conducting an employee survey, but today a participation rate of 50% to 60% is considered industry standard for web-based surveys. Participation rates that are higher are hard to achieve – but not impossible.
Based on my research and experience, there is not one clear path to success when it comes to ensuring high levels of participation, but several key strategies to encourage most employees to participate. It’s also important to note the reasons why employees opt not to participate. Many of these reasons include:
· They think taking the survey is useless, knowing from previous surveys that nothing will be done with the results. Why bother?
· They fear that their feedback will be identified and will receive some type of retribution for their candid responses
· Their manager does not support it, they were not given time to take the survey, or the survey was too long/complicated
Now that we’ve identified common reasons employees typically don’t take a survey, it’s time to identify “best practices” to motivate employees. The following seven recommendations will help you raise your survey response rates:
1. Get Senior Management Buy-In: Possibly, the single most important aspect of ensuring high rates of employee participation, senior leadership must believe in the importance of the survey and publicly announce their support to all employee groups.
2. Market the Survey: Communicate the importance of the upcoming survey in multiple formats, multiple times. Be creative! Develop a fun theme and visuals to make it stand out from other campaigns. Distribute branded email blasts; create intranet postings; write a script for managers to present at their employee meetings; develop a video clip from the CEO; and design posters. Have fun with your theme! Host a morning meet and greet where senior leadership passes out a simple brochure with the survey details and web site information along with a light breakfast.
3. Discuss Employee Anonymity: Employees fear a lack of anonymity. Talk about how the results will only be shared when grouped with others in their team/department and never individually. If you are utilizing a third party to conduct your survey, communicate this to employees as another step to ensure their anonymity.
4. Talk Up the Results from Previous Surveys: If your organization has taken an Employee Engagement Survey in the past, review the results and communicate these results on a quarterly basis.
5. Make it Easy to Take the Survey: Schedule the survey when most people have the opportunity to easily take it. If possible, set up laptops in a designated area where employees can easily take the survey during a break.
6. Hold Supervisors and Managers Accountable for Participation Rates: Inform leaders that they are responsible for encouraging their employees to take the survey and provide them with the necessary time to complete it. When employees know their supervisor values their opinions and acts on the results of the survey, people tend to participate.
7. Take Action: Each manager should conduct a formal action plan for both the employees and the managers to complete. Continuously communicate where you stand on the points of this plan to keep your team on target.
Your employees are your most important asset. It only makes sense to maximize your ability to hire and retain the best and brightest by routinely surveying your employees to get a read on their engagement, morale, suggestions for improvement, and demonstrate that you care about their opinions. If you follow these tips, you’ll see your participation levels increase and the end result will be an organization where employees love to come to work, and customers love to do business.
Just like Don says, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”