Getting Employees to Participate in Survey

In Kim Vicente’s book, The Human Factor, he writes about the importance of designing not only technologies so humans can use them easily, but also social and political systems. A question posted today on MarketingProfs made me think of this again. The question was:

“If anyone can help me and give ideas on how to increase motivation of employees to participate in anonymous survey. The company has a problem, employees are afraid of loosing their jobs… if i say that the survey results will improve their conditions, everyone will tend to complain…”

Here’s how I replied:

There are three key ingredients to getting employees to respond to surveys:
1. Make them short and easy to complete,
2. Make them confidential, and find a way to make that confidentiality apparent to the staff, and
3. Give them evidence that their comments really will make a difference!

Short and easy to complete means, in most environments today, online. Be sure to have open-ended answer opportunities as well as quantitative questions, because if a question is badly worded, the open-ended option lets people explain what they really mean. But …

People need to be assured of anonymity in a meaningful way if you want anything useful. They know that you can read their e-mail addresses, if they reply by e-mail, so first of all, you want the survey administered on the web (rather than by e-mail) and I’d recommend that you hire an outside company to administer the survey for you. (Although we’ve done such work, that’s not what we specialize in now, so I’m not just trying to plug my business!).

The last point is the most challenging, especially if your company has a track record of NOT acting on employee feedback. One way to begin the trust-building process would be to call a meeting with a rep from each unit and ask for their ideas about how to motivate employees to complete the survey. The mere fact that you’ve started that way should help, and, if you accept some of their suggestions, this will help demonstrate that you are serious and will turn these reps into evangelists for your survey.

Once the results are in, look for some quick wins: things you can act on immediately to show that you’ve heard them. Give them a report of the results, and discuss how you plan to follow up on the other items.

As time progresses, keep reminding them of how you are, in fact, acting on what they said. If you do, then you’ll have a much easier job of it next time around.

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