Increase Your Employee Survey Participation Rates: 8 Tips You Need to Know

Employee surveys are a rather taboo subject in most businesses. To calculate the employee participation rate for your survey, you can simply divide the number of employees who participated in your survey by the total number of employees in your company.

Of course, ideally, you’re going to want a 100% response rate, but this is never normally the case.  An average industry sits around the 50% mark, but some companies have managed to boost that to around 80%, sometimes even as high as 95%. 

For some businesses, this level of participation is extraordinary and may seem like a daunting and overwhelming task, but it’s not impossible. There are three main reasons as to why an employee may not participate in a survey.

  • Firstly, it’s because they have been an employee through several surveys and no change seems to come of the results.
  • Some employees will have things they want to say about their place of work but will not want to be identified and ‘punished’ for their points of view.
  • Finally, in a busy place of work, the manager may not see the importance of the survey and not put enough emphasis on why it must be completed.

Whatever the case for your business, here are eight tips you need to know to boost those all-important participation rates.

1. Get Your Management on Board

The first, and most important, step you need to take is getting your management teams on board to see and share the importance of your surveys. During the stage where the survey is running, your managers must be highlighting to the employees that the survey is happening and the benefits of it.

The managers must also allow your employees enough time to complete the survey properly while addressing any fears of identification that they may have.

For example, if Sally, a low-level worker has had an argument with her team leader over something she deems is unfair, or a rule in the company that has affected her, she needs to feel welcomed that her opinion can be stated in the survey anonymously. If the problem is reoccurring, there’s an obvious problem in the company that needs to be addressed
– explains Vera Downes, a Customer Relationships Manager at Australian Help.

2. Encourage Accountability Within Your Company

Your managers and leaders in your company need to be held responsible for the participation rates in their own departments or branches. There’s no way around this point as your managers are directly in charge and have the ability to make the survey reach 100%.

They key to making this happen is by influencing your managers to know that the authentic participation rate is a direct indicator of their ability to lead and manage in their role.

3. Highlight the Results from Previous Surveys

As mentioned in the intro, one of the biggest drawbacks of employee participation is employees not believing that the survey will have any effect on the company. This can be resolved by including results and statistics from the last survey and showing how the company has improved, based on these results.

One of the best ways to do this is not to just talk about the action when the survey is coming up or has just been completed. Aim to highlight everything that’s going on on a quarterly basis to make sure that the survey is always fresh in your employee’s mind.

As an example of one of better ways to approach this, you could even use tools like Slide Share and Prezi to create presentations, allowing managers to talk through the changes that your business has made physically.

4. Promote Your Survey in All Available Channels

It’s vital that you make your survey as accessible to your employees as possible. This may mean having it available online, in a paper format, or even through a website that your employees can fill out at home on their own. The more accessible you make your survey, the better received it will be.

To make this really easy, you can use a survey maker like Survey Anyplace. Which allows respondents to take a survey whenever they like, on their own mobile devices during their commute, or at work on their tablet or laptop.

However, you can’t stop there; you’ll also need to promote your survey as much as you can. This means creating posters, sending out emails and using your managers to educate your employees.

Get as creative as your budget allows. You can also use tools to make this promotion content on a budget, such as Paper Fellows, whether it’s graphical or text-based media.

5. Create Competition Between Branches or Departments

If you have multiple branches, such as a supermarket chain, and you’re planning to run an employee survey, why not run an inter-branch competition to see which store has the best participation rate. You can include a prize for the best store, such as a meal out or a gift voucher for every employee and manager.

This is a great way to get everybody on board and ready to finish their survey as quickly as possible.


6. Communicate Instructions and Timelines Clearly

As with any aspect of the business world, communication will be the key to your success. Every meeting you have with your managers, every meeting they have with their team leaders and then down to their employees, as well as every phone call, email and instant messaging in between needs to be focused and professional.

Be sure to allow any level of the chain to ask questions and be proactive in making sure all channels of communication are open for maximum participation.

If you don’t already use them, monthly newsletters can be a highly effective way to communicate with all levels in the chain of command, a newsletter that can be easily created by writing services such as Essay Roo.


7. Be Creative, Make it Fun, and Engage Participants

This may be easier said than done but it’s important to get creative with your survey to make it as fun and as engaging as possible. Obviously, this will also depend on your business and the nature of your industry.

LAMMICO, a company who runs surveys, got really creative by offering out tic-tacs as a thanks for their ‘commit-mint’, a survey that turned over a 90% participation rate.


8. Offer an Incentive for Completing Your Survey

This could be one of the most uncommon ways to highlight a survey as it can be very expensive, but it does work. With simple, playful widgets like a digital scratch card, a slot machine, or even a leaderboard to increase group competitiveness, you can create great results!

Offering incentives can help to boost an employee’s desire to finish and complete a survey, but you can’t go handing out incentives to all employees unless you run a small company.

Instead, why not state that every finished and authentic survey is an entry into a prize draw where one big prize can be won?

9. Guarantee Anonymity of Participation

Most employees will be less inclined to fill out your survey (honestly) when they know their name is attached to their responses. 

On top of that, it provides a risk of “social desirability bias”. This glitch can be defined as a response bias where people tend to give socially desirable answers. Answers that they think are considered as favourable to a certain authority, but aren’t necessarily how the respondent really feels or thinks about a certain matter.

So, guarantee that the survey is anonymous, that there are no “right” or “wrong” answers, and that the responses will only be used to create a collective image, not an individual assessment. It’s best to mention this in the intro screen of your employee survey to immediately set your employees’ minds at ease.

When you have absolute honesty, it will be easier to make for example worker classification more accurate, which is necessary for any company with more than a handful of employees.

10. Communicate the Value of Your Survey

Sometimes, all it takes to convince someone is by communicating the value of a certain action.

You can imagine the following conversation face to face in the office, BUT you can also anticipate and incorporate your reply in your communication when spreading the survey through email or other channels:

Employee: “Why do I have to fill out this survey?”

Management: “This survey is created to improve working circumstances by listening to your current challenges and pain points. The survey results will help management to create an improved working environment.”

When you hear your manager cares about you, it’s hard to say no, now, right? 🙂


As you can see, there are so many aspects that go into making a successful employee survey a success, many of which come down to communication and making sure that the people who are responsible, i.e. your managers, are on board. With the best forms of communication in place, you’re sure to see a rise in those all-important participation rates.

Quickstart: With employee survey templates

If you’re ready to implement employee surveys in your work environment, look at these ready-made templates, built for higher participation rates:

Other resources:

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