If your employee survey response rates are consistently low, you need to rework your strategy so that employees feel more open and motivated to share feedback.

Employee surveys are valuable resources that can help shape your business practices. They let you know how your employees actually think and feel, overcoming the professional barriers that often prevent workers from sharing their grievances and opinions. 

Of course, employee surveys only work when workers actually fill them out. 

In this article, we’ll explore how to actually increase employee engagement in surveys, including six way-to-implement best practices for better results.

How to ask employees to participate in surveys

First up, the language you use to ask employees to fill out feedback surveys can significantly impact your response rates. 

You don't want employees to feel forced to complete surveys. If they do, they’ll just rush through them or provide surface-level feedback only (and not the actionable insights you’re looking for). 

So the first step to improve your survey response rates is to use the right communication strategies. 

Have managers ask employees directly

Employees likely won’t be compelled by impersonal, automated emails requesting they fill out a survey. 

The better approach is to have their direct managers ask them directly. They can ask them in person or send a personalized text or email asking for their opinions. 

Direct and thoughtful communication will show employees that their survey answers matter–and that they matter, too. This can not only improve your response rates, but your workplace morale overall. 

Share how you’ll use the survey data

Filling out even short surveys takes time. Employees will only bother filling them out if they believe you’ll actually listen to and act upon their grievances. 

By sharing what you will do with the survey data — i.e., discuss it at your next board meeting, use it to change specific policies, share it with management, etc. — you can better encourage employees to share their thoughts. 

Otherwise, they may assume that they are simply sending their feedback into the void, which isn't worth their time or effort. 

Emphasize anonymity

If your workers are afraid they’ll face retaliation for voicing their honest opinions about your workplace and company culture, then they’re not going to be inclined to participate. 

In your communications about employee surveys, emphasize that all responses will be completely anonymous and that you have no way of knowing who answered what. 

In short, if they’re not 100% sure about survey anonymity, they may not bother filling out the survey at all.

6 Best practices to increase employee engagement survey results

Aside from strategically asking employees to complete surveys, there are many other ways to increase participation. 

The following best practices will help ensure you’ll develop that invaluable, honest feedback loop you’re striving for.  

1. Send SMS and Email Invites

You want to make your surveys as simple and easy as possible for employees to fill out. Sending survey invites via text message and email can encourage employees to complete the survey through the most convenient method for them.

2. Include a Balance of Multiple Choice and Open-Ended Questions

If your survey requires too many open-ended responses, recipients may get survey fatigue, leading them to abandon the survey or rush through it. 

Instead, keep the survey as short as possible and ask a balance of questions. 

3. Give Employees Time During the Work Day To Complete the Survey

Employees probably won't want to fill out surveys on their own time. 

Instead, make it clear that they can complete the survey during work. 

Team managers may want to set aside 15 minutes where their employees' only responsibilities are to complete the survey. 

4. Offer Multi-Language Surveys

If you have employees whose first language is not English, be sure to send surveys in their primary languages as well. A non-native speaker may not feel confident providing feedback in English, but expanding the languages offered will improve your survey accessibility. 

5. Send a Few Reminders

Your employees likely won't fill out the survey the second they receive it, and you don’t want it to get lost in their inboxes. 

So be sure to send at least one or two reminders about the survey, especially within 48 to 72 hours after launching it. Doing so can alert employees who may have simply forgotten about it, as well as motivate those who did not feel driven to respond to the first reminder. 

6. Offer gift cards as survey incentives:

Motivate your employees to complete surveys — you’d be surprised how far even a small digital gift card will go. 

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More fun ways to encourage survey participation 

Taking a creative spin on your engagement survey communication could improve your response rate further. 

Here are a few fun ideas to encourage more employees to participate:

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  • Use creative reminders to nudge employees: Employee feedback surveys don't need to be all serious. You can send goofy images or memes to remind employees to complete their surveys. 
  • Use pulse surveys: Pulse surveys are short sets of questions that you ask employees periodically. When employees know the survey will be short and to-the-point, they may be more motivated to complete it. 
  • Utilize technology integration: Make surveys as easy to complete as possible with innovative technology features that streamline the process. Surveys should be user-friendly and easy to navigate. 
  • Host giveaways for survey participation: Enter all employees who participate in the survey into a giveaway to win prizes like PTO days, catered lunches, or digital rewards. 

Set realistic goals for survey participation 

Yes, soliciting feedback from your employees is critical to improving employee satisfaction and retention, along with performance management overall. 

But keep in mind that a 100% engagement rate shouldn’t be your goal. In fact, if your participation rate is that high, it might mean employees feel coerced into providing feedback. This can not only hurt the quality of your responses, but your organizational culture overall.  

Instead, aim for a more moderate engagement rate — between 70% to 85% to start. 

Then, if you want to boost those numbers, show your employees how much you value their feedback and their insights by using incentives. You might send a small digital gift card to every employee who fills out the survey ($5 gift cards to Starbucks work great) or enter all participants in a giveaway for a larger gift card amount. 

Still not sure how to use incentives to increase employee participation in surveys? Chat with sales to see how digital rewards can help with all your employee engagement efforts.