Getting regular feedback from employees is hard, especially if it’s not something your company normally does. Feedback comes in different forms, but the most common form is surveys. These can be long-response or simple pulse surveys that are tailored to get insight about company culture, leadership, or performance.
Responses from surveys are a blend of positives and negatives. Positive responses are easily given as they help recognize well performed tasks or result driven strategies. On the other hand, responses that entail concerns or issues that have risen internally are rarer. This is because the respondent feels their feedback will be discouraged or cause a detriment to their job security. However, reassuring employees that management is there to help improve situations without escalation will encourage these types of responses.
Why are Response Rates Low?
Low response rates stem from both low engagement and fear of retribution – both easily solvable by executives. There are a few potential causes, but a lack of care or concern for consequences from negative feedback is often the largest factors.
A lack of care from employees results in low employee engagement. They may feel that their concerns aren’t heard, or they’re not as involved with the company, but the result is the same – see an email about a survey, but ignores them.
Some employees are concerned that there would be consequences if they brought up a concern about management. This fear is enough to prevent responses that would help improve company culture and engagement, even if it is unfounded. It’s vital to ensure employees that any feedback, good or bad, won’t directly affect their job security.
How to Improve Employee Response
Improving the number of responses comes from creating surveys that people want to respond to. That comes from many places, how the survey is created, when it’s conducted, to how the responses are addressed.
Keep It Anonymous
Repercussions from honest feedback is the issue that worries employees the most. Making sure that reviews are anonymous helps reduce tension, because it assures that all responses will not be traced. Even if you feel that your employees may trust you, there will likely be an uptick in responses if surveys are anonymous.
Keep Questions Appropriate
This goes hand in hand with anonymity and any other kind of internal communication – make sure you're not asking for sensitive information. This does depend on the company and employee population – some things may be appropriate for certain populations. Take precaution as you do not want to lose responses halfway through due to one insensitive question.
Avoid questions that relate to ethnic culture or religious differences as it be unethical and an invasion of privacy. Keep questions tailored to topics that relate to company culture, management or suggestions that can help the workplace enjoyable.
Keep It Simple
If you’re conducting an annual survey, there are many things you’d like insight on that you could ask about. This can lead to an over-complicated and bloated survey that even the most engaged employees avoid responding to.
While there is no rule on how long is too long for a survey, note that SurveyMonkey found the longer a survey is, the less time respondents take on each question. 20 appears to be where the time spent per question gets low, so try to keep your number of questions far below that.
Make Objectives Known
When sending the survey to your employees, make sure your objectives are clear. Tell them what the survey is for, that it’s anonymous, approximately how long it should take, and when they should expect to hear results. Keeping it clear and concise shows that you’re serious about addressing concerns, so more people will be willing to respond.
Without guidance, respondents will be less inclined to complete nor fill out the employee survey. Unfortunately, this results in low rates of responses and either a delay or lack of change in the office environment to keep teams happy.
Offering cash or gift cards in return for responding works very well. SurveyMonkey has found that offering any kind of incentive pushes response rates up. If you want to give cash, make sure it follows compliance to avoid consequences. Aside from cash, offering the chance to win gift cards may be an easier angle. It’s important to make it clear that if information collected to pick winners is not tied to responses.
Improving employee engagement has a much larger scope than simply encouraging responses, but there are small aspects that play a big contribution. If employees feel their managers don't care about them, you can easily show that you do by addressing it in a professional manner.
The team at Barometer implemented a method to improve responses to our annual full company survey – dedicate one monthly company-wide meeting to discussing the results, both the good and bad. This helps us keep our team members engaged and show that our company appreciates all feedback that creates a good employee experience. While having a town hall with all employees is not possible at all companies, showing that management is listening and being proactive is something any company can do.
The Cycle of Feedback and Engagement
Getting feedback from employees correlates with employee engagement. According to Quantum Workplace, employees want to trust that their management cares about them, and believe that the leaders are setting the right course for the company, among many other things.
How does leadership know what the course employees believe is the right without suggestions? An open line of communication between two parties helps improve the overall engagement and feedback cycle. Therefore, the efforts made will have a positive impact across the whole company.
Why Employee Feedback Matters
Employee feedback matters because it helps management understand how their employees feel about the company and address changes that can help reduce turnover. Employees are disengaged in feedback surveys because they fear negative reactions from management, or their response may be neglected. A method to prevent such fear is making sure that employees can stay anonymous, which encourages them to state current issues or words of encouragement without a burden.
There are many strategies to help encourage feedback, but the most important tactic to remember is to keep an open line of communication between two parties. This helps employees feel recognized for tasks that they’ve done well or heard about situations within teams that can be resolved immediately. Reassuring that feedback is encouraged and responding to in a timely manner is a step in the right direction for improvement.