Increasing survey response rate

10 simple steps

  1. Pre-notify participants
  2. Publicise the survey
  3. Write the survey invitation
  4. Re-examine your contact list
  5. Check your timing
  6. Incentives
  7. Provide response opportunities
  8. Monitor and inform leaders of survey response rates
  9. Use reminder notes
  10. Provide survey feedback

1. Pre-notify participants

Prepare participants for the survey process by notifying them that they will be receiving a survey soon. Include the following information:

  • Aims and objectives of the survey - why it's important
  • Confidentiality assurances - the survey is being conducted by an independent survey research company and individual responses cannot be viewed by management
  • Timing of the survey - launch date and close date
  • What you intend to do with the survey results - how and when the results will be reported back and how they'll find out about improvements/changes based on their feedback

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2. Publicise the survey

Use multiple methods to publicise the survey to participants (e.g. posters, newsletters, your intranet, staff briefings, manager briefings).

Assign survey champions across your organisation to promote the survey and encourage participation. Reinforce that staff should make the most of the opportunity to contribute positively and with anonymity.

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3. Write the survey invitation

Your invitation is crucial to persuading participants to respond. To increase response rates consider the following:

  • Use text in the subject line to stimulate interest. For example, "Your chance to have your say: 2010 Staff Survey", "An important message from our CEO", "Our annual customer survey: Make it your business to tell us how to run ours" etc.
  • Reinforce privacy/confidentiality within the body of the invitation
  • Mention outcomes and actions that flowed from any previous surveys

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4. Re-examine your contact list

Ensure you have up-to-date emails/addresses for all survey participants.

Check with your IT department that survey invitations won't be blocked by the firewall or any other spam filter software.

Ensure staff can access the survey online, alternatively paper forms may be a better option for your organisation.

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5. Check your timing

Allow participants a sufficient time period to complete the survey. Staff or public holidays may shorten the window in which the survey can be completed. If you are short on responses, consider extending the survey period to send reminders and increase participation.

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6. Incentives

Incentives can assist in motivating people to respond. These should be kept small (i.e. morning tea or the chance to win gift vouchers, movie tickets, bottles of wine, etc.).

You may even donate to a charity i.e. $1 donated to your organisation's nominated charity for every completed survey response.

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7. Provide response opportunities

Ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to participate in the survey process (e.g. provide paper surveys where participants don't have access to computers or schedule time off to do the survey).

Employee surveys can help to gauge both opinion and workplace efficiency but low response rates can damage the credibility of such surveys. Offering employees time to complete a survey can promote participation as well as send a positive message that opinions are valued, leading to honest and more credible responses.

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8. Monitor and inform leaders of survey response rates

Monitor response rates so that HR and/or the survey co-ordinators can identify departments with low response rates. Provide feedback and consider fostering participation by addressing the reasons for low responses.

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9. Use reminder notes

Send reminder notes to potential respondents, typically seven days after the survey opens.

If invitations are being sent via email, final reminder notifications should be targeted to those who have not yet completed the survey. Typically these are sent three to five days before the survey is to close.

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10. Provide survey feedback

Once the survey findings have been presented to leaders of the organisation, survey project feedback should be provided to participants. This assists future survey efforts by providing participants with confidence that their feedback has been listened to and will be acted upon.

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