Right, let’s get this straight — we take employee survey confidentiality very seriously at Hive.
It’s true! Hive’s ‘Confidentiality Commitment’ is lived and breathed by our team and our customers, because for working people to share their inner thoughts, budding ideas and (sometimes controversial!) opinions in a survey — they need to feel totally comfortable and unidentifiable.
Now, we’d say employee survey confidentiality is pretty important to you too, otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading my Ultimate Guide To Employee Survey Confidentiality. So sit back and let me put my Customer Success hat on, answer a few FAQs and generally just impart a bit of knowledge.
Why do employees mistrust employee surveys?
I recently explored Why Some Employees Ignore Surveys and employee survey confidentiality is easily one of the most common concerns.
In fact, our employee survey confidentiality statement is the most visited page on our website and “How do I know my feedback is confidential?” is the most frequently asked question by employees.
But why does this mistrust exist in the first place?
Well, we live in a world where it can sometimes feel like our data isn’t our own.
Apps ‘listen’ to us, search engines share information to target advertising, so is it any wonder people don’t always trust surveys?
We know feedback quality is hugely affected by the fear of being identified.
Response rates can drop, comments are vague, and people are afraid to say what they really think.
Getting the message right here can make or break engagement with surveys. You want employees to trust you and give honest, constructive and open feedback.
When employees feel they’re being listened to, but also feel safe to speak their mind, magic happens.
Now, let’s tackle the elephant in the room.
Are employee surveys anonymous?
The answer is usually “no”, not with Hive and the majority of other employee feedback platforms and survey tools.
For an employee survey to be truly anonymous, there would be no employee data collected, and any identifying information would be have to be self-selected by the participant.
Anonymous employee surveys would make insight analysis really difficult, and action planning even more challenging.
And, let’s face it, for senior leaders and managers to get to the crux of an issue, or to use feedback to drive change, there has to be a way of reporting on results.
Employee survey confidentiality vs. employee survey anonymity
Hands up! Hive used to talk about ‘anonymity’ a lot more, but now our employee survey confidentiality statement is called our ‘Confidentiality Commitment’ to reflect the appropriate terminology and to be completely transparent.
Confidential employee surveying means employee contact information is collected and their user data will be tagged with attributes, such as job title, job tenure, and department.
And while no comments or scores can be linked to individuals, this still makes confidential employee surveys far more valuable than anonymous employee surveys, because platforms, like Hive, allow employee survey results to be broken down by the set attributes.
This means managers can spot sentimental trends, dive deep into departmental issues, and create targeted action plans, without being able to pin down (or finger point at) any individuals.
How to communicate employee survey confidentiality
A great internal communications plan should let your people know the why’s and how’s of employee surveying, telling them how their feedback will impact change and ultimately increasing the adoption of your employee survey platform.
Now, employee survey confidentiality should be a primary message across all your survey communications – from creative poster campaigns to survey notification emails. And let’s not forget the power of influence; your leaders and managers need to openly pledge to protect the personal identities of your people – mentioning it in all-company meetings or through individual 1-2-1s.
Of course, video is a really effective channel to give your people information in a truly engaging way. This is something our creative marketing team whipped up to support our own customer’s promotion of employee survey confidentiality.
Check it out!
4 ways to keep employee surveys confidential (and still get good feedback)
1. Be transparent
This one is easy. Basically, your people will want to know “who can see what?” before they share their true thoughts and feelings.
Your HR team, leaders or line managers should let individuals know where their data is being processed, what level of information can be seen by managers, and who exactly will review their team’s survey responses. This will encourage more honesty and openness.
2. Be mindful
Hive customers work tactically with their Customer Success Manager to collect and segment employee data; setting their survey platform up in a way that gives them the employee insights they need to create change, without violating the Hive Confidentiality Commitment.
For example, many customers merger smaller departments and teams to tackle concerns about minimum response number..I mean, imagine filtering your team’s responses by gender when you only have one male employee in the team, you would instantly know what their response was!
3. Be proactive
If the same questions keep coming up about employee survey confidentiality, there’s usually a reason why…
Our customers direct their people to our employee survey confidentiality statement, and also work with employee representatives and forums to help circulate key messages about confidentiality and field questions that crop up on a regular basis.
You could also provide a channel, such as an intranet group or email address, for people to ask questions about employee surveys and voice concerns about confidentiality.
4. Be positive
As a leader or manager, it’s hard not to take negative feedback personally. Managers, for example, might feel that company decisions or departmental workload is beyond their control and so negative comments from their team could feel unfair or unprecedented.
Hive surveys are supposed to be the catalyst to offline conversations. By looking at the results from a positive viewpoint, managers can identify issues that need to be addressed, improve communication with their team and delegate issues upwards if needs be.
At the end of the day, you’d rather know about the negative aspects of your employee experience and culture. This lets you plan for change and prevent against losing great people.
That’s it! You now know the facts about employee survey confidentiality and have a tonne of tricks up your sleeve to make sure your people feel confident and comfortable in providing their (unfiltered) feedback.
But one last thing before I go…
This guide has been all about building trust in employee survey confidentiality so that they are more inclined to give their honest feedback, but I couldn’t leave without saying that the best way to build on trust from here is to visibly act on the employee feedback you receive.
Because when you can tell your people “You said, we did”, they know their feedback is being heard and are more likely to participate in the next survey – giving you the org-wide response rates you need to create informed organisational change.
If you’d like a better understanding of the challenges facing organisations as they seek to introduce employee surveying, book an intro with a member of our friendly team who’ll tell you a little bit more about our platform and People Science support, sharing real customer stories.