Employee survey response rate is one of those high-level metrics that there’s no escaping when running surveys—but what if we told you that there’s a lot more to it than just the number of people who’ve answered your questions?
Since you’re reading this, that probably means you’re wondering whether your response rate is high enough (or how to give it a bit of a boost).
But there’s way more at play than a percentage, and when we focus too much on that number in itself we’re getting hung up on the wrong things.
So let’s explore:
- why we need to look beyond what the number is
- how to get better acquainted with why we might get a certain response rate
- and how we can use that information to drive our survey strategy forward.
What does a ‘good’ employee survey response rate look like?
A ‘good’ response rate is one where your data gives you the confidence that the feedback you’ve gathered is truly representative of your workforce.
We call this your ‘authentic response rate’ because your data will be packed with real insights that are a true reflection of how people are feeling—aka authentic responses—and that’s way more important than focusing on response rate numbers alone.
While that might not be the simple answer you were looking for, we’ll offer you this as a guiding point…
Our People Scientists recommend response rate goals of over 70% for your baseline engagement surveys and over 50% for your pulse surveys.
Not quite the figures you were expecting? Let’s dive into the detail a little more to find out why.
Why we shouldn’t always aim for ‘perfect’
It would be easy to tell you that a good employee survey response rate is anything above 90%, but that would be misleading.
The gist of it is: it’s better to have a lower response rate filled with rich and sincere insights where people have truly expressed vulnerability around how they’re feeling (your authentic response rate). More so than having a 90% response rate that’s packed with a load of false-positive responses because your participants have been pressured or incentivized into completing the survey.
In the most ideal scenario, those authentic and data-rich insights would come from as many people as possible. But unless people are motivated to provide feedback, there’s little use in gathering it.
That’s because if people aren’t motivated, all it does is provide us with those false-positive responses that leave us with unmeaningful and invalid data.
There are a number of reasons why people might not feel motivated to provide candid and constructive feedback, so let’s chat about what makes people want to respond to a survey (and how it can help to drive your strategy moving forward).
What drives people to respond to a survey?
We’re all used to being asked for feedback: we have a call with a customer service department, we’re asked to rate the service given; we go to restaurants, we’re asked to leave a review on TripAdvisor.
And every time we’re asked, whether we realise it or not, we do a quick risk-reward analysis in our head to figure out how worthwhile it is for us to provide that feedback.
And when it comes to asking people to participate in employee surveys, the same applies. So when you invite your people to participate in a new survey, they’ll likely be thinking:
- How long is this going to take?
- Will my responses really be confidential?
- Will my feedback even be heard?
- What will happen with the feedback I give?
If your response rates are poor, the most likely scenario is that the answer to one (or more) of those questions isn’t quite hitting the mark for your people.
Improving your authentic employee survey response rate
Quite often, low response rates come down to the way you position your approach to employee feedback. Only when you’ve created an environment where people feel comfortable to provide open and honest feedback will you be able to see higher response rates AND meaningful data.
But that positive attitude towards providing feedback won’t develop overnight, even when you communicate a new approach. The truth is, there are loads of strategies to consider to help you boost your meaningful response rate—but the best place to start is with open communication.
Make sure people know that the survey is just the very start of the process by communicating your plans for driving positive change, because the best way to spark a better employee survey response rate is by shouting about the benefits of participating in surveys and your strategy for success. So get your internal comms cap on!
Lets chat! If you’re keen to find out about how our People Scientists can help you improve your authentic employee survey response rates along with our suite of employee feedback tools, book an intro with a friendly Hive specialist.
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