Why Some Employees Ignore Surveys & How You Can Win Their Buy-In

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You’ve launched employee surveys, yay! You’re ready to start acting on feedback and planning ahead. The hard bit is over, or so you thought…

When only a portion of your workforce has taken the time to complete your latest employee survey, you can be left pondering, “how can we get more of our people to respond to employee surveys!?”

Now, while my buddy Claire has already expertly shared 15 Fail-Proof Ways To Improve Survey Participation, I’m keen to get to the root of response rate issues, which usually lie in your people’s perception of employee surveying.

I’ve rounded up six real employee concerns that I hear regularly in my role as Hive’s Customer Success Executive and suggested how you can change survey perceptions—through action and communication. These key pointers on building trust should hopefully send you well on your way to creating an open and honest feedback culture.

Donna Petrie at Work
Customer Success Manager Donna, pictured amidst Hive’s recent office move.

1. “Nothing will ever change around here, what’s the point?”

Ah, that familiar sound of cynicism. You’re working flat out to nail your survey strategy but they’ve heard so many other plans for change before, and in their defence, not much has ever changed, and when it has, it’s been at a glacial pace.

Begin your surveying with an internal communications campaign, geared to excite employees with your organisation’s appetite for change. Your efforts are genuine which should shine through you’ve invested in software to give your people a voice, so through communications, let them know this is the channel for their feedback moving forward and bring them on the journey with you. 

Top tip here; involve your change influencers (think senior leaders) and employee advocates in your communication plans; making noise from all directions.

2. “We’ve given survey feedback before and never seen any action.”

So nobody had time to sift through the data from the 50-question annual survey last March and you’re now tasked with gathering more up-to-date employee feedback. The problem is, survey apathy is real and if you haven’t shown much action in the past, it can take time to build employee trust. 

It’s important to show people that you acknowledge previous mistakes, even if they were made before your time, and then make sure you have a solid plan in place to communicate action after surveys have taken place. 

That doesn’t mean broadcasting plans for huge changes with unrealistic timings. Initially, you could simply share the feedback headlines and core themes. Once you’ve identified the themes, it’s then much easier to figure out what can and needs to be done first and also what can wait; before sharing solid actions with your people.

(And if you know there’s no budget for ping-pong tables and hammocks, tell them that—transparency builds trust, false promises don’t.)

3. “Surveys are too long—I don’t have time to take part.”

If you’re repeatedly being told surveys are too long, it could be time to refresh your strategy and send shorter surveys that allow you to focus on the things that matter most to you and your people.

Investing in a customisable platform, like Hive, will give you way more freedom when it comes to survey length and also has always-on features like ‘Suggestions’, which gives employees a way of sharing thoughts outside of survey windows.

(Giving people notice that a survey is coming, and encouraging managers to free up time amongst their teams, is a great way of driving participation too.)

4. “The questions aren’t relevant to my role.”

Louise in Finance has a point—she was on holiday when the team building day took place, why has she had three reminder emails to fill in a survey about it? 

The best approach to surveying is always to send the right questions to the right people at the right time. Hive’s Targeted Campaigns, for example, allows our customers to set up separate surveys targeted to specific departments, locations, teams or group of users. This doesn’t affect overall engagement scores (and stops you feeling like you’re pestering the people who don’t need to take part!)

5. “Senior leaders don’t really care what we have to say.”

Senior leaders are seen as the big wigs, the key decision-makers, and so when there’s no real interaction between the C-suite and your front-line employees— people could feel like their everyday issues aren’t a priority.

Senior leadership team visibility (or lack thereof) is a common area for concern raised in Hive surveys, so before you kick-off your first survey, your leaders need to communicate that they are open to feedback (and change) for anyone to believe their opinion matters.

Besides, HR and People teams shouldn’t have to shoulder the weight of driving organisational change off the back of surveys. Senior leaders should be engaged in employee surveying from the off— shaping the strategy, leading communications and playing a big part in actioning feedback.

Building faith in leaders can take time but empowering your people to take their ideas directly to the top can be one of the most powerful drivers for cultural change. Alongside surveying, many Hive customers have seen great engagement results by setting up employee voice forums with senior leaders present and organising ‘Lunch with the CEO’ initiatives.

YHN Customer Story Image
Your Homes Newcastle’s Employee Forum gives their people an influential voice.

6. “How do I know my feedback is really confidential?”

Last but not least, one of the most common concerns and reasons for not taking part is the fear of being identified. Nobody wants to slate their manager and then get the cold shoulder for the rest of the year, or feel like they’ve ruffled feathers over stating their preference of tea bags in the kitchen.

Your survey platform should allow you to keep employee identities confidential. Hive for one is completely committed to confidentiality, as are our customers—who realise that the more confident their people feel to give honest feedback, the more likely they are to share the most valuable insights.

(Stay tuned for our Ultimate Guide to Employee Survey Confidentiality—coming soon!)

So that’s it! I hope this gives you some helpful ways to build employee trust in surveys. Best of luck, and Team Hive are always happy to help!

Donna Petrie is our Customer Success Executive – she works side-by-side with our awesome customers, helping them create workplace change with Hive.

Read more Hive blogs by Donna, and Connect with Donna on LinkedIn.

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