How to Improve Employee Engagement Survey Response Rates

by Jun 23, 2017Employee Engagement Training

Organizations that measure employee engagement annually see a 2.5 times greater increase in engagement than those that survey less frequently.


When you invest in your talent and treat employee feedback as an evolving, ongoing conversation, employees know that their voices are heard and their needs are supported. Assuming that you act upon the survey results each time, you reap the benefits of having an engaged workforce: higher productivity, enhanced profitability, and people who will stick with you. But how do you make sure all voices are heard? How do you maintain high for best practices for employee engagement survey implementation” href=”” title=”How to Do Employee Engagement Surveys Right”>employee engagement survey participation rates?

Simply sending out annual employee engagement surveys isn’t enough to make sure all voices are heard. You can’t get accurate, actionable data to assess and improve engagement if your employees don’t or can’t respond to surveys. To maximize the employee voice, it’s important to interact and communicate with employees during the survey-taking process. And this isn’t just a hunch – our latest research shows why.

We believe that communication (or lack thereof) before, during, and after the survey period can make or break your current engagement survey and set the tone for how seriously employees will view next year’s survey. In this study we looked at one segment of that communication process — during the survey period — to analyze how survey response rates were influenced by email reminders.

First, we found that organizational size strongly relates to employee engagement survey response rates, as shown below.

Graph #1

Smaller organizations consistently achieve higher response rates than organizations with substantially more employees. This is likely because smaller companies are often less compartmentalized and have fewer position levels, which can allow for higher accountability and faster, more effective communication.

Although final response rates differ by organizational size, a follow-up question is whether those rates are influenced by communications — email reminders in this case — that are sent during the survey period. To answer that question, we analyzed response rate differences between email reminders, again broken out by organizational size. We found two important results:

  1. Survey response rates increase with reminders
  2. Similar response rate trends exist across organizations of all sizes

The chart below shows the improvement in response rates with each email sent out to remind employees to take the survey.

Graph #2

Reminders positively relate to response rates for all organizational sizes. This is not to say that some organizations can’t achieve high participation rates without reminder emails, but there is a high likelihood that it plays an important role. Furthermore, the trend that larger organizations receive lower average response rates remains true regardless of reminders.

Communication is crucial during every stage of the engagement survey process. Before and after the survey period, employees want to know that their voices are heard and will be used to drive positive change. During the survey period, the simple act of a reminder can motivate employees to participate in the survey and give you actionable, representative perceptions about your company.

Employee feedback is a return on your investment in their talent, a vehicle for growth in employee engagement and business outcomes. If employees don’t think actions will be taken after providing feedback, they might view the survey as fruitless and forego participation in any following surveys. And sometimes, receiving fewer responses can speak louder than the responses themselves.

The research sample is comprised of 173 organizations that completed our engagement survey between 2015 and 2016. For all organizations, we gathered response rate data before their first, second, and third email reminders. Most survey periods last for 10 business days.

To learn more about increasing employee engagement, download The Top 10 Most Powerful Ways to Boost Employee Engagement.


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