Quick Summary: Want more employees to tell you what they like and loathe? Surveying them online can generate immediate, powerful, anonymous feedback that fuels your programming and benefits decisions
Your employees will respond to online surveys more often if you avoid these common mistakes.
1. Don’t begin before setting objectives. Before considering questions to ask employees, know your goals for conducting a survey in the first place. What actions do you want to take as a result of the survey? Create a strategy to use the data you collect.
Quick tip: If you have a firm plan to begin, end, or alter an agenda or program, and you’re going to take that course regardless of the feedback, don’t waste everyone’s time by surveying. Only create a survey if you’re truly interested in the results.
2. Don’t make the survey a surprise. Give employees at least one heads-up. Let them know when to expect the online survey, and consider sending them a calendar reminder through your email or organizational software to heighten awareness on the survey date.
3. Don’t neglect the subject line or introduction. Employees won’t open your online survey if they don’t make it past the “Is this important to me?” test. Regard the subject line as the gatekeeper—make it brief and compelling. Also, name your survey and write a brief introduction to give employees some background and a frame of reference. It also prepares them for what’s to come.
Quick tip: Let respondents know what they’re getting into, before they start the survey: Tell them how many questions you’ll be asking, or give an estimate of the time needed to complete your survey.
4. Don’t ask for more than 5 minutes of employees’ time. The longer your survey, the more rushed respondents tend to become. Keep the questions focused, and more employees will focus in kind. Ask questions only if the answers will give you useful insight. Also, minimize open-ended questions to one per survey. These require a written response and can wear down employees, reducing the quality of their answers.
Quick tip: If a question isn’t important enough to include in your report on the survey’s findings, then remove the question. Envision each question as its own specific theory that you’re testing.
5. Don’t use biased language. You’re developing the online survey to find out what your audience thinks; it’s not a proper forum for you to air your perceptions or opinions.
6. Don’t ignore supplemental media. Use other communication tools—posters, newsletters, automated voice mails, for example—to call attention to the survey, both before and after you send it to employees.
7. Don’t send the survey at 4:45 p.m. on a Friday. An ideal time to release surveys is in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon, when people are most likely to be on email and not overloaded with messages.
• Jot down your most important question, based on your main objective. Make that the first question, to be followed by others that flow logically and can be answered quickly.
• Consider ways to reach employees who cannot be reached by online surveys. Their responses are valuable too.
• Prepare an automatic or personalized email to eventual survey respondents, expressing appreciation for their feedback. In the message, let them know how you’ll plan to use their input and give them an easy way to provide additional feedback at their convenience. Also, plan to make the survey results available to employees to enhance their engagement.
• Plan a way to report back to employees (meeting, posted results online, other media channels), showing that your organization is accountable and responsive.
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