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Five reasons your internal surveys are generating low response

Cindy CrescenzoCindy Crescenzo·

“Surveys just don’t work for our organization. No one pays attention to them.” When it comes to using surveys to measure your internal communications, does this statement ring true to you and your organization?

It’s a popular issue with many companies and organizations of all sizes. In my opinion, you need to start out by identifying why they don’t work, and it usually comes down to these five reasons:

1. You over survey

Take a look at the calendar and see how often you are sending surveys. Even better, compare your schedule to other departments that may be sending surveys as well (marketing, HR, etc.). This can be a very eye opening exercise, and a crucial one. I mean, c’mon! How do you expect anyone to get any work done? Collaborate with other departments and do more with less.

2. It’s too long

One of my past clients had to deal with a consulting group who considered themselves to be “engagement specialists.” This meant that they saw it necessary to send out an engagement survey that was 106 questions long. That’s right. 106. And, do you think they were surprised when only less than five percent of the internal audience submitted a survey? Or were they surprised that out of those submitted, 90% of them were only partially completed?

Well, no they weren’t, because this consulting group consisted of the type of people who give consultants a bad name.  We need to respect our audiences, and especially with an internal survey, realize that people are trying to get their work done. Unless there is a REALLY good incentive (extra days off or a brand new car) don’t expect people to trudge through lengthy surveys. It’s just plain unrealistic.

It’s also good practice to tell employees how much time it should approximately take to complete the survey. By giving them a little insight into how much time they need to set aside to take your survey, you’ll help reduce the number of incomplete surveys.

Finally, when choosing which questions to include in your survey, ask yourself this question: “What will I do with the answers I receive?” If you don’t have an answer to this question, then why are you asking for this information in your survey?

You’re not only cluttering up your survey, you’re setting false expectations. If people are asked their opinion, they expect you to do something with it. If you can’t, simply don’t ask. The best surveys are all about keeping things simple.

3. Participants don’t understand the value or purpose.

This might be one of the most important reasons why surveys don’t work for your organization. If your audience doesn’t understand why they should give you their input, then why should they take the time?

When you administer the survey, let them know why their input matters. What will you do with the information? And, most importantly, AFTER the survey was sent and the results are tabulated, follow-up! Communicate the results at a high-level and then tell them what will be done based off the results.

Finally, don’t be afraid to use incentives. From cafeteria gift cards to company baseball hats, you’d be surprised what works. If you have the budget for it, use it to your advantage.

4. The survey isn’t relevant to all of your participants

Before you send out your survey ask yourself these two questions. 1) Can everyone who takes this survey answer all the questions? 2) Can everyone who takes this survey understand these questions?

If your answer is “no” to either of these questions you either have to a) re-think who you’re sending your survey to, or b) edit down your questions so they are relevant to everyone.

5. You don’t have manager buy-in

So many times employees don’t think they are “allowed” to take the time to participate in these surveys. I always recommend internal communicators work with their management team to help increase employee response on surveys.

Again, let them know why it’s valuable and why it’s important to get their employee’s input. Then, ask them to discuss the survey at their next team meeting and encourage employees to fill them out.

If your management team is reluctant, then you need to start at the top and get your executive or leadership team on board and have them encourage managers to get employees to participate.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you? If so, think about doing things differently. In good time you’ll start to see your response numbers on the rise … along with the valuable input you need to create communications with impact.

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