IC Matters › Best Practice

Surveys – what makes them fail or succeed?

Denise CoxDenise Cox·

As communicators, we hear and say the words ‘survey fatigue’ all too often in our working day.

It is often a symptom of polling too frequently, but more often it’s due to the way employees perceive the value of participating.

Surveys do have an important place in employee engagement. Research has shown us that when someone genuinely listens, employees give feedback and are more engaged. It is possible to build an atmosphere of trust when employees truly feel their opinions are of value to the company. Internal communicators can provide this facility through surveys. The key is acknowledging and using the results

The Employee Opinion Surveys agency laid out seven reasons employee engagement surveys fail.

Here are three elements of a survey that can lead to failure or success:

  • The survey is complicated or confusing

To fail: Questions are double-barreled or measure two different things. Both negatively worded and positively worded statements are used in the survey. Different rating scales are used. These types of questions provide mixed results, as participants have interpreted the questions differently.

To succeed: The survey should be easy to read, understandable, simple and straightforward. Ensure their responses will be confidential, and not result in any backlash from senior leaders. Be honest from the beginning about how long the survey will take. (Longer than ten minutes, and you’ll be in jeopardy of hitting the non-completion zone. Limit your survey to fifteen questions.)

  •  Survey results are not fed back to employees 

To fail: The longer you wait to get survey results into the hands of employees, the more they assume that the results will mean bad news. Even worse, no results are published.

To succeed: Get results back as soon as possible. A good time frame for this is no later than thirty days after senior management has reviewed the data.

  • There is no follow up on feedback

To fail: The number one contributor to ‘survey fatigue’ is setting a pattern that employees learn they have wasted their time, and actions are never taken as a result of their feedback.

To succeed: Communicate the results of the survey with your team, your stakeholders and employees. Share plans with employees for following through on the feedback.

Learn ‘How to create and run effective online surveys’ using this easy to follow how to guide, packed full of tips and best practice advice for Internal Communicators.


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