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How to Increase Employee Survey Response Rates & Participation

By Betterworks
4 minute read
Updated on July 21, 2021
How to Increase Employee Survey Response Rates & Participation

Maximizing your survey participation and response rates is critical in gathering as many insights as possible about your workforce and employee engagement levels. However, increasing those rates is often easier said than done for HR departments that already have quite a bit on their plates. We’ve identified a set of factors that will help HR maximize participation in their engagement surveys, including:

  • The flow of work

  • Worker mobility
  • A manager’s role
  • Action from feedback
  • Other factors

With these best practices, HR can maintain a more accurate pulse on employee engagement within an organization. In the case of response rates, a greater number of participants means additional data points feeding the model, providing information more representative of the entire workforce for management to use in their decision-making.

Blend Into the Flow of Work

Organizations and industries naturally gravitate towards platforms and channels that blend into their specific operations. That notion, in a nutshell, describes the flow of work concept, where work and information flow through the channels that are most efficient and convenient within an employee’s everyday routine.

Survey response rates directly correlate with HR’s ability to distribute surveys within the flow of work. For instance, if a particular department spends most of their time sitting at a computer, then delivering surveys to their desktop makes it much easier for those workers to participate in a survey.

Response rates directly correlate with HR’s ability to distribute surveys within the flow of work.

Alternatively, a manufacturer with a largely deskless workforce will likely see greater participation using mobile apps for surveys, where notifications on a mobile device are a far more effective alert than an email when a worker is in the field or on a manufacturing line. Distributing surveys according to an organization’s particular flow of work will increase response rates and help maximize actionable insights. Simply put, participation increases when HR meets employees where they spend their time.

Match Worker Mobility to the Best-Fitting Channel

Taking a closer look at the flow of work concept, technology has provided HR with many new channels that make survey distribution easier and more effective. Some of the most common survey channels in today’s organizations include:

  • Collaboration hubs like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Workplace, and Google Hangouts
  • Email
  • SMS/text messaging, or get a phone number online for surveys (record calls, etc.)
  • Mobile apps like Slack, Beekeeper, Facebook Workplace, etc.
  • Website

Choosing the right channel for surveys depends on the organization, department, or even position. Response rates for field workers will be highest with channels built for mobile technology like apps and SMS. However, email is often most appropriate for management that spends most of their day at a computer. HR can increase organization-wide participation by using software that can distribute surveys through different channels for different workforce segments.

Employee Survey

A Manager’s Role

Management plays an important role in survey response rates. First and foremost, managers should always take the surveys themselves, not just for participative management purposes, but also to familiarize themselves with the process itself as well as each survey. When a manager sees that a survey contains question topics highly relevant to their team’s everyday work, they can emphasize the importance of participating in a way that is meaningful to employees.

A personal connection with survey results, perhaps through possible career growth opportunities or expanded benefits, provides plenty of incentive for workers to participate. However, a manager must be cautious with how they remind their team about the survey. A group email is often more effective than speaking directly to each individual, as many employees might find that tactic somewhat overbearing or confrontational.

Take Action on Feedback

One of the easiest ways to increase survey responses is to show that a workforce’s responses actually mean something. If employees see that nothing changes as a result of their feedback, they feel as if their voice doesn’t matter and will lack the incentive to participate. Conversely, workers are 4.6x more likely to feel empowered when their voice is heard, acknowledged, and acted upon. When management communicates with the workforce about survey results, it fosters transparency and a sense of trust, showing that leadership embraces the feedback and the areas for improvement it reveals. A workforce that feels like it has actual stakes in a survey and its results will be much more likely to participate.

Workers are 4.6x more likely to feel empowered when their voice is heard, acknowledged, and acted upon.

Other Factors to Increase Survey Response Rates

Aside from those best practices, other factors can either help increase survey response rates or provide HR with additional insights.

Survey Length

A thorough survey doesn’t necessarily have to be lengthy. Keep them as short as possible without sacrificing actionable data. Generally speaking, the more frequently HR sends out surveys, the shorter they should be. Likewise, distributing just one or two a year allows the organization to use longer surveys.


Anonymous surveys can play a pivotal role in increasing response rates. Anonymity gives employees a feeling of safety, where the employer cannot link identities to responses. Anonymous surveys also increase accuracy and authenticity in the feedback as workers feel more comfortable providing their honest opinions and thoughts without the fear of repercussions.

Keep it in Context

We typically see 75% average survey response rates across all industries, but organizations should view that figure in context to their own operations. In industries with a significant number of field workers or staff that are difficult to reach, a 60% rate is a good benchmark. However, in tech and other industries where employees spend most of their time at a workstation, 85-90% average participation is common. HR departments should judge their own organization’s response rate in relative terms.

Greater survey response gives management more accurate data to base their decisions while also providing HR with a better pulse on employee engagement. Our Employee Engagement Framework & Templates gives HR convenient survey questions they can customize to an organization’s specific needs. Whether you use our templates or your own questions, however, keep these best practices in mind to increase your survey participation and realize the many benefits improved employee engagement provides.