What influences employee survey response rates?

The response rate of an employee survey determines the validity of the results, the higher an organization’s response rate, the more likely the results will be representative of the population.  This provides greater confidence that the results are truly representative of the attitudes and perceptions of the total population of employees.

Many factors affect response rates to employee surveys.  Some of these may be within the organization’s control, while others are not.  The exact impact of each factor can be extremely difficult to quantify, primarily because the quality of survey implementation is rarely consistent across organizations, or across units within a given organization.  In addition, the various factors are likely to interact to affect response rate.  For example, efforts to allay concerns regarding confidentiality of responses is likely to be more successful in improving response rates within an organization characterized by high trust in management than one where trust is low.

Another consideration is the natural limit to survey response rates for organizations of any size.  For an organization larger than a few thousand, that limit is typically in the low 90-percent range.  This means efforts to improve survey response rates may have less impact as organizations approach their natural limit; that is, it will be much easier to improve the response rate from 45 percent to 55 percent than it will be to increase it from 75 percent to 85 percent.

Ten factors that can affect employee response and survey validity:
  1. Administration Method: When, where and how?
  2. Length of Administration Period: What’s the deadline?
  3. Communication: Before, during and after the survey
  4. Management Support: Are we taking this seriously?
  5. Trust in Management: How are the results being used?
  6. Response to Prior Surveys: If you’ve never listened to my feedback before, why should I bother?
  7. Incentives and Accountability: The “carrot” and the “stick”
  8. Questionnaire Length: Shorter is better in most cases
  9. Database Accuracy: Have the right contact information
10. Mobile Technology: Test compatibility over all platforms

For more information, click here to download my white paper on this subject.


Functional Expert to Visionary Leader

There’s been a lot said about how Marissa Mayer is doing as Yahoo’s CEO. Whether you think she was the right or wrong person for the job, we can all learn something about managing the transition from functional expert to visionary leader.

Get Ahead as a Functional Expert
Functional leaders are often promoted into bigger and bigger roles, without preparation for the adjustments they need to make to truly lead. This may the case for Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, the self-proclaimed “geek” who some criticize for micromanaging, even while she has engineered many strategic acquisitions.

Bridge the Gap from Technician to Leader
Essential to bridging the gap from technician to leader is building and sharing a vision that stirs employees’ passion and creativity.

  • Tell the Story: The first step is to articulate a story that inspires employees and that aligns talent within the organization.  The story explains where we’re going, why and how, and importantly – what employees can do to help achieve the vision.
  • Provide Tools: Next, the leader must provide managers and supervisors with tools so they can engage their employees in conversations about the vision and their role in achieving it.
  • The Benefit: Benefits include creating an environment where innovation and creativity can flourish because employees share the vision of the end-game and understand the parameters. This also strengthens retention.

Leadership is about building a vision, informing employees and simplifying so people know what to do

The actions Marissa Mayer has taken appear to be focused on executing functional changes rather than sharing a bigger, more inspirational story that creates space for employees to stretch and innovate. It’s the difference between saying “Apple is committed to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world ” and Mayer saying “We’re acquiring Tumblr and we’re spinning off Alibaba.”

Until now, Mayer has been approaching the organization as an engineer, adding this and removing that. But she has yet to express to employees what all this means; how will Yahoo! be different from Google or Bing? She can begin to cast her role as a visionary leader with purpose by sharing the big picture and – simply – explaining how the changes she’s making support this purpose.

For more information on storytelling or employee engagement, download these white papers from our web site.