How to Increase Employee Engagement Survey Participation

Megan Thompson · August 24, 2021

Many HR leaders want to know how to increase employee engagement survey participation. Often, survey questions have been written, edited, approved and sent out to employees, but why have an average of only 5% – 30% of people responded?

It can be incredibly frustrating and demoralising for HR leaders who understand the benefits and importance of engagement to see low response rates. So how can you increase employee engagement survey participation rates?

Should we just analyse our limited responses?

If your goal is truly understanding what employee engagement looks like in your organisation, then a response rate of 30% won’t give you a clear picture. People generally do things because they feel it will be in their interest. Therefore, those people who do participate are much more likely to be your engaged members of staff, and you’re getting the best response from the people you don’t need to know about quite so urgently.

To get the full picture you must increase your employee engagement survey participation to 80-100%.

How to increase employee engagement survey participation


how to increase employee engagement survey participation

Most employers opt for an anonymous survey in a bid to increase employee engagement survey participation. But could non-anonymous surveys actually offer a more compelling reason to participate?

If you are invited to a party that you would really rather not attend, the diffusion of responsibility effect lets you off the hook as long as there are others present and your absence won’t be noticed. This same effect allows subjects in anonymous surveys to duck out and let others take the strain, explaining why response rates are actually lower in anonymous surveys in our experience.

​​Because anonymity decreases our accountability, it also decreases motivation to answer thoughtfully and precisely. Therefore, not only can non-anonymous surveys increase participation, but they actually gather better, more comprehensive data from more willing employees.

Better communication with employees and managers

It’s a simple, but improved communication is an effective way to increase employee engagement survey participation. We’ve found that managers can be just as sceptical as employees sometimes, so WeThrive uses two comms templates for managers and employees.

Before sending a survey, you need to let staff know your engagement survey is coming, what they should expect to happen and why they should take part. Reinforce the message that this survey will be used to enact positive change, as opposed to being another ‘tick-box’ exercise for HR or the board of directors.

For example, mention that: “This survey is about more than just listening. It’s about acting. We genuinely want to understand how you are feeling and use that information to improve your experience of work. If you give us your honest feedback, we will listen and act to improve the areas of work causing you stress, and will work together to improve everyone’s wellbeing.”

Managers can play a key role throughout the employee engagement survey process and boost participation rates by encouraging their team to take part. Therefore you must ensure they understand how valuable your survey is.

Avoid an in-house survey

A well-designed and implemented company survey will do its work whoever creates it, but in-house questionnaires often suffer from lower participation rates.

Staff can be cynical, especially in an organisation where they feel employee engagement and wellbeing is not prioritised. They may suspect that the questions will be weighted and the analysis performed so as to get the answers the board would want to see.

There is also the issue of trust – as the CIPD note “employees who trust their senior managers are in the minority,” and even more worryingly from the point of view of the in-house survey, nearly all non-engaged employees also distrust senior management, as do the majority of employees who are dissatisfied with their job.

Using an external provider to ask the questions adds a distance and independence that can increase employee engagement survey participation.

Get a 93% employee engagement survey participation rate with WeThrive

Increase your employee engagement survey participation rates with WeThrive. But how does our survey software achieve such high completion rates?

Instant and impartial results

Employees and managers can immediately reap the benefits of their participation once their survey closes. Results, analysis and recommendations appear instantly, so there is no confusion about exactly what employees, managers and leadership teams will gain post-survey.

Our surveys are designed by workplace psychologists (see our science) to do all the heavy lifting for you. WeThrive asks deep questions across the 16 areas that affect the way we work.

The minute your survey is closed our intelligent algorithm works out what needs to happen next. It shows you which areas you excel in, and which areas need additional support. No crunching data in spreadsheets or opinions and biases skewing your results. Get straight to the opportunities you need to focus on with instant action plans and recommendations.

The option to answer non-anonymously

At WeThrive we offer the option to survey your people anonymously or non-anonymously. In a healthy culture with attributable employee engagement survey results, anyone who takes part has an unwritten contract with their organisation: something along the lines of “I will tell you what I think needs doing if you will listen and do what you reasonably can.”

Build a culture of trust with non-anonymous surveys and reap the benefits, including increased employee engagement survey participation. Not one company has gone back to anonymous surveys after using WeThrive’s non-anonymous surveys, because the specific level of detail allows managers to do their best work quickly, knowing that any conversations they hold will be bang on target from the very start.

Internal communication templates

WeThrive’s platform is designed to increase employee engagement survey participation rates using multiple communication templates.

Managers and employees receive introductory emails ahead of scheduled surveys explaining what WeThrive is, what we do, and what they’ll gain from participating.

During the survey cycle, WeThrive sends multiple email reminders to employees who have not yet completed their survey. Automate time-consuming tasks with gentle nudges to improve your employee engagement survey participation.

Improve your employee engagement survey participation today and get 10 people free with WeThrive.