How do I improve participation rates?

What does participation rate mean for surveys?

The participation rate is the proportion of all surveyed employees who actually took part in a survey. A response rate is typically given as a percentage.

How is the response rate calculated?

The survey was sent to 100 people.
30 have taken part.
100*30/100= 30%
The response rate is 30%.

How satisfied can I be with my response rate?

For one-time surveys, you can rank this as follows: 
 +80% Very good   
50-80% Satisfactory
-50% Needs improvement 

Of course, different factors can explain particularly high or low numbers.

Where should I pay attention in my survey so that as many employees as possible take part in the survey?

  • Wording of the questions (are the questions easy to understand?)
  • Survey flow/logic (do the questions build on a topic or are they random, often it is better to address one topic per survey)
  • Survey topic (sensitive or niche topics may have fewer responses and completions)
  • Length of survey (shorter is better here so as not to demotivate employees)

What should I look out for in the people I survey?

  • Respondent's interest in the survey topic
  • Demographic factors (education, department, age, etc.)
  • Respondent's general willingness to respond

What can I do to influence the response rate?

Communication (pre-information)

Inform your employees before the survey:

  • Why the survey is being conducted.
  • What the topic of the survey is.
  • How they can participate in the survey.
  • What the next steps will be based on the survey.
  • Often employees ask whether the survey is anonymous or not.

Communication (when sending out the survey)

In the email about the survey, tell your employees how long the survey will take and whom they can contact if they have questions. If applicable, also tell them where they can see the results.

Keep it short

Long surveys (more than 15 minutes) bore respondents and reduce the response rate. Therefore, keep your survey short and to the point.

Send a reminder email (during the survey)

Remind your employees to take part in the survey after a week. This can increase the participation rate by up to 25%.

It also helps that managers can see their team's response rate so that they can address this again specifically in the team.

Communication (after survey)

It is important for employees to feel that something is happening with the results.

The following topics could be communicated from your side:

  • When will the results be published and who will have access to them?
  • What measures will result from the survey and when they will be implemented.
The follow-up is no less important than the preparation and has a considerable influence on the success of further surveys in your company.