The golden trick to boost survey responses

depositphotos_3986434_xsI’ve spend multiple nights lying awake plagued with nightmares of low survey response rates. If you are someone who rolls out surveys on a regular basis, you may be able to sympathize with me. I spent the past year trying every trick in the trade to boost participation – especially for ONA (Organizational Network Analysis), as anything less than 90% could lead to gaping gaps in the network.

I believe I may have discovered the secret sauce & today I am sharing it with you. Here goes – get people into a room. This trick is deceivingly simple. The biggest bane of surveys is that you can always take them later until it’s too late. What this trick does is to block time on the participant’s calendar to take the survey. Not only that, it also eases sceptics into responding when they see their peers and leader taking the survey with them.

Here’s what you should do:

  1. Start with a mail talking about the survey, the purpose and throw in some FAQ’s for extra effect. Ideally, get the leaders to send out the mail.
  2. Block time on participant’s calendar. If you block calendars a week in advance, managers can then push for 100% attendance. Mention that they need to turn up with their laptops. (They may forget).
  3. De-brief team managers on the importance of the survey and equip them to answer questions if any. They also need to ensure that the team makes it to the meeting.
  4. On the D-day, the manager spends the first 5-10 mins requesting everyone to take the survey, its importance and answer questions if any. At this point, there is a high likelihood that everyone in the room is ready to take the survey.
  5. Everyone in the room then spends the next 20 minutes taking the survey and walking out as and when they are done.
  6. Get pleasantly surprised when you check response rates at the end of 30 minutes. Keep the survey open for an extra week for everyone who couldn’t make it to the meeting.

More things you should do:

  1. Ensure that you aren’t steam-rolling people in the room to take the survey. Always, I repeat, always ensure that the survey gives the participant the choice of opting out of taking the survey. If you miss this key aspect, it will come across as though they don’t have a choice. Also, mention the option of opting out in the first few minutes. Say that you would like everyone to participate however; they do have the option of opting out.
  2. Not apply it to every survey. It works for most but not all.

Through the above process, you have eliminated the two major barriers to taking surveys – time and skepticism. Post applying this technique, I haven’t seen survey responses drop below 96%. I’d love to hear how this worked for you.

Happy surveying!


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