How to Avoid Program Fatigue on Your Lifecycle Program


Your employees will complete a lot of surveys during the various stages of their lifecycle. The data gathered is essential for your KPIs and to drive improvement. However, you may see response rates to a program dropping over time, indicating that the workforce is getting bored, or too busy to bother with surveys.

The stages in the employee lifecycle where program fatigue is most likely to set in are the development and retention phases. This is when employees are established and into the operating rhythm. New, onboarding employees tend to engage more keenly, so regular onboarding surveys are likely to achieve good response rates. A well-planned exit process will also ensure that you get a good response rate to your exit survey.

Here are some ways to avoid survey fatigue. Although these generally apply to an established workforce, the principles are worth bearing in mind across all the surveys in your employee lifecycle.

Have a clear purpose

When your surveys have a clear purpose, aligned with your business goals, feedback can be used to drive action and make change. Say why you’re running the survey, and what you’ll do with its findings. And when those changes happen and decisions are made, explain the contribution of the survey feedback to the action taken. Employees will appreciate a tangible value to the surveys they take and that their opinions really do matter.

Include pulse surveys in business as usual

For your employees, taking surveys is more work, on top of their usual workload. There’s a risk your workforce will get survey burnout and be unable or unwilling to participate effectively in your feedback program. When you incorporate surveys into your organisation’s operating rhythm, they seem less disruptive or out of the ordinary. For example, if your firm works on a quarterly basis, align surveys with regular quarterly reviews and reports; employees will then expect a quarterly survey as routine and be more likely to engage.

Make frequent surveys shorter

Generally, the more frequent your surveys, the shorter they need to be.

  • Weekly – 3-5 questions max

  • Monthly – up to 10 questions

  • Quarterly – 10-15 questions

  • Biannually, or annually – up to 25 questions

Avoid forced-response questions

No one responds well to being forced to answer questions and having to go back and answer a highlighted question causes frustration and even survey abandonment.

Exclude items that are unlikely to change

You don’t need to ask whether your employees like your company branding each time, unless it has changed. Being asked the same question constantly is boring and disengaging. Instead, focus on positive actions your business is taking. Perhaps you’ve implemented a new training program: it’s useful to ask about that in each survey so you can track how effective it is over time.

Streamline question scope

Minimise the effort employees make completing your surveys by ensuring questions are as specific as possible. Limit the number of open-answer questions to a maximum of two or three; it takes effort to think about and answer them, making your survey feel more unwieldy than it is, especially if employees have to re-answer them regularly.

Limit the timeframe

A weekly survey should ask only about last week, a quarterly survey only about the last three months. Your surveys will feel fresh and relevant rather than confusingly going over old, boring ground.

Communicate the results and be transparent

When employees rarely hear the outcomes of their surveys or they feel the results have been manipulated, they are less likely to engage with future questionnaires. Make sure results, whatever they are, are communicated to all participants. An automated HR platform can combine manual and automated transparency: managers can present their results to their area of the business as necessary, while high-level automated dashboards, set to as much or little depth as you wish, can make results available to all employees. Automated, real-time systems ensure transparency and communicate results in a timely way while reducing the administrative burden on the HR department.

Listen to the feedback!

When employees feel listened to, they will be much more likely to respond to future surveys. Make sure leaders acknowledge employee feedback, whether by email or in meetings. Employees will feel that they are being heard and can make a difference by participating in surveys.

See how Qualtrics can help you reduce program fatigue