How to avoid pulse survey fatigue | Qualtrics

“Survey fatigue” is a common fear for organisations when they embark on a new employee listening program. It is used to describe when organisations see response rates drop on a survey program over time, due to the workforce losing interest in responding. Survey frequency (e.g. the number of questionnaires employees are asked to complete) is often cited as the main reason behind survey fatigue, however, there are other ways that it can be avoided, outlined below.

8 ways to avoid survey fatigue:

Align your survey length to their frequency:

As a general rule of thumb, the more frequent your surveys, the shorter they should be. Some broad guidelines for potential lengths are below:

  • Weekly – up to 5-10 questions

  • Monthly – 10-15 questions

  • Quarterly – 15-20 questions

  • Bi-Annually – 20-30 questions

Avoid too many open-ended (i.e. comment) items

Items that need time and thought to answer can make the survey feel like a much larger effort to take for employees, especially when they have to re-answer them regularly. You should avoid having more than 2 or 3 open-ended items on any pulse survey. Interrogate every open-ended item on your survey and ask: Do you really need to include them? If so, do you need them every time period?

Avoid items that are unlikely to have changed

This often gets overlooked. Do you need to ask your employees if they are proud of their organisation every month, or even every quarter? How likely do you think that their attitude on this topic is going to have changed since the last time you asked? These types of items are unlikely to change month to month, so people may become bored being repeatedly asked about it, and in time disengage from taking the survey. Items which are closely linked to actions you’re taking in the business on the other hand, should be asked every time. For example you may be rolling out a new training program – asking employees every month whether they feel they have the right training to be successful is useful because you can track the progress of the roll-out.

Avoid using any forced-response items

Forced-response questions (i.e. questions which are mandatory to answer) can make a survey feel too difficult to bother completing. Employees who can’t move on through a questionnaire without having to go back and answer all the highlighted items are likely to feel frustrated, annoyed and more reluctant to engage next time.

Anchor it to a specific time period

By referring the survey back to a specific time period, say, the last month or quarter, your employees will respond based on that period, and will appreciate a pulse surveys relevance moving forward. It will help each pulse feel fresh, rather than create confusion about having to answer the same questions again.

Make the pulse part of your business as usual

This is a critical tip! Rather than being an out of the ordinary event, incorporate your pulse survey into your existing operating rhythm.

If, for example, you work on a quarterly basis, coincide your pulse survey timing with the start or end of each quarter, so that it feels like a more natural check-in point, and a part of the regular cycle of the company. Keeping to a regular schedule also means you can manage the post-deployment stages from analysing the results to developing action plans more effectively as you’ll have a set time when each stage needs to take place each month.

If you work on a quarterly rhythm, it’s a good idea to build your action plans towards the end of a quarter so they can feed in to team and manager objectives for the start of the next quarter.

Be transparent and communicative with the results

Responses that disappear into the ether, or communications on results that feel heavily sanitised soon disillusion your employees and participation rates drop.

Having to manually communicate results back to the business can be a burden for HR or leadership, so It’s a good idea to combine manual and automated transparency. Management can present their results to their part of the business as needed, while high-level dashboards with the organisation’s results (showing as much or as little depth as desired) can also be automated and available to all employees. The latter is a great way to ensure you’re being transparent and acknowledging the results, without creating an administrative burden for the organisation.

See how adidas runs its employee pulse surveys

Demonstrate that leaders are listening

It doesn’t need to be a big announcement after every survey, but leaders need to acknowledge feedback, either by email or during any existing meetings. Enabling this to happen relies less on creating a new organisational communications process, and more on your company leadership getting value from the pulse and feeling that it serves a purpose for them.

Therefore, setting a clear purpose for your pulse (and having that purpose align with the organisation’s goals) is critical. It will make it much easier (and much more genuine) to show people that their feedback is listened to and can result in real change. Ultimately, this is essential in order to get their buy-in for future surveys. When employees feel listened to, they will be much more likely to respond.

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