Without a doubt, employee surveys are the most widely used employee engagement tool. Surveys make it possible for employers to gather workforce feedback quickly and easily in a form that’s convenient and comfortable for participants. They are often easier to set up and manage than other feedback mechanisms. Plus, acceptance rates show that employees prefer surveys over other tools. However, you can have too much of a good thing. In fact, research indicates that a constant flow of surveys can be costly and self-defeating. That’s because it leads to survey fatigue.
What is Survey Fatigue?
Survey fatigue is a common issue that HR and business leaders should keep in mind when seeking employee feedback. On one hand, people tend to appreciate being asked for input. On the other hand, surveys can reach a point of diminishing returns when employees become emotionally tired and disengage from the process. This happens for multiple reasons:
- When people receive too many survey requests within a short timeframe,
- When survey logic, structure, or content is overly complex,
- When surveys are unnecessarily long or repetitive,
- When people feel their feedback isn’t seriously received.
Survey fatigue decreases participation rates. This, in turn, can reduce data accuracy and understanding of employee community sentiment.
How Does Survey Fatigue Affect Employee Satisfaction Programs?
The goal of a good survey is to obtain the most reliable insights from a representative cross-section of your employee base. The higher the participation rate, the more accurate your response data is likely to be.
Survey fatigue can translate into lower overall response rates that jeopardize data quality. This seriously threatens your ability to gather valuable information about workforce satisfaction, morale, cultural health, and overall employee experience.
Can you conduct an effective survey with a low response rate, if the data is representative of your overall employee community? Yes. But only if you are very sure that the lower number of respondents is actually statistically representative of the larger group. And that is difficult to accomplish.
Here’s one reason why: People with strong opinions or extreme positions aren’t affected by survey fatigue, so they’re more likely to respond. That’s because they’re highly motivated to make their voice heard.
As a result, the survey data will reflect only the most extreme views. It won’t accurately represent the majority view because survey fatigue caused other employees to abandon the feedback process. This is a type of survey bias called non-response bias.
How to Avoid Survey Fatigue
It’s important to understand the most frequent causes of survey fatigue, as well as best practices to avoid it. While there’s no single way to prevent fatigue in employee surveys, combining multiple methods can help you develop engaging, accurate surveys that yield high response and completion rates.
Here are 5 strategies to try (including one you’ve probably haven’t yet considered):
1. Limit Survey Frequency
One of the most important ways to avoid survey fatigue is to carefully time the cadence. Some organizations assume “more is better,” so they send multiple surveys every month. But that kind of pace can overwhelm employees, and may overwhelm your staff, as well. Instead, step back and consider your goals. Then develop fewer surveys, each with a specific objective. For example, you can use pulse surveys to get a quick snapshot of employee sentiment about key topics of interest. On the other hand, a full-scale engagement survey is more appropriate for measuring overall employee satisfaction and commitment.
2. Keep Surveys Concise
Long, complex surveys can be overwhelming. They’re likely to discourage employees from participating. It’s important to keep every survey targeted, concise, and to-the-point.
3. State Your Purpose Every Time
You’ll want to be sure employees understand each survey’s objectives and importance. When people know how their participation can affect their work life, they’re likely to take the time to share their opinions. For example, let’s say you want to know how employees feel about your return-to-work policy before you adjust it. Tell them upfront you’re gathering feedback about this because you’re planning to implement changes next quarter.
4. Remember, Timing Is Everything
Survey timing can have a significant impact on response. For instance, surveying employees during busy or stressful timeframes may produce inaccurate results, because people may not have the time or energy to respond as fully or thoughtfully as they normally would. Instead, distribute the survey when employees are likely to provide meaningful feedback. And be sure to keep the response window open long enough to collect data from those who want to participate.
5. Tap Into the Power of Passive Listening
Here is one feedback strategy you probably haven’t considered yet — passive listening. Thanks to new technology, these capabilities are revolutionizing the traditional survey process. By leveraging AI technology, passive listening can improve your understanding of employee morale, work culture, and trending topics in work conversations. All of this intelligence is gathered automatically in real time, and is continuously available for deeper analysis and action.
By working in the background, passive listening gives HR teams a wealth of employee sentiment insights without forcing people to respond directly to a survey. In addition, passive listening helps HR and business leaders make future surveys even better by providing a head start in understanding what employees already think about key issues.
Survey fatigue can harm your organization’s efforts to gather valuable information about retention, satisfaction, morale, cultural health, and the overall employee experience. But you can avoid fatigue by reducing the frequency of feedback requests, keeping surveys concise, clarifying your purpose, carefully scheduling delivery timeframes, and relying on passive listening tools to gather helpful intelligence without having to develop and distribute surveys.
By following these guidelines, you can increase overall feedback and improve data accuracy, while gathering more valuable workforce insights.