Unless your office functions like an open mic night, you probably rely on employee surveys to gather feedback. When those qualitative responses are paired with hard data from an integrated workplace management system that tracks true behavior (such as use of space and assets), they can drive powerful changes within your company.

For instance, you can use the insights you gather to identify opportunities to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Further, you can create a more positive employee experience and ensure everyone has a voice within the company.

But when survey participation is low, it's difficult for management teams to gather the data they need.

You know your employees have no shortage of opinions. Here are five surefire ways to make sure they share them on your next survey.

Keep It Simple

Completing a survey should be a short and simple process for employees. While the ideal length may vary depending on your goals, most survey providers say it should take no more than 20-30 minutes. Sixty questions seems to be the sweet spot, according to the National Business Research Institute. Of these questions, SurveyGizmo recommends making the majority quantitative with answer options that are close-ended. When respondents don't have to craft answers from scratch, they are less likely to experience survey fatigue while filling out the form.

Include only those questions that are most relevant and phrase them in a way that is clear and concise. That way, employees understand exactly what is being asked of them and they can respond accordingly. SurveyMonkey recommends using a tone that is both approachable and formal. This will put employees at ease while also establishing credibility and ensuring they take the survey seriously.

Emphasize Confidentiality

When filling out surveys, the anonymity of the results are often a point of concern. This can skew the accuracy of the information shared and lead to lower response rates. Make it clear to employees that the results are 100 percent anonymous so they feel comfortable offering their honest opinions.

Choose The Right Software

There are many software solutions for conducting employee surveys, so choosing the right one really comes down to your organization's needs. A few things that should factor into that decision:

  • Ease of use and interactivity. Does the software make it easy to create new surveys and different types, such as quick "pulse" polls in addition to more formal surveys? Does it use branching logic and allow employees to skip questions that aren't relevant to them?

  • Analytics and reporting. Does it present the data in a format that's easy to view and share (so you don't have to spend days digging through spreadsheet data)?

  • Benchmarking data. It's difficult to know what a good score looks like unless you have some idea of how your results stack up next to others. Does the solution provide benchmarking data to give you some context?  

  • Integrations. How easily does the software work with other programs your organization is already using?

Cover the Benefits

The benefits of an employee survey may be obvious to management, but they may not be as clear to employees. Give employees an overview of how you plan to use their feedback and what's in it for them. For instance, if enough people voice frustrations with a particular software, you'll opt to stop using it. Once they better understand these benefits, they'll be more inclined to contribute.

Give a Nod to Past Employee Surveys

At some companies, results from previous employee surveys may have already contributed to initiatives and improvements. When this is the case, it's a good idea to cite these examples in subsequent communications. Seeing how feedback has prompted changes in the past will make employees more apt to participate in future surveys.

Promote Friendly Competition in the Office

Friendly competition is healthy in an office environment. Setting up a small competition for an employee survey can offer extra incentive for participation. Award prizes like a free lunch to the department or location that has the most employees respond.

The best ideas often come from your employees, but uncovering them requires a little bit of digging. A well-crafted survey is one of your best tools for bringing those raw ideas to the surface.

Just make sure you don't stop there. While getting your employees to engage can feel like an achievement in itself, you haven't truly accomplished anything until you've translated those results into meaningful changes. If your employees take the time to respond to your survey and don't see any follow-up, you'll lose their trust and their attention a lot faster than it took to gain it.