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Article | EX Insights

Survey best practice: Driving participation through effective communications


By Cheryl King | December 2, 2019

Successful surveys require healthy participation. Short of making an employee survey mandatory – which comes with some drawbacks – the surest way to secure a strong participation rate is communicating it effectively.

Our experience shows there are three core elements that need to be highlighted in a communications campaign to drive participation:

  1. How to participate
  2. How the results will have an impact, and
  3. How employee confidentiality will be preserved.

Your communications plan will likely vary depending the type of survey you are conducting: Census survey or a targeted survey for a smaller section of your population.

Communication plans for census surveys versus targeted pulse surveys

Company-wide census surveys are big events and shouldn’t go by without the awareness of all employees. They require a comprehensive communications plan, which typically includes messages from leaders, digital content on your intranet, posters, flyers and email campaigns.

Key messages include how and when to participate, what actions have been taken based on previous feedback, what you plan to do with the results, and specifically who will see the survey results, when, and with what expectations.

Emphasizing the safeguards in place to protect employee confidentiality is also critical. This should include, at a minimum, the group size cut-off for reporting (e.g., 10 employees). Survey champions may also be appointed to help generate awareness, explain the importance of the survey and alleviate concerns around confidentiality in a more personal and localized way.

If you aren’t inviting all employees to take part in a survey, you may opt for a more low key communications strategy, which might simply include the invitations and reminders. In these cases, it is important to explain why not everyone is taking part and any criteria for participation.

Survey invitations

No matter what kind of survey you are running, you’ll likely send invitations to participate via email. With Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software, you can easily customize your survey invite and reminder emails for HRIS-based surveys, branding them to match your online survey.

These branded emails not only provide employees with their unique survey link, but can also be used to share information about the purpose of the survey, when the survey closes, how the results will be used and who to contact with questions. If you’re running a non-HRIS-based survey, we recommend sending survey invitations directly to participants using an internal distribution list.

Boosting survey response rates with reminders and competition

Once your survey has been live for a week or so, you might also consider sending out reminder emails. The cadence will depend on your response rates. You can also use the response rates to create a sense of competition between locations, departments and teams. No one wants to be the team with the lowest response rate! Sharing final response rates is also a nice opportunity to thank people for their participation and set expectations about survey follow up.

Post-survey communications and follow up

The need to communicate does not subside when the survey closes. If anything, it is even more important to have a clear plan about how to share the survey results with leaders and employees, as well as what actions (and by whom) are planned. Failing to do so may make employees feel that their views are not valued and that can affect their willingness to engage in any future efforts to collect feedback.

Like any other organization-wide initiative, employee surveys benefit greatly from a communication plan that is appropriate in scale and tone and creates a sense of excitement amongst employees.

Sign in to your Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software account today to start a new survey or contact us for a demo.


Client Success Manager
Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software

Cheryl supports our Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software clients, helping them to get the most out of the software. When Cheryl is not working, you’ll probably find her outside of the UK on an impromptu adventure.  Follow Cheryl on LinkedIn.

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