10 Guidelines for Successfully Deploying an Employee Survey

many people putting up a thumps up

A client of TalentMap’s recently achieved a remarkable 96 percent participation rate on their employee engagement survey.  The organization’s internal efforts deserve praise. At 7:00 am members of the HR team were at entrance ways greeting people with chocolate bars and reminder notes to fill out the employee survey launching that morning.

Simple. Smart. Effective.

Deploying employee surveys to draw high participation rates can be achieved in a number of different ways beginning with these 10 best-practice guidelines.


Get the conversation going internally. If you don’t, chances are you’re not going to get a good response rate unless people are really vocal. Use the communication templates and posters available to you through your vendor. TalentMap and other like-minded survey experts offer demonstrably proven pre and post, launch, and reminder tools to make your job easier.

2. Follow recommended scheduling strategies
  • Plaster posters throughout your organization.
  • Hold pre-survey management sessions to get everyone on board, beginning with your executive team. If you wish, open TalentMap pre-survey management webinar sessions to all staff.
  • Three weeks before deploying an employee survey your internal communication should be in full force.

3. Be Transparent

If people are getting an employee survey delivered directly to their email or are asked for demographics, they’re going to be suspicious about the confidentiality of their responses.

  • Be upfront about confidentiality.
  • Communicate how demographic information is captured and stored exclusively by your third-party vendor – your organization has no access to data – at all.
  • Indicate that no reports or scores will be released (by TalentMap) to your organization for any groups of less than five.

4. Find the Right Time to Deploy
  • Do not deploy employee surveys just before collective bargaining starts or shortly after negotiations have been ratified. Responses could be negatively or positively biased.
  • Avoid traditionally busy times (such as back to school week for educational institutions, the fiscal year end or budget forecasting periods).

5. Deploy an Employee Survey on a Tuesday at 10:00 AM

TalentMap recommends deploying an employee survey on a Tuesday at about 10 am because people are back into the rhythm of their work.

  • Mondays – people are just back to work after the weekend planning their day and the week ahead. They’re bombarded with emails and “TO DOs” and typically start off by going into their email, clearing their inbox and deferring non-urgent stuff. Consequently, surveys deployed on Monday tend to get deferred.
  • First thing in the morning most people go through are their emails.
  •  You want it to come when people will read it and do it right then and there, straight away. By 10:00 am people have come in, they’ve got their morning coffee, they’re settled.
  • Wednesdays and Thursdays people are into the cut and thrust of the week; meetings are happening, people are embroiled in more last-minute activity, but as launches go Wednesdays and Thursdays are acceptable. The same 10 am morning launch applies.
  • Fridays – many people head off early or take off the day; their head is on the weekend.

6. Aim for High Response Rates on Day 1

With any employee survey, your objective should be to get the highest response right out of the gate. A good response rate after day one is 20 to 25 percent. After a week your rates should be at least 50 percent.

7. Deploy the Survey for 2 weeks 

The standard run for an employee survey is two weeks. Stick as close to this as possible

  • Two weeks generally accommodates people on vacation, people who are busy, people who are hard to reach or are casual workers.
  • If the participation rate isn’t where you want it to be, a week extension is okay.
  • Any more than three weeks generally doesn’t make a difference. If someone hasn’t completed their survey – they don’t want to complete it.
  • An extended survey run beyond three weeks simply elongates response times for people who are last minute and creates room for people to lose or misplace the survey email. Don’t do it.

8. Send Reminders

Send reminder notices using the recommended timelines and templates available to you.

  • Anywhere between 20 and 50 percent of responses come in the first couple of days.
  • Then you’ll get a lull.
  • Send a reminder.
  • You’ll see a blip in responses.
  • Then another lull.
  • Send another reminder to trigger another response boost.

9. Track Response Rates

Ask your survey partner about their live response rate tools. TalentMap can look at demographic cuts from the back-end and know where surveys are being completed. For reasons of confidentiality access to this tool may not be offered. However, if offered your organization can focus extra communication where needed in order to increase response rates.

10. Make the Survey Accessible to All your Employees

Keep in mind people in the field or people who aren’t sitting in front of a computer for a good chunk of the day may need time or other concessions.

  • Set up computer stations in staff rooms for production workers, or doctors and nurses. (As a for instance, a trucking company working with TalentMap, took iPads to stop stations for their drivers).
  • Consider giving time allowances to production workers, health care workers and others who don’t work at a computer, have brief/designated coffee or lunch breaks and may not be inclined to use that personal time to fill out an organization-sponsored survey.

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