Blog: 6 simple ways to boost survey response rates

Strategic HR

6 simple ways to boost survey response rates

There are several surveys that one takes in a day. Find out how you can stand out in the survey crowd with these innovative steps.
6 simple ways to boost survey response rates

Employee engagement surveys have been the center of discussion for a long time now. Turns out, there is a lot of research out there that focuses entirely on making our lives easier when it comes to surveys.

There’s always been a great push for 100% coverage. It takes no genius to know that the higher the response rate, the closure the results will be to the actual scenario. However, in reality, we don’t need 100%. It is a ‘good to have’ but definitely not a ‘need’. As long as you have a representative sample responding to the survey, you are good to go. The challenge is knowing what the ‘representative sample’ is. So an easier way is to use the below table as reference and then determine for yourself if the extra effort for the push from 90% to 95% coverage is worth the effort.


If you are still lagging behind on your response rate, here are some ways to boost the effectiveness of your survey.  

Trim, trim, trim

I bet you’ve heard this a million times but I am still going to repeat it for it’s probably the best thing you will ever do for your survey. The longer the survey, the more likely it is that the response rate will be lower (Herberlien & Baumgartner, 1978; Steele, Schwendig & Kilpatrick, 1992; Yammarino, Skinner & Childers, 1991). Look at the content with critical eyes. Is there a question that tests for ‘validation’? If yes, has it been statistically tested? If not, discard. Combine questions where possible. Discard when repeated. Ask yourself if the survey really needs 20 questions instead of 10. 

2-weeks minimum

The ideal time to run a survey is 2 weeks. Over half the responses are likely to arrive on Day 1. Seven out of eight responses come in within the first week (90% within 3 days). Post that the response rate mostly dips. It is recommended that the survey be open for 2 weeks for two reasons – (1) those on leave can return and fill in the survey (2) time to react to the reminder.


One reminder mail should usually cut it. I have seen organizations bombard mailboxes with endless mails from different leaders. Not an effective method. You might get a higher response rate but it is more likely that the employees are just drawing patterns on the survey. While 10 days from launch date is a good time to send out a reminder, it varies depending on how long you keep your survey open. 

Subject Line

Use mail merge, the advanced features on Qualtrics or do whatever needed to include the name of the person in the survey invite. Two things make for a strong subject line – Personalization & Proximity. Make sure that your subject line includes the name of the participant and that you convey your message as quickly as possible (4-5 words). Most email clients [e.g. MS Outlook] only display the first few words of a subject line, so it pays to make them count. A study done by email monitoring company Return Path showed that, “subject lines with 49 or fewer characters had open rates 12.5 percent higher than for those with 50 or more,” and that, “click-through rates for subject lines with 49 or fewer characters were 75 percent higher than for those with 50 or more.”

Launch Time

Response rates and times are best for surveys sent out between 6:00AM and 9:00 AM, at the beginning of the workday – but not on Monday morning. Though response times are quicker in the evenings, response rates are low. Surveys that haven’t been sent by 3:00 PM should wait until the next business day. The ideal day? Mostly mid-week. 

Be Honest

Lastly, be honest about how long the survey is going to take. Do not say 5 minutes, when it is going to take them much longer. Test out the survey and check how long it actually takes. Do not lose credibility over this. Also, be honest about how you will be using the survey results. It is a good idea to share the results with the respondents along with an action plan. It helps them see value in the exercise and makes them open to retaking the survey in the next run.

Well, there you have it – six simple ways to ensure you hit an all new survey response high! Good luck!

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Topics: Strategic HR

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