How to Communicate Your Upcoming Engagement Survey to Employees

Launching an employee engagement survey? Here's how to communicate the arrival of the survey to employees.

Employee engagement means a lot to you.

As an HR Director, you want to do more than pay lip service to employee engagement. You want to take meaningful action.

That’s why you conduct an employee engagement survey. You want to know how your employees are feeling, what their priorities are, and where their greatest concerns lie.

Getting these results is a privilege and it allows you to do your job better. And it’s always a pleasure when your survey results reveal huge trends and insights that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.

As you get closer to your employee engagement survey this year, however, you find yourself feeling much more ambitious.

Last year, it took a lot of convincing, cajoling, and reminding to get people to complete their surveys.

You get it. Your employees are busy, and improving employee engagement is your job, not theirs, so you don’t feel entitled to their time to complete this survey.

That said, you want them to feel excited and enthusiastic about completing the survey. You want them to genuinely look forward to the employee engagement survey as an opportunity to improve their employee experience, rather than as another chore management is forcing them to complete.

To make this happen, you decide to approach your engagement survey as something you need to sell to your employees. This is your “product” after all, and it’s up to you to demonstrate to employees that it’s something that will solve their problems and is worth getting excited about.

So you get into the office and get started on your employee engagement survey communication plan.

Why you should develop a survey communication plan

A communication plan ensures the right information gets to the right stakeholders at the right time.

Whenever you want to meet a complicated objective (e.g., like getting thousands of employees to thoughtfully complete an employee engagement survey) there are a lot of different people who need access to specific pieces of information.

What they hear and how they hear it impacts how they treat the information and whether they change their behavior.

It shapes the conversation

What’s the narrative around your employee engagement survey? When you’re launching an employee engagement survey, your survey is being greeted by many different people who have pre-existing assumptions about your survey and a plate full of tasks they need to accomplish. Your survey needs to compete with responses like:

  • “I don’t have time for this.”
  • “I’ll just quickly click “c” for every answer.”
  • “Don’t worry about the survey.”
  • “They don’t do anything with our responses anyway.”

These responses might be what employees are thinking internally, what their colleagues share with them, or how managers direct them to prioritize their time.

Your communication plan shapes the conversation around your employee engagement.

It provides context

You may be fully aware of what an employee engagement survey is and why it’s important, but that doesn’t mean all of your employees do.

Some of them may have never had to complete an employee engagement survey before.

Others, many have done employee engagement surveys only to see minimal change come out of them and have a low opinion of them.

And then there might be people who just want more information about why this is worth their time.

A communication plan also ensures employees hear about the survey before it hits their inbox. This reduces the amount of time spent convincing people to take the survey once it’s live. And it prevents people from assuming it’s spam when they receive it.

When you’re providing this context, don’t forget to empathize.

People often mistake good spelling or excellent grammar with good communication. While these are important parts of conveying a clear message, they’re not the only ingredient in good communication.

Good communication is about being understood. Period. If you craft a perfect email, but people don’t walk away with the message you were sending, then it’s a failed communication.

In other words, we need to ensure that we’re understood. This requires empathy. We need to step outside of our own selves and consider the person who’s receiving the message.

To give your employees good context about this employee engagement survey, you need to think about their experience, not yours.

As an HR leader, you’re thinking about how important employee engagement is, how much rich data this employee engagement survey is going to give your team, and how you’ll have a strong starting point to map out the year’s strategic plan for employee engagement.

Your recipients don’t care about this.

While they may understand the importance of employee engagement on an intellectual level, they don’t think about it on a day-to-day basis.

Instead, they’re thinking about whether they’re excited to go to work every morning or dreading it. Whether they’re empowered by their boss or whether their boss fills them with anxiety.

While they may understand the importance of good data for any project, they don’t really care about whether you’ll knock it out of the park with your employee engagement surveys.

They care about the time it’ll take to complete this survey and whether they’ll be able to squeeze it in between all the meetings they have that day.

If you want to create the right context for your employee engagement surveys, don’t forget to empathize.

It can be reassuring and set expectations

Don’t assume that everyone thinks the survey results are anonymous.

Your employees may believe that the organization has some way of knowing who said what.

Use your survey communication plan to let employees know that the survey is anonymous, why they should believe the survey is anonymous (e.g., a third party is conducting the survey or the specific technology platform they’re using), and how the survey results will lead to meaningful change for their day-to-day work lives.

When you’re providing this reassurance, don’t be afraid to address concerns head-on.

For instance, your employees may be worried about anonymity because the survey asks a lot of in-depth questions. They might be worried that there are a lot of identifying details.

Mention this concern, and then detail how you’re addressing it.

For instance, you might share the name of the company you’re using to distribute the employee engagement survey and link to the company’s policy on how they handle information.

You can tell employees that the company only receives aggregated data that makes it difficult for them to link responses to individuals.

Your communication plan should also recognize that people absorb information in different places, in different ways, and at different times.

Addressing concerns about anonymity in one email sent out once before the survey is not enough.

Your communication plan should think about ways to convey this message multiple times since it could be a big roadblock to obtaining useful survey results.

It might be worth including in several emails, including in graphics that appear on the intranet, and educating managers about how your organization is keeping things anonymous, so they can address their employees’ concerns.

What are the core themes and messages you should cover in your survey communications?

When you’re planning out your survey communication plan, it’s important that it hits on a few key areas.

Why you’re doing the survey

Employee engagement is a concept that’s well known among HR professionals, but it’s not a concept that’s thrown around often by employees themselves.

While employees may talk about employee engagement indirectly (e.g., “I like working here” or “I don’t feel supported in this environment”) they likely don’t spend time engaging in deep conversations about it.

So it’s going to take some explaining to show them why they should care about this employee engagement survey.

Employee engagement refers to how much employees care about their place of work and the work that they do.

It’s the thing that compels them to go above and beyond the black and white requirements of their contract, to use their problem-solving skills to deliver excellent service to customers and their creativity to come up with new and exciting products and services for the business.

How engaged employees are depends in large part on the culture, which is the values and attitudes that shape how people behave and what gets rewarded within an organization.

One of the key messages of your communication plan is that this survey will give employees a chance to share what they like and dislike about their working experience and that the responses will be used to set the people and culture agenda for the next year.

You can use simple, straightforward language or questions to market your employee engagement experience such as:

  • “Love where you work.”
  • “Shape where you work.”
  • “What would you change if you were CEO for a day?”
  • “Give us a piece of your mind.”
  • “Your two cents are worth a million bucks.”

While the language and tone of view may vary based on your company culture and brand, it should avoid jargon and be empathetic to what your employees actually care about.

What you need from employees

Make it clear what exactly you’re expecting from employees.

This means stating upfront how much time the survey will take and what kinds of questions employees will be expected to answer (e.g., short answer, multiple choice, ranking questions).

It’s also a chance to impress upon employees that you’ll need them to be as honest and as candid as possible and that their comments will need to be constructive.

Use this opportunity to demonstrate that this small investment of time will reap rewards.

You need them to fill out this survey? Well, make sure it’s clear what they’ll get out of it.

If you’ve done surveys in the past, communicate the changes that happened as a result. You might have a campaign that says,

“Last year, 87% of employees said they wanted more mental health offerings within their health and wellness plans. This year, we introduced 10 hours of free counseling per year for every employee.”

If you haven’t done surveys in the past, find a way to communicate that there’s buy-in from the top.

Include your senior leaders in videos or graphics that talk about why the survey is important and why they’ll be taking action based on the results.

Convey that the survey is anonymous

In all of your communications about the survey, it’s important to make it clear to employees that their participation in the survey is anonymous. One of the ways you can boost confidence is by using a third-party platform, such as Sparkbay, that ensures managers will not have access to any identifying information about respondents.

What the next steps will be once they complete the survey

Saying you’ll take action based on the results of the survey is not enough.

It’s important to demonstrate what you’ll be doing and how long it will take.

In your communication messaging, indicate when the survey will close and when employees can expect to hear the results of the survey as well as when they can expect to see initiatives that are based on the survey results.

How can you make your survey communication plan as effective as possible?

Treat your survey communications like a marketing campaign

Keep in mind that there’s a fair bit of convincing you’ll need to do to get people to take your survey seriously, complete it on time, and answer the questions with thought and care as opposed to quickly going through the questions.

Treating your survey communications like a marketing campaign means:

  • Creating a content schedule so that different pieces of communication are going out at regular intervals before, during, and after the survey’s distribution
  • Using different communication methods such as emails, blog articles on the intranet, and videos
  • Coming up with taglines or hashtags to build awareness of the coming employee engagement survey
  • Hosting town halls or virtual webinars to talk more about the employee engagement survey and why it’s so important

You should also enlist your marketing team to help.

Chances are your company has an internal communications person on their marketing team. This project would fall within their remit.

If not, split up the necessary tasks among your marketing team’s existing specialists.

Amplify promoters and champions within your organization

Having the buy-in of your CEO and other senior leaders is important, but it takes more than top-down communication to win the enthusiasm of employees.

Identify who your biggest promoters, champions, and influencers are within your organization and give them the information they need to build interest in and excitement for your employee engagement survey.

You could also consider including them in marketing and communications that you put together, especially social media messaging.

Deciding on your survey communication timeline

The last thing you want is a flurry of tweets and emails sent out at the last minute.

You want to have communications going out at a regular interval and the right messages going out at the right time.

This slow drip of useful, exciting information about the survey, such as stories about feedback turned into action, can build up interest and awareness.

To pull this off, while also managing other day-to-day business needs, you’ll need to have a communication timeline.

Pre-survey communications

Before distributing your survey, you’ll need to send out survey marketing materials.

This includes posters within your office, an announcement on your intranet, social media posts, emails, videos, and more.

You’ll also want to send out a company-wide announcement about the upcoming survey either in an email, in a video, or during one of your town halls.

This announcement should specify when the survey will open, when it will close, what the goal of the survey is, and how the organization is ensuring anonymity.

You’ll also want to have a separate sub-campaign that’s targeted towards managers.

This sub-campaign would emphasize to managers the important role they play in encouraging their teams to take the survey as well as turning the survey results into actionable feedback.

Communications during the survey

During the survey, you’ll want to send out email reminders letting people know that the survey is open and how long they have until the survey closes.

You can remind them how important this survey is for shaping the People and Culture agenda which determines what changes are made to the employee experience.

If you’ve conducted surveys in the past, these reminder emails can include details of how the results of previous years’ surveys led to popular changes or programs that employees enjoy now.

Be mindful to segment your email lists, so you only send a reminder email to employees who have yet to complete the survey. Avoid sending unnecessary reminders to people who’ve already provided their responses.

Sparkbay’s survey platform makes it easy to do this by tracking who has and hasn’t provided their response, and sending reminders accordingly. No identifying information is shared with the company.

Post-survey communications

Once the survey is complete, thank people for participating. And once you’ve had a chance to review your survey responses, pull out the key stats and insights and share them with your team.

Looking for a platform that makes it easy to create, share, and analyze your employee engagement surveys? Sparkbay can help. Click here for a demo.