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Increasing Your Employee Survey Responses In One Email

By 11 August 2017 November 24th, 2020 One Comment
Image of keyboard keys spelling email

Surveys are an amazing way to increase engagement and gain insight to employees wellbeing. They work well but only when people respond.

The average response rate to employee surveys is only 20 – 40%, not great if you need to gain valuable insight to your workforce.

Lower response rates can lead to a less than desirable response. This makes it near impossible to make data driven decisions as a business leader.

So, what’s the biggest reason for a lack of survey responses?

The survey design itself plays a massive part. If its too high level, ambiguous or straight up confusing it can lose peoples interest quickly leading to next to no engagement.

In other cases it can be that the email is simply ignored and lost to the sea of internal emails. Looking at the issue in this way can allow you to begin to see the problems with most internal surveys.

How to optimise your surveys to increase adoption

If you ask any marketer they will tell you that successful email engagement yields almost instantaneous results. You can use the same client email strategy to increase engagement in your internal email campaigns.

Create an engaging subject line

Before your employees take the survey they first need to open your email. However this isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Around 65% of internal emails are ever opened. If your emails aren’t opened by your employees your message wont be received. It’s that straightforward.

If you have an internal strategy for personalising and creating engaging emails then use it. By including your employees names in the email you can increase your open rate by 25% which is massive!

How to optimise your subject to increase your open rate

A well crafted subject line can increase your open rate tenfold, dazzle them. Your subject lines should be clear and invite response with compelling language.

When your sending emails from your work account including the company name in the subject line is a bit redundant. Save that space for a more captivating message.

Sample survey invitation subject lines

Standard Subject Lines Optimized Subject Lines
Let your voice be heard. We value your opinion Joe – Got 5 minutes? Help improve our workplace
The annual Company X employee survey is now open. Jane – Want a better workplace? Tell us how we’re doing
It’s time to take Company X’s employee survey Bob – What’s it like to work here? Share your experience

These subject lines work better because our brain is naturally drawn towards questions rather than statements.

Asking a question makes an engaging connection with your employees. Add in a wicked call to action and you will start to see them opening the email more.

What kind of employee survey invitation email will increase response rate?

If you’ve ever received walls of text emails before you’ll likely know how difficult it can be to read let alone understand, formatting is key.

Using an active voice in your email, this encourages action

Throughout your survey invitation, try to use an active voice instead of a passive one. This makes it easier for your employees to understand your message and take action.

When using an active voice, the subject line performs your action. In a passive voice they receive the action.

In a few cases — when the subject is irrelevant — passive voice might work ok for what you need. For the most part active voice always wins the race for open rates.

Example sentences that work for internal emails

We’ve included some examples of common passive sentences used in survey invitations and their active counterparts.

Can you see the difference? By sticking to an active voice, your message becomes more clear and concise.

Passive Active
“On Oct. 10, 2020, the survey will be closing” “Our survey closes on Oct. 10, 2020.”
“Improvements will be made using the survey data.” “Your feedback will lead to our next improvements.”
“The survey was filled out by 65% of employees last time.” “Sixty-five percent of employees filled out the survey last time.”


Use shorter sentences in your survey invitations

Roughly 90% of people can understand 8 to 14 word sentences. Any longer and the comprehension rate drops tremendously.

To shorten your sentences, try to break them up or use shorter words. An active voice will help this massively. For the best results you need to think carefully about every, single, word.

“You achieve plain English when you use the simplest, most straightforward way of expressing an idea.”

—Bryan Garner

Don’t be redundant. e.g. instead of “it’s extremely essential,” just say “it’s essential.”

When talking to employees us words like “we” and “you” so the email sounds like its coming from a real person and not a bot.

How to improve your survey invitation email

We’ve added an example below showing how you can use these techniques to shorten a sentence. With these changes, a 38-word sentence becomes two sentences totalling 26 words.

Original After the survey closes, we will be carefully considering all of the survey findings and will be reporting back to you on our findings and how we intend to resolve any issues uncovered during the analysis we performed.”
Simplified After the survey closes, expect to hear from us. We will review the results and share how we will address any issues we find.”


Keep your paragraphs short

To make your survey invitation even easier to read, look carefully at your paragraph length.

Previous knowledge may have you thinking a well formed paragraph needs 3 sentences. But in the brave new world this is no longer the case.

If your employees predominantly view your emails on mobile devices make sure to be resourceful with plenty of white space.

Paragraphs should be no more than five lines to compliment smaller viewport widths.

If on a phone or a tablet three lines is just fine.

Call out important information in your survey invitation

When you write your survey email, make sure you highlight information your employees need to know. This will usually be the survey end date, the time taken to complete and a call to action.

You can us bold or italics. Avoid all CAPS and underlines as they may look like links. Which can be confusing and hard to read.

Perfect survey employee emails that get responses

The average attention span is just eight seconds. When writing a survey email you need to be succinct and interesting with your words

The best structure comes in 3 parts

  • The headline
  • The sub text
  • The call to action

The headline: Get them hooked

The subject line gets them to open the email, now’s your time to make them care. Always put the most relevant info first.

Start by:

  • The surveys purpose
  • Who’s involved
  • What will the benefit be

By putting this upfront people immediately buy in.

The subtext: Let them know what they need immediately

The second important part is the subtext. This is where you explain to employees what’s required by them

It also provides more context and answers any objections with pre-empting statements.

Set a deadline

The survey deadline is an important piece of information it forces your employees to act.

Putting the date at the end of the email means its more likely to be missed. Try to include it at the beginning of the email.

Time to complete the survey

Employees get bored after a 20 minute survey leading to a very high drop off, lack of data and lack of insight are the knock on effect of this.

Shorten your survey and advertise the time to complete this will make people more likely to follow through.

Support anonymity

Most people when filling out a survey want to remain anonymous.

If they aren’t anonymous explain that they are confidential. When using confidential surveys its easier to gain insight on trends.

The issue with anonymous surveys is the lack of ability to follow up to question and quantify for better data analysis.

Outline plans for data review and what action it will lead to

You’ve already told people why they’re taking the survey. Explain your plan for reviewing results in the email. Make them aware of how they can view the results.

Make a call to action, show them what they need to do

End the email with your call to action for your survey link. Make sure its clear and stands out from the email.

Bright high contrast buttons are the way to go. Add your email signature and jobs a good un.

Employee survey example email

Sample employee survey invitation email

Business leaders like you most likely know the importance of having the right data, we here at pursuit do too.

Higher survey response rates lead to more data and better insights.

Take away the guess work by following this post and your survey will be a hit every, single, time.

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