Running engagement surveys online is an obvious choice for most companies. It is, after all, more cost effective, generally has much higher response rates (on average around 79% for online versus and 58% for paper) and is generally more efficient with less scope for human error. However, there are plenty of industries where some employees aren’t easy to reach this way. So, what’s the best approach to asking remote employees for their views?
Before we run through your options, it’s worth acknowledging that there are different factors and contexts to take into account. Maybe your employees are never desk-based and don’t have access to a computer. Or perhaps (as is the case with several of our clients) employees are in extremely remote and off-the-grid geographical locations such as down mines or on oil rigs.
The exact challenges with your organisation’s hard-to-reach workers will naturally inform your favoured employee survey methodology and how you make these groups feel included and thus ensure the best possible survey response rate.
Online ‘plan B’
The approach usually favoured in an online engagement survey is to issue a survey link via email. However, if you have employees with either no company email address and/or no access to a suitable personal device (computer or smartphone), you’ll need another way to run an ‘online’ survey.
You can do this by setting up ‘engagement kiosks’, which are simply designated areas for employees to access your online survey and complete it privately and at a time that suits them. This might be a PC in a break room or a bank of laptops on the factory floor.
Case study: Restaurant chain
Accessing engagement surveys is a common challenge for lots of restaurant groups owing to the high proportion of remote workers they have. One such chain of restaurants, which also comprises a high number of franchised outlets, stationed communal PCs in staff rooms with the survey website link open. Franchise users received a card with a survey website link and a ‘team code’ to login with. The non-franchise restaurant population logged in online using their employee ID and postcode as identifiers (to help with demographic reporting afterwards).
As you’d expect, most employees that aren’t in desk-based roles will also not have a company email address. In such cases though, the company may hold personal email addresses on personnel files. This can enable you to send employees an email invitation to complete the survey using an open or unique link.
An alternative mobile-first approach to consider is to communicate survey access instructions to your employees via pigeon-holes, in pay slips or by creating and distributing QR codes on posters so employees can scan them with their own mobile devices to gain access to the survey.
Case study: Food manufacturer
A large manufacturer in the food and beverage industry had a majority of their employees with no email address and very limited email access. To make the survey as easy and inclusive as possible, their approach was to issue survey invites in employee payslips, which included the link to the survey website and a unique login code. They then set up PCs in staff rooms and depots designated purely for survey access.
There’s no doubt that running employee engagement surveys via paper has gone out of fashion. But in some circumstances it remains the best option remote employee populations. Indeed it remains a method still used by around 12% of our current list of clients for some of their employee groups.
When opting for a paper-based approach, there are still a number of choices for you in terms of how best to distribute surveys, project manage the survey and collect and input responses afterwards.
Case study: Large security solutions organisation
This company has a mixed media survey with an online platform as well as paper survey option used heavily in regions with more remote and dispersed teams. They assign local project coordinators who can generate copies of the paper survey (to then be distributed) using the online platform. Then, they have a few options with survey data processing and can choose between sending completed paper surveys to a third party specialist to be scanned and uploaded, entering responses into a spreadsheet themselves before uploading into the system or manually inputting survey responses directly into the online platform.