Has anyone in your organization ever said that there are too many employee surveys to fill in? If so, people might be experiencing survey fatigue.
Despite being an effective method to collect data, constant surveying can lead to survey fatigue — a precursor to low participation rates, which is one of the most common concerns that we’ve heard from organizations.
This may cause feedback collection to suffer. As an HR practitioner or leader, you may have a hard time figuring out the next step to take because you don’t have enough data to represent the various segments of the workforce. If survey fatigue is especially prevalent for a specific segment of the workforce, the insights gathered from the data will have gaps and hence not meaningful for action for this specific segment of the workforce. One such segment that may disproportionately suffer from survey fatigue and requires special attention is that of the non-corporate or blue-collar workers.
Understanding employee survey fatigue
Survey fatigue happens when a recipient is not motivated to take part in an assessment. It is usually the result of recipients being asked to complete many surveys within a short period of time, or having to answer too many questions within a single survey.
In general, comprehensive employee engagement surveys (EES) surveys are conducted yearly or biyearly. We also encourage HR and leaders to hold pulse surveys with fewer questions quarterly. With this arrangement, organizations can continuously listen to their employees, as well as monitor progress and changes between two EE surveys, without bombarding them with too much of a survey frequency.
For organizations with blue-collar workers, additional considerations should be factored in for them as their greater tendency to experience survey fatigue will mean lower survey participation rates and problematic response behavior (such as completing a survey in a haphazard manner just to get it over with).
Why blue-collar workers are more prone to survey fatigue
Below are several factors that drive survey fatigue among blue-collar workers.
Not accustomed to filling up surveys
Non-corporate workers do not sit at their desks and hardly deal with paperwork during work hours. They may not be used to (a) reading many lines of text, (b) making sense of the text and how it relates to them, as well as (c) gathering their thoughts in response to what they have read. Responding to surveys requires people to tap on all those three cognitive aspects which means that non-corporate workers are more likely to be cognitively loaded and fatigued than corporate workers when filling up surveys
Lack of communication about the purpose of the survey
Running employee surveys is only a small part of an effective employee engagement initiative - a lot of work needs to be done after the closure of a survey including analyzing data and creating action plans to improve engagement. As such, employees are unlikely to see immediate benefits from their feedback, especially for the blue-collar workers who are less familiar with the work that goes on behind the scenes. For these workers, they may perceive the lack of immediate action as their feedback not being taken in, and they would thereafter be less motivated to fill up future employee surveys. In fact, they may feel like the company is placing extra work on their plates.
Less screen time during work
With the nature of their work, non-corporate workers may not have as much gadget access during work hours as their corporate counterparts. Hence, this is an important point of consideration if employee surveys are digital in nature. Even those who do work with digital devices may only have access to limited systems that they typically use as part of their work routine on a daily basis, such as cashiers who only use point-of-sale systems. Without much freedom to access other systems like emails and survey systems, blue-collar workers may not be so keen on filling out a survey since they have to use their personal gadgets outside of their work hours.
How to mitigate survey fatigue among blue-collar employees
Yes, there are challenges when it comes to getting non-corporate workers to participate in surveys, but there are several approaches that organizations can take so that we can be more inclusive towards this group of employees, allowing them to have a say in workplace elements that may affect them. Our Lead People Scientist, Dr Yvonne Tan chimes in with these 6 tips:
1. Minimize survey questions
It is recommended to limit the number of survey questions. Keeping them between ten to twenty questions is ideal as it will take less than ten minutes to complete the survey (i.e., less time commitment and cognitive load from non-corporate workers), which can result in a lower dropout rate.
2. Stagger employees across pulse surveys
While pulse surveys are recommended to be done quarterly for employees in general, non-corporate ones can take them with lower frequency to combat survey fatigue. For example, the blue-collar workforce can be split into sub-groups A and B and they can take the quarterly surveys alternately. Sub-group A can take the surveys that will run in Q1 and Q3 while sub-group B can take part in Q2 and Q4.
3. Prioritize at-risk groups
The previous approaches, however, may not be cut out for at-risk groups. Those with lower employee engagement or employee experience scores require a more carefully-planned continuous listening strategy. More questions and higher survey frequency are necessary to understand how they feel and track their progress closely. Once they’re out of the risk zone, you can pull back and start taking the other approaches to mitigate survey fatigue and increase the survey participation rate.
4. Block off time to complete surveys
Remember that most non-essential workers don’t sit at a desk with their computers during their working hours. They may have to willingly take some of their free time, outside their shift, to complete a survey — which doesn’t sound very compelling and they may end up not doing it at all. To ensure survey participation, organizations can try scheduling a blocked time during their working hours and gather them to take the survey together.
5. Prepare devices and guidance
Other than having the survey together at the same time and place, organizations can also provide standard devices if employee surveys are run digitally. Personnel that are deployed to provide these devices can also be there to give thorough guidance, help the blue-collar workers if they have any issues with interpreting the survey questions, and give an understanding of the purpose of the survey. This is to ensure that employees will respond to the survey appropriately such that findings that are accurate and meaningful.
In addition, the personnel that will be there to facilitate the survey sessions can help to make sure the employees can take the survey smoothly (no login, internet, or submission problems) so that they will not need to retake the survey — otherwise it will result in blocking more time off the working hours and causing even more survey fatigue.
6. Communicate purpose and process
It is important to recognize that not all employees understand the purpose of employee surveys and the processes that are included for an effective engagement strategy. Hence, it is crucial to explain this to employees, and this might be better done face-to-face in a dialogue fashion for blue-collar workers so that they can ask questions and clarify if needed. Be clear on what the organization is using the feedback for and how their opinions would contribute to the objectives. Lay out the entire process and how long it takes for each stage of the initiative, including feedback collection for the entire workforce, data analysis, data interpretation, action planning. As each stage can drag up to months for large organizations, it may be helpful to ask employees for their patience and emphasize to them that the organization is committed to taking concrete actions to improve their work experience - but it would take time.
Survey fatigue and low participation rate among blue-collar workers are only two symptoms of the various challenges you may face in building a holistic workplace and experience across all employee lifecycle stages.
To find more resources about employee experience and engagement, read our EX guides and reports here.
About the Author
Dr Yvonne Tan is the Lead People Scientist at EngageRocket. She has 10 years of experience in organizational psychology research and people analytics across APAC, ANZ, UAE and UK. In her free time, she likes to go museum hopping and cooking.