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Guide to running a survey



Careful preparation is required for maximising employee engagement with your survey and ensuring it runs smoothly.  Essential things to consider before launching your survey include:

  • the number of employees to take the survey
  • when and for how long the survey should run
  • using incentives to boost employee engagement
  • how you plan to promote the survey


How many employees do I need to survey?

Ideally, all of your employees should have a say in a staff survey.  However, if this is not practical for your organisation, you can survey a sample of the workforce instead.  The following recommendations will help you determine how many employees you need to survey and the method required to select your sample of employees. The minimum sample sizes in the table below have been calculated to ensure that your survey findings will be representative of the views of all staff in your organisation.  You can of course administer your survey to more employees than the recommended minimum number; indeed, the advantage of using a larger sample size is that it enables more of your staff to give their opinions. 


Total number of workers Administer the survey to:

500 or fewer

All Workers


250 workers


325 workers


350 workers

Over 3000

400 workers


How to select a sample of workers

If you are selecting a sample of workers to survey, it is important that these are selected at random from a list of all your workers.  By surveying employees selected through random sampling, you will obtain a best estimate of what represents the views of the whole of your workforce.


Survey timing

It is important to identify what is happening in the “world” of your employees at the time you want to launch the survey.  It is recommended that you:

  • Allow surveys to be completed during work time – this has been shown to improve response rates;
  • Check with others in your organisation who might also be giving a survey.  Avoid “doubling” survey chores for your employees;
  • Generally be aware of the time of year you want to give the survey.  Where possible, try to pick a time that you know your employees are not loaded with other deadlines that may impact their willingness to participate.


For how long should the survey be open?

We recommend keeping a survey open for approximately three weeks, allowing enough time for employees to access the survey without rushing them, while at the same time not giving them too much time to put off taking the survey.


Providing incentives

Providing an incentive for employees to complete your survey can certainly increase survey response rates.  Incentives need not be substantial to attract respondents – small rewards are often just as effective as large ones.  If it is possible for your organisation to offer an incentive, one effective option to consider is making a small donation to charity for each survey that is completed and returned. 


Pre-survey communications

The main purpose of a pre-survey communication is to prepare the organisation and its internal communications network for the launch, distribution and follow-up of the survey tool. Identify the different communication methods you will use to tell employees that an important survey is coming soon.  Try to use as many diverse methods of communication as possible to ensure maximum employee awareness (e.g. posters, debriefings, intranet, e-zines, newsletters, e-mail, pay-slip notes and/or verbal announcements). Identify the critical statements you will make in the pre-survey announcement . Remember that you want staff to be highly motivated to participate.  However you choose to word your pre-survey announcement, it is important that you explain to employees the reasons for the survey, including:

  • how and when employees will receive a questionnaire;
  • why they should participate;
  • outline individual confidential nature of survey;
  • how and when employees will receive feedback on the survey’s results;
  • how actions will be taken in response to the survey’s findings.


Remember to include in your key communication messages:

  • Your organisation is committed to improving employee wellbeing
  • The participation of all employees is essential to ensure all views are represented.


Pre-survey announcement template:

[Organisation name]’s Survey

Date 20XX

[Organisation name] is carrying out a survey on employee wellbeing in our organisation.

The survey questionnaire provides an opportunity for all employees to have a say on their experiences of work, with the aim of improving any areas which the survey highlights as potential sources of dissatisfaction, whilst building on the things we do well. The survey will run between <date> and <date>. Employees will be emailed a survey invitation, which will direct them to the wellbeing survey website for completion of the questionnaire.

The questionnaire is simple and straightforward, and will take approximately 10-15 minutes for you to complete. The survey is completed anonymously and all individual responses will be kept strictly confidential. Once the survey is over, the organisation-wide results will be communicated to you via…

Your participation is greatly appreciated! If you have any questions regarding this survey or require further information, please contact: <FULL NAME and CONTACT DETAILS>

We thank you for your support and look forward to your participation in the wellbeing survey.


Survey invitations

A critical aspect of any staff survey is the content of the invitation sent to staff.  Get that wrong, and the many hours of work spent preparing the questionnaire can go to waste. The invitation message is what your respondents will see first.  Upon their initial glance of the invitation in their inbox, recipients could send it directly to SPAM if care is not taken in the layout and wording.  Staff survey invitations need to include important information such as the reasons for the survey, the confidentiality of results, what management intends to do with the data, and why it is important for staff to participate.  Some points to consider:

  • Make the survey invitation from names that are easy to recognise.  You can do this by including a name that's well-known in your organisation;
  • Personalise the invitation if possible (e.g. print the sender’s signature);
  • Make the introductory statement short and clear;
  • Place the hyperlink to the survey with blank lines above and below (if using email);
  • Include the support contact information for your organisation (i.e. EAP/CI supports etc.);
  • Give an estimate of survey completion time (be honest!);
  • Keep the invitation short and use text only;
  • Promise anonymity and confidentiality (where applicable);
  • Provide a deadline for completion of the survey.


Survey invite template:

Dear First name,
As you are a valued staff member here at [organisation name], we would like to ensure that you are satisfied with your working environment. To this end, [organisation name] wishes to invite you to participate in an Work Positive survey. The purpose of this survey is to obtain your opinions about what it is like to work in our organisation.
The survey consists of a number of questions and will take approximately 10-15 minutes for you to complete. Please take the time to answer these questions carefully and honestly, as it is only with your help that we can create a happier and safer workplace for all staff.
[Organisation name] is committed to working towards improving any areas which the survey highlights as potential sources of dissatisfaction, whilst building on the things we do well.
The survey is completed anonymously, and all individual responses will be kept strictly confidential. No individual results will be provided either to me or to the company. Please click on the link that follows and complete the questionnaire by no later than X Date at X time.
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any further queries or should you require any assistance in completing the survey.
Relevant support contact information is attached for [organisation name] should you require them.
Thank you in advance for participating and helping [organisation name] continue to grow.
Full Name
HR Manager


Sending survey reminders

Sending survey completion reminders is one of the most effective ways to increase response rates.  However, it is important to get the tone and frequency right.  Carefully planned and managed survey reminders can dramatically improve employee engagement.  As with invitations, it is essential to pay attention to the layout and wording of your reminders:

  • Change the reminder’s subject line so that it is not identical to the invitation (or previous reminders).
  • Create a sense of urgency within the subject line and body of the reminder.
  • Remind employees of the purpose of the survey.
  • Remind employees of the value of the survey.
  • Give an estimate of survey completion time.
  • Remind employees that their responses will be anonymous (where applicable).


Sending two or three reminders is considered to be best practice. Although sending survey reminders is one of the most effective ways to boost response rates, it is important not to send too many – if you send reminders too often, contacts may feel harassed and will simply ignore them. 


Guidelines for managing Work PositiveCI Paper based questionnaires


Questionnaires may be downloaded here and administered in a paper-and-pencil format, where required.

The process is as follow:

  1. Work PositiveCI Coordinator links with leads in organisation and/or divisions – email PDF questionnaire, cover information and support contacts.
  2. Project leads in the organisation will print the appropriate number of questionnaires and supportive information for their staff (this can be broken down by division where necessary).
  3. The paper/printed version of the survey will be distributed to all staff with an unmarked a sealable envelope for completion by each staff member, the completed questionnaire is then inserted into the sealed envelope and returned to a secured source (locked cabinet or secured box) within the organisation

It is essential that confidentiality and anonymity is maintained throughout this stage and staff should be confident that, whatever return policy is chosen by the organisation (general or individual return), will ensure that no information will be compromised.


Note - To manually input data from paper-and-pencil questionnaires, the process is as follows:

  • Click on your own Work PositiveCI survey weblink and input the data from one completed questionnaire.
  • Once you have finished inputting the responses for one employee, close down the window. You now need to click on the survey link again to open a new window, allowing you to enter the data for the next employee.
  • Repeat the above process until the data for all employees has been entered.
  • For a small fee Employee Wellbeing Ltd can offer a data entry service with all completed printed surveys (use of reply-paid service, data-entry and Q.A.) for all or part of your organisation. The use of a third party service frees you from a labour intensive activity and provides additional assurances of confidentially for survey respondents.