Guide: Run an employee survey

Offer anonymous, confidential, or identified

Before building the survey, you will want to decide whether it will be anonymous, confidential, or identified.

In an anonymous survey, no background information is tied to the data, so you have no way to identify an individual respondent.

  • Pros: Respondents may feel safer providing honest feedback since their data can't be tied back to them.
  • Cons: If you want to be able to cut your results by another variable (i.e., department, location) you'll have to ask respondents to specify this info during the survey. This makes the survey longer and potentially leaves you with incomplete or less reliable data.

In a confidential survey, some background information is tied to each response, but it is not revealed with the respondent’s answers. Only those analyzing the data can use this background information to make better sense of the results.

  • Pros: Your survey is shorter because you don't have to ask demographic information. Your data is also far more meaningful as you can cut the data in a variety of ways.
  • Cons: You must ensure that proper data confidentiality rules have been put in place and communicate those to the survey taker.

In an identified survey, survey respondents’ identities are explicitly tied to their responses, and shared with the results. This approach is typically only used for highly innocuous topics, and when you will need to follow-up with respondents based on their data.

  • Pros: You can easily follow-up with people, or ask clarification questions about responses.
  • Cons: You must make very certain that respondents are fully aware that their responses will be known, or you’ll risk compromising trust with employees (and, worse, employees’ responses may get them in hot water!).

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