Should Employee Surveys Be Anonymous?

Over the years, most employee surveys have been the anonymous type. The justification for the anonymity is that if employees don't have to reveal who they are, they'll not fear retribution from management, which in turn will lead to more of them taking the survey, and more honesty in the responses.


So here is the irony.

On one hand, companies are trying to bring transparency and trust in their employee culture by creating open offices and creating flatter organization structures. They hope that this will bridge the gap between the employees and management. On the other hand, the fact that HR still has to conduct anonymous surveys displays that lack of trust. If in your organization employees can work without fear of retribution and can openly talk about issues, there is no need to be anonymous in feedback surveys.

Why anonymous surveys don't work:

  1. Understanding Results: Each employee has their own experience and context. Unless you collect more information like their division, group, age and so on (in which case the survey is not completely anonymous as you'll be able to guess who those employees are), you will not be able understand why the feedback is the way it is. By knowing exactly who the employees are, you will get even more insight into the results. For example, are all millennial employees in the company feeling a certain way?
  2. Follow-up: Once you know which employee has submitted certain feedback, you can follow up with additional questions if needed to understand the context better. For example, by digging deeper and extending the example above, you may realize that although both male and female millennial employees feel the same way, their needs might be different.
  3. Leadership Responsibility and Accountability: By knowing which segment of employees are having an issue, you can also assign leaders to address those situations and hold them accountable. This is not possible in a completely anonymous survey.

Getting to non-anonymous surveys

The fact that your surveys need to be anonymous, obviously points to a lack of trust between the employees and management. There is no open dialogue between both. Therefore, the first priority for HR and Internal Marketers would be to create that culture of transparency and trust that makes employees feel comfortable in participating openly. In order to do so you need to invest in the right employee engagement platform.

While you are in the process of transforming your employee culture, move towards less anonymity by using survey platforms that can keep the identity of the employee hidden, but will at least help you narrow down results to certain segments so you can address those properly. In this process also expose the aggregate results as needed to your employees, so they can see where the issues are. This will help you create transparency and engage employees, as they work along with management in helping solve those very issues.

Lastly, once your employees are completely comfortable, make your feedback surveys completely open and transparent. Continue to expose the results to your employees, seek their participation in resolving those issues and make them feel that they are a big part of your organization and one team -- where there is no distinction between management and employee on the front lines. At that point, you can claim that you have achieved your true goal of creating an employee culture that has transparency and trust.

employee engagement app

Learn more about how our platform, hubEngage, can help you achieve this goal. Also read our previous posts providing tips to get more engagement in your employee surveys.


Download the white paper, Your Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Employee Engagement App, to view the app platform planning process in four easy-to-understand sections.


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