Are Employee Engagement Surveys Really Anonymous?

5th October 2021

Negative anonymous feedback, when regularly collected and acted upon effectively, can have a positive impact on a business. It enables companies to spot small problems before they become big issues, saving time, money as well as avoiding potential disruption in the future.

Regular anonymous employee engagement surveys are a great way of doing this. With their identity hidden, employees can give their honest opinion about different topics without fear of any negative backlash.

But is this the reality? If an employee responds anonymously, will their responses truly remain anonymous?

We won’t waste your time: the answer is it depends on the tool that you use and how you use it.

Read on as we explain how different tools work and how to use them effectively for your business.

The Different Types of Anonymous Employee Feedback Tools

Some employees might be sceptical about completing an anonymous survey, as they fear that they’re not truly anonymous. They want to avoid being outed and possibly ostracised for giving negative feedback.

This fear is justified, as all employee feedback tools aren’t the same. For example, some of them do allow a central HR team to see the data for the responses that are given. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the respondent’s personal details will be available, more so that some identifying information will be visible, such as location or the type of device being used.

This could mean that Tim, who lives in Glasgow and has a Google Pixel phone, could have his responses linked to his demographic information.

Other tools can provide this type of information but don’t allow anyone to link it to any particular response. For example, let’s imagine a graph showing the results of ‘What kind of benefits would you like to see implemented?’

The demographic data of all the respondents would be available but not linked to any answers to the questions. To figure out who said what, you’d either have to guess or use magic, neither of which are likely to give you the right results.

How Employers Can Build Trust for Engagement Surveys

In order to gain or regain trust about anonymous surveys, employers have two main options.

  1. Change the wording – The word anonymous means ‘a person with a name that is not known or that is not made public’. So, technically, if one person is able to find out your name using a few bits of information, the survey isn’t anonymous. A more accurate word to use is confidential ‘meant to be kept secret and not told to or shared with other people’.
    In short, a better description for a lot of employee engagement surveys is ‘This is confidential’.There is a big difference between someone possibly finding out and not sharing that information and nobody being able to find out at all. The word anonymous gives the impression that it’s common for it to be the latter, which is rarely the case. It’s not ideal, but being more open about the intricacies of such an important tool can help to build or rebuild trust within an organisation.
  2. Use the data with integrity – If a person, normally in the HR department, has access to some of the data of employee engagement surveys, then they have a responsibility not to do anything with it. No sharing, no guessing, no hinting, nothing. They are that company’s ‘secret keeper’, at least when it comes to survey data.You could argue that this is the most effective method out of the three for building trust. If employees know that someone within the organisation has access to the data but doesn’t reveal it, which means it can’t be used against them, that’s a huge boost of confidence, which could increase the response rate and quality of future surveys.
  3. Use an external employee platform – Using something like Trickle gives employers an option to prevent themselves from getting any identifying data at all. The third party can analyse the results and give the collated data back to the business without any identifying information.

A clause could be inserted into the legal agreement between the two parties making it impossible for anyone within the company to view any information apart from numerical results.

The Power of Anonymous Employee Surveys

Without trust, it will be virtually impossible to build a healthy working culture, and consequently, a successful business. Feedback surveys are powerful tools that can build trust and shine a light on ways in which a business can improve. It’s important that employers don’t abuse this information but use it to build a better working environment, which will lead to less negative feedback.

How to Get Anonymous Feedback From Employees

Anonymous feedback is crucial for both employees and employers. The best feedback is often anonymous. It’s a lot easier to say to someone ‘Please tell me how you really feel’ and for them to respond accurately if they know their feedback will be used solely to improve the company and not for them to become a target for management anger or distrust.

You can get all the benefits of anonymous feedback with Trickle today.

Click the link below to get your free demo.

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