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Anonymous Surveys: Advantages, Disadvantages And Best Practices For Better Responses

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

Employee Experience is based on open and honest feedback, however, the problem occurs when employees do not wish to share their honest opinion. They could be afraid of saying anything against the authorities or may feel insecure about their own jobs regarding self-assessment in terms of productivity. While trying to get genuine survey responses, should your IT team depend on anonymous surveys?

What are Surveys?

What Are Anonymous Surveys?

In an anonymous survey, any personally identifiable information, such as names, employee ID number, email, or other unique identifiers, is removed from responses. It is impossible to identify the people who took part in the survey, thereby making them anonymous.

Benefit Of An Anonymous Survey

Participants Are More Comfortable Responding

Most survey participants will feel more comfortable participating if they know their personal information will not be disclosed. This is due to the fact that they are not afraid of retaliation or embarrassment. It's unlikely we'd admit to being unproductive to our managers; instead being more inclined to say what we felt they wanted to hear. Having the opportunity to provide anonymous feedback without worry of repercussion will encourage more openness and honesty for surveys, and in turn can accelerate the benefits of the next 3 points.

Higher Response Rate

While the need for respondents to submit personally identifying information with their feedback may have prompted some prior respondents to abandon your survey, the option to stay anonymous should boost your response rates in the future. This can have the added benefit of removing any seemingly superfluous detail before the survey. If I had a genuine want to provide feedback on, for example, a self-help IT support portal, my personal details don't feel related, and having to do this prior to the actual survey will likely diminish any enthusiasm

Relatively Accurate Feedback

Respondents are more likely to discuss difficult matters and provide more extensive and honest feedback when a survey is anonymous. It's why anonymous staff surveys are more common than ones where respondents are identifiable.

Avoid Bias

When most people react to inquiries, they do so based on how they believe they will be perceived by others rather than answering genuinely. This is known as social desirability bias. If too many people respond in this manner, your results will likely be skewed, and ultimately, no confident conclusion can be drawn for data with low validity. When respondents are able to complete a survey anonymously, there is no motivation for them to lie, which helps to increase the general trustworthiness of your survey results.

However, as with everything, anonymous surveys have their drawbacks as well as strengths. It's important to take the following considerations into account if you're leaning towards the use of anonymous surveys.

Drawbacks Of An Anonymous Survey

Drawbacks Of An Anonymous Survey

Unable To Conduct Follow-Ups

Depending on the goals of your survey, you may wish to take additional actions based on replies, such as adopting a specific policy or addressing a specific issue. For example, if your survey was sent out across multiple business areas and you discover a particular prominent concern, you may want to explore it further and work to remediate. Unfortunately, this is difficult to perform with an anonymous poll. If we don't ask for the respondent's business area, we're left to try and seek out the problem area ourselves. As a result, you must be certain that you will not need to follow up on anyone's responses before deciding on a fully anonymous survey.

Alternatively, you could take the following approach. If a survey is sent out across the entire business area of one location, you can ask the respondent to identify their business department. It's arguable this qualifies as potentially identifiable, especially if the departments employee numbers are low. For a small company this approach isn't advised. For a larger company with 10s of people in any one business department, the idea that the department could identify someone becomes foggier. In this situation, the above approach may help to identify the problem areas more effectively whilst still ensuring anonymity. Nevertheless, as you can likely surmise, this relies on the respondents remaining honest about their department and answering without worry of repercussions.

No Point of Reference For Negative Comments

It's difficult to visualise exactly what went on without any reference to what would have contributed to an unfavourable comment. For example, if someone posted a comment based on a negative experience they had with a member of your support team, it would be difficult to investigate and address without more information. As with the point above, it is possible to ride the line between anonymous and identifiable but this relies on organisational factors. If we remove the need for any identifiable

Can’t Fight False Data

There are some things that are tough to regulate, and one of them is people who have a personal grievance. They may give misleading responses in this situation in order to influence your results. This is something that simply carrying out anonymous surveys won't fix. Instead, as mentioned in our first drawback, it may indicate a cultural weakness of the organisation, or at least that specific branch, in general.

Best Practices For Anonymous Surveys In Companies

Best Practices for Anonymous Surveys

If you've decided to use an anonymous survey, it's a good idea to be aware of some do's and don'ts before putting it to the test with your staff. This will ensure that you get the most out of their utilisation. Here are a few crucial considerations to keep in mind:

Clarify That It Is An Anonymous Survey

After taking the trouble to make your survey anonymous, you'll want to make this as clear to participants as possible. Starting your survey with an introduction is probably the most effective way to explain this. Make sure people know that your survey is completely anonymous and protects their personal data and identity. You'll be more likely to get the most honest responses this way, and therefore more likely to receive accurate data.

Double Check Your Survey Collecting Agent

You should also consider your survey collecting agents as they are responsible for distributing and collecting survey replies. You should double-check that you've enabled anonymous survey replies for each of the collectors you've chosen.

Disable Custom Variables

Custom variables don't guarantee anonymity by their very nature, as they allow you to track data about individual respondents by transferring one or more values through a survey link and onto your survey results. If at all possible, avoid using custom variables.

Ensure Your Questions Don’t Disrupt Anonymity

While it's simple to remove questions that ask for the respondent's name and phone number, other, more subtle inquiries may disclose personal information inadvertently. For example, if you asked someone what company they worked for and what job title they had, you might be able to figure out their identity. As a result, it's a good idea to double-check your survey before sending it out and remove any of these questions.

Still Struggling With Surveys? We Can Help!

Sometimes, finding the true problem hidden within a survey can be more difficult than it appears at first. On the surface, it may appear to be a simple problem to solve, but when you try to solve it, you may feel as if you're stuck in a loop. This is where the Bright Horse team comes in.

We have high expertise in designing and executing customer satisfaction/user sentiment surveys, which are used to collect information about the user experience. You can contact us for more details

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