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Employee Survey Pro Tip Series 11 - Paper Surveys (Part 1): Distribution and Collection

Paper Surveys (Part 1): Distribution and Collection

The world isn’t QUITE paperless yet. (… and we didn’t get the flying cars I was promised either – am rather disappointed about that bit …)

Yes paper surveys DO still have their place in the world, and in certain situations, there is still no substitute anywhere on the horizon.

Where does paper still work?

  • Where your employees don’t have access to computers and don’t want to use their phones (pretty obvious that one).
  • Where your employees don’t have email addresses that you can use for personalized invitations, and you don’t want to use one open survey link for everyone.
  • Shift workers – where they DO have access to a computer, but not their own, and everyone is coming on or going off shift at the same time.
  • Employees in remote or non-computer-friendly environments. (Think mines – more on that that later.)

There are then at least three primary methods of distributing and collecting paper surveys – the “internal dropbox”, “on site visits” and/or “mailouts”:

The internal dropbox

Clearly this is the least optimal method as employees may question whether their responses are still anonymous given that the surveys are accessible by “The Man” and their handwriting is a bit of a give away?

That said if this is the only way to go about it, you can mitigate concerns by:

  • Letting employees know who will have access to the box’s contents, and who will be doing the data entry (optimally someone external)
  • Providing employees with survey envelopes that can be sealed for extra security
  • Locking the lock box, or at least making it hard to access
  • Not leaving it open for just anyone to be able to reach in grab one – i.e. providing only a small opening much like you see in election boxes
  • Putting the dropbox in a secure location with someone who has an eye on it at all times

The “On-site visit” – ex. bus drivers on shifts

We ran a project a year or two ago where we surveyed bus drivers, who obviously were unable to fill the survey in while working (one would hope), and who all go on and off shift at the same time.

For this one I physically showed up in the break room (at 5:30 am!) with a large number of printed surveys and a box to put them in; and got drivers about to go on shift to fill them out, and then those coming off shift. (It helped mightly that the union rep was there to support the process.)

I was told by the employees and the rep that the fact that I worked for an external company, and that the surveys went straight into a box that I took away with me, made a huge difference in the employee’s willingness to participate. (We got a very high response rate on that one.)

The “Mailout” – ex. mining company employees

We had a mining client that wanted to survey their mining employees – in the mines.

Only a mailout is going to work here (barring a whirlwind tour on my part of “The Mines of North America”), and this usually means that the surveys would include a post-paid envelope to return the survey to us for data entry.

That would have been prohibitively expensive though given the budget, so we used a hybrid solution – the surveys included a plain envelope that the employee could seal and sign across the fold. They then placed these envelopes into a sealed and secure container at each location, and these containers were shipped back to us.

OK now what?

So the survey has been extraordinarily successful and you’ve got huge piles of paper (and possibly coal dust) lying about – what do you do with it all?

Next up: “Employee Survey Pro Tip Series 12 – Paper Surveys (Part 2): Data entry and other tips

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Maureen Simons

Maureen Simons is a senior human resources and communication consultant with over 25 years of experience helping clients achieve their business and organizational objectives through their people. (Linkedin)

Picture of Adam Hunter

Adam Hunter has a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering, an MBA, and 35+ years of technical and programming experience, resulting in a broad mix of analytical, statistical, project-related and business skills. (Linkedin)