Different modes of Online Surveys

Online surveys can be conducted in two modes:

  • Public survey link – anonymous public survey link where the respondents have to indicate their place of work and optionally their demographic attributes;

  • Targeted survey link – the respondents’ business units and/or demographic attributes are captured beforehand so they don’t have to answer questions re such.

Conducting an online survey via a public survey link

A public survey link will take respondents to an online survey where they will be required to:

  • Select the business unit and/or team where they work;

  • Respond to a number of survey questions;

  • Optionally, respond to a number of demographic questions.

A public survey link can be emailed out by the survey service provider or by anyone in the organisation being surveyed. A public link can even be forwarded between employees, so anyone can click on the link and complete the survey – which is simple and convenient but open to abuse. The advantages and disadvantages of a public survey link are summarized in the table below.

 

Advantages of a public survey Disadvantages of a public  survey
  • The survey is totally anonymous – there is no way that someone’s responses can be linked back to the person;

  • Emailing the online survey link out is uncomplicated – anyone can email it out (e.g. a manager can email it to his or her team), and it can be forwarded or passed on between employees or posted on a notice board or public forum;

  • Getting someone inside the organisation to email the survey link is fail-safe and low risk – the likelihood that such internal emails will be blocked by a firewall or treated as spam is remote.
  • Since the survey needs to include questions to cover their place of work and demographics, the surveys can be long, tedious and intimidating;

  • Demographic questions (age, tenure etc.) can be viewed as invasive and could create a perception that the respondent can be identified;

  • Since the survey link can be forwarded and completed by anyone any number of times, survey stuffing can take place (more responses for a team than there are employees);

  • Respondents often make mistakes when selecting their place of work, which could jeopardize the integrity of survey.

  

Note: to control the number of responses per business unit or survey team, the number of employees per business unit or survey group has to be captured – see Dealing with the Organisational Structure for more on this. 


Conducting an online survey via a targeted survey link

A targeted survey link is – at least from the respondent’s point of view – simple, non-invasive and uncomplicated: respondents only need to respond to the survey questions; there are no invasive demographic questions, and they do not have to indicate their place of work. However, preparing and configuring a targeted survey is much more involved and require a lot more effort and commitment from both the organisation and the survey provider:

  • An up-to-date name list (names and email addresses) of all employees has to be drawn up;

  • Either or both the employees’ place of work (business unit) and demographic attributes (age, qualifications etc.) have to be captured and included in the list – a daunting task in case of larger organisations that could be made easier if an employee list could be exported from the organisation’s ERP or HR system.

The upside is that the respondents don’t have to respond to any demographic questions or indicate their places of work – the survey system will link their online responses by means of their email addresses to their demographic and business unit data. The advantages and disadvantages of a targeted survey are summarized in the table below.

 

Advantages of a targeted survey Disadvantages of a targeted  survey
  • Shorter survey questionnaires with fewer questions;

  • No invasive or potentially compromising demographic questions, which will result in a higher survey completion ratio;

  • Respondents cannot inadvertently (or on purpose!) select the wrong business unit;

  • Survey stuffing is not possible – surveys can only be completed once and only by the person to whom the email with the survey link was addressed;

  • Since the survey system knows who have responded and who not, survey reminders can be selectively send to only those who haven’t completed the survey yet.
  • Preparing for – and configuring – a targeted survey is more time-consuming and requires more effort;

  • Survey links need to be emailed out individually to each employee by the (external) survey provider, with the added risk that the emails can be blocked or treated as spam;

  • Survey links cannot be shared or passed on between employees, which can lead to confusion.  

 

The table below illustrates the work involved in preparing the employee name list for a targeted survey where both the place of work (business unit) and demographics (age, qualification, level and gender) have been captured.

  

Unit Name Email Age Qualific Level Gender
2.1.2 Peter Sithole This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 36 - 50 years Diploma Middle mngmt Male
2.1.2 Sarah Stilwell This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 21 - 25 years Degree Semi-skilled Female
2.1.2 Fanie Besembos This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. <21 years Grade 12 Skilled Male
2.1.2 Montrial McGovern This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 36 - 50 years Diploma Semi-skilled  
2.1.2.1 Chetty Claim This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. >50 years Diploma Supervisor Female
Etc.        

 

Note: it is not necessary to include both the place and work and demographics in a targeted survey. Any hybrid configuration can work, e.g. only the place of work can be included in the targeted survey, with the demographics included as survey questions in the online survey; or only the age and gender of employees can be included in the targeted survey, with the remainder of the demographic attributes collected via survey questions.

Bottom line: targeted surveys will yield more reliable survey results and generally will have a higher survey participation and completion rate then public surveys, but require more work to prepare.


Emailing online survey links out

Public survey links can be emailed out by anyone – a designated person in the organisation or an external survey provider. Targeted survey links, in contrast, have to be emailed out via Engage SURVEY, since individual survey responses have to be matched to individual employees. However, to reinforce the perception of anonymity and confidentially, it is suggested that someone external to the organisation email the survey links out in all cases.

 

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