Maintaining privacy and security is a challenge in the digital age where the most valuable, sought-after commodity is personal data. We are reminded daily through targeted ads, location tracking, timestamps, and web search caches that what we do, where we go, and what interests us is being constantly monitored, whether we like it or not. It takes attention, effort, and vigilance to set up the barriers needed to protect our personal information.
Enter into this environment the online survey. Convenient, accessible, and engaging, surveys are an effective way for employers and businesses to gather feedback from employees and consumers. But the success of any survey comes down to the number of responses you get and the quality of those responses. People are significantly more likely to participate in an online survey readily and willingingly when offered a safe, secure, and private space to express themselves. Anonymous surveys receive up to 300% more responses than attributed surveys. Plus, with free rein to share their opinions and impressions without judgment, online survey participants share more openly and honestly. Those authentic responses – and lots of them – generate quality results that can lead to meaningful change, innovation, and growth.
Why use an anonymous survey?
Anonymous surveys make sense in a number of areas, like employee engagement, performance evaluations, compliance testing, course evaluations, and market research. The promise of anonymity removes the common obstacles for survey participants. Without anonymity, respondents to HR surveys may fear repercussions for candid feedback. For example, an employee may be convinced that speaking honestly about his manager or team, or that giving the “wrong answer,” will put his job in jeopardy or lower his chances for a raise or promotion. People often also avoid answering surveys if the topic makes them uncomfortable. Similarly, they are unlikely to provide full, true responses to questions that make them feel embarrassed or exposed, such as questions related to personal medical or family history. With true anonymity, they know that honest answers can’t affect anyone’s judgment of them. The rationale is much the same in the political arena. People are more likely to offer candid responses if they know their views on a candidate, policy, or subject won’t affect their public reputation. On another plane, anonymous online surveys help organizations maintain regulatory and governmental compliance while protecting the security and privacy of their employee, customer and operational data.
Things to Consider . . .
Before making your survey anonymous, consider whether providing privacy for your participants will get you the results you want and give you the data you need. Anonymity can generate results that may not be specific enough for your purpose. For example, when you conduct an anonymous customer service survey, know that you won’t be able to address any problems raised by participants. You can’t identify who has the issue, so there’s no way for you to attend to it. That may be okay, in which case, forge ahead. Regardless, it’s best to proactively review and recognize the opportunities and limitations presented by your survey before you launch.
How Does it Work?
By checking just one box in the Sogolytics design settings, you can make any survey anonymous. It seems simple on the surface, but on the back end, it means our software will create a hard line between any electronic personal identifying information and the survey participants. In an anonymous survey, Sogolytics will not track a respondent’s email address, the geo-location or IP address, the time of participation, or anything that can remotely link the response to that specific person. We guarantee true anonymity.
We make sure that your participants understand that their anonymity is fully protected right off the bat. When they open your survey, your participants will see an icon in the footer of the survey participation page to let them know that their answers will be 100% anonymous. They can click on the icon for more details.
Best practices in online survey administration suggest that once your survey is out in the world and gathering responses, you should remind non-respondents to participate and therefore drive in more data. Even though you don’t know who has responded, Sogolytics software can tell if a contact has replied or not and send the reminder on your behalf, without you ever finding out who they are. This ensures that key information stays protected while you get as many responses as possible.
Communication and Trust
Part of getting the most responses means actively countering the common participant concern that a survey isn’t truly anonymous. When HR issues an anonymous online survey, many employees still assume that if management is running the survey, then they must have access to every response and who said it. And, how can a survey be anonymous if you receive a reminder marking you as someone who has yet to respond?
Their misgivings are understandable, but our technology can easily put them to rest. Only a part of our database “knows” who has responded to an anonymous survey. The Survey Administrator will never gain access to this information. In essence, there is no electronic trace by which a response could be linked to a person. The only information that can be viewed is the information provided in the survey. When the survey administrator views their reports, both the IP address and email address fields are masked. Data will appear in your reports, but there is no way to know who said what.
Taking even just a few of these thoughtful steps will help to get your participants intrigued and on board.
- Give them advance notice. Let people know the survey is coming and that you are available to answer any questions. Hold a team meeting, conduct a group chat, post an FAQ.
- Put them at ease. Tell participants in advance that the survey will be anonymous. Explain that they will have true anonymity because of the provider they chose. Post a link to a web page that explains how it works.
- Show your true colors. Be transparent about the reason and rationale behind the survey, and what you hope to learn as a result of their feedback. Your commitment to their privacy is at the heart of this survey, and that without anonymity, it would not fulfill its purpose.
- Bang the drum. In all communications, announcements, invitations, emails, conversations, messages, and even the survey introduction itself, make sure to reiterate that the survey provides true anonymity.
- Have fun. Make a game of it – let participants draw their password numbers publicly and randomly, like a password raffle. Get everyone on the same level and make them equally a part of your endeavor.
- Grow support at the ground level. Enlist internal advocates who understand what you’re trying to achieve and how anonymity works so they can reinforce the message and spread the word.
- Share the results, if possible. Let participants know ahead of time that you intend to make the results available to them. Your transparency will earn trust and anticipating the findings can make participating more enticing.
- Acknowledge and act on what you’ve learned. Recognize the value of their feedback and show that, because of their input, you have implemented changes. When people feel they’ve made a positive difference, they are more likely to participate next time.
Collecting feedback is a smart idea, and anonymous surveys improve the experience for both you and your participants. Ready to learn more? Connect with our team for a demo today!