4 Disadvantages of Employee Survey Incentives

DangersOfIncentivizingEmployees2Everyone loves pizza, right? Set a few boxes on the office counter and they empty within minutes. If you want employees to act, dangle a slice in front of them.

That's precisely why incentivizing them with a pizza party or other prize for taking your employee engagement survey seems like a great idea.  You can’t force employees to participate, but dangling a prize in front of them adds motivation.

Sound as this strategy seems, we highly recommend avoiding this practice.


Understand how to move the needle on engagement: Download our ebook—A New Era of Employee Engagement


We get why organizations do it, and their intentions are pure. They want to hear from as many employees as possible so the feedback is representative and every employee is given a voice. The more participants, the more accurately the data will reflect the reality of the organization.

But there are a few problems caused by employee survey incentives.


1. It doesn’t celebrate the right behavior.

The survey’s main goal is simply to measure employee engagement. Instead of celebrating participation, celebrate meaningful efforts to improve and sustain engagement throughout the year.


2. It overemphasizes the survey.

The survey itself does not equal employee engagement. It provides an overview of the workplace that then allows the organization to make changes to improve engagement. The survey is not the end goal, and putting too much emphasis on it encourages employees to take the survey and forget about engagement until the next one.


3. It can lead to gaming.

Some employees will try to find ways to increase their odds at winning the prize or fudge their team’s level of participation.


4. It can cause debate or frustration.

Imagine a department that misses out on a prize because one employee chose not to participate. What if everyone on that team claims they participated? Acting on employee feedback to make positive changes is now derailed by team frustration.


How do you increase participation numbers over time?


The survey should be voluntary. Employees should be encouraged to take it not to win some short-term reward, but to help transfer the organization into a better place to work for themselves and their coworkers.

  1. Show the employees how their feedback is used so they feel heard and are more inspired to participate. 
  2. Communicate about engagement year-round. If employees only hear about engagement at survey time, they’re not going to think it’s important.



When engagement is part of the day-to-day culture, participation is an expectation. It shouldn’t be about winning a prize, but improving the workplace for everyone involved. To get more ideas about how to boost engagement, download our ebook, A New Era of Employee Engagement.

New call-to-action

Published February 5, 2019 | Written By Anne Maltese