Are Your People Surveyed Out?

In: BlogDate: Jul 16, 2019By: Lucy Blake

Online surveys are by far the quickest and most cost-effective way of gathering data and consulting across a workforce at speed. However, it’s no secret that people are starting to feel a bit ‘surveyed out’.

In this blog, Lucy gives four of Happy's tried and tested alternatives to the online survey.

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Surveys are great, we love them. They are the perfect way to gather insights and involve people in decisions. If you like to be connected to what your people and clients are saying, then you are probably a big fan of surveys too. It’s also likely that you will have a fair few on the go as you read this blog.  

Online surveys are by far the quickest and most cost-effective way of gathering data and consulting across a workforce at speed. However, it’s no secret that people are starting to feel a bit 'surveyed out'.  

Add to that the knowledge that the best decisions and ideas are made when everyone participates and has an equal say, it might be time to seek out a more powerful approach to insight gathering.

Here’s four of Happy’s tried and tested alternatives to the online survey.

Dotmocracy or dot voting

What is it?  

Voting by dots. It’s a great way to get people to express preferences among limited options or to quickly paint a picture of where they are as a group on given issue.

How is it done?

Simply put up a series of options (or get the group to generate them) and ask people to vote by sticking a dot on their favourite.

When to use it

Use it whenever you want a group of people to vote for something, express a preference or share where they are on a scale.

For example

Why we use it

It’s an engaging way for people to make their views known and little or no analysis is needed after the vote as the winner is obvious to everyone in the room. 

People respond to visual data. Simply take a picture of the vote and you will have a compelling visual record of the insights gathered for reports, or reminders if action is flagging.

Find out more on the Wikipedia page

Instant polling

What is it?

Use an online instant polling website or app to enable participants to vote on issues or ideas at live events. Collect real-time insights during meetings, workshops or presentations.

How is it done?

  • Set up the question or poll before the live event or meeting. You’ll be given pin number for your participants to use.
  • Ask your question at the appropriate moment in your event, bring up the poll on the presenter’s screen.
  • Ask participants to visit the website on their phone or laptop and input the pin number to access your poll.
  • Everyone votes!
  • The results are visible on the screen for all to share and discuss.

When to use it

Use instant polling when you want people to share their views and experience the results together in a group context but allow people to keep their individual responses private.

It can also be usefully employed as a follow up to 1-2-4-All, where final votes might be needed on the ideas generated.

Find out more

At Happy we use (it's free) - visit the website for more information

Liberating Structure 1-2-4-All

What is it? 

1-2-4-All is a workshop technique for generating lots of ideas and building consensus on any subject quickly and with ease. No matter how large the crowd, it’s easy to involve everyone at the same time.

How is it done?

The facilitator asks a question on the issue being canvassed and then gets the group to work through the following steps:

  1. Silent self-reflection by individuals on a shared challenge, framed as a question. Spend one minute on this.
  2. Generate ideas in pairs, building on ideas from self-reflection. Spend two minutes on this step.
  3. Share and develop ideas from your pair in foursomes (notice similarities and differences). Allow four minutes to complete this.
  4. Everyone comes back together and each group shares one important idea with all. Keep this step to 5 minutes.

When to use it

Anytime you want to gather ideas, thoughts and questions from a group very quickly and make rapid, well informed, collaborative decisions. Best used with groups over 8 participants.

For example

When Happy worked with Blue Cross at their annual staff conference we used 1-2-4-All to enable a group of 200 staff to crowd source ideas on the best way how to create a better workplace. 

There were two rooms of 100 people who were seated at tables groups of eight. They worked through 1-2-4-All process adding in the an additional sharing step for the two groups of four at each table to merge their ideas.  

Each table's final ideas were put into and then each group of 100 people voted for the ideas they would take forward.

This process meant that every single person in the room had their say, and then took part in the final vote.

Why we use it

The best thing about this method is that it naturally builds toward a shared understanding and consensus of large groups, where everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute. There is no need for take-away tasks or follow up analysis as all of the work is done in the room, together.

Find out more

Read about 1-2-4-All on the Liberating Structures website

Join Happy's one-day Introduction to Liberating Structures workshop which introduces six of the structures including 1-2-4-All. Find out more and view upcoming dates

The Living Survey / Asynchronous Dot voting

What is it?

The living survey is dot voting — but over time.

How is it done?

Prepared in exactly the same way as for a standard dot vote with one important difference. Rather than getting everyone to vote at the same time in a workshop, simply put up your questions along a corridor or in a meeting room and allow people time to vote over a week or month – whatever makes most sense in your context.

When to use it

Use this for the times when you just can’t get everyone together in the same room together or when you want to give people additional time to reflect.

For example

Here at Happy we are super-focused on productivity in preparation for our four-day working week in August. In the run up we are identifying different areas of work where we could all improve efficiency.

We used a living survey to get a snapshot of what was working and where frustrations lie. Putting up some targeted questions in a meeting room and allowing people time to visit and record their views has left us with a clear picture of where we can focus to collectively become more productive.

Why we use it

The living survey lets everyone watch as a picture of the real issues emerge. The living survey shares insights among participants and helps to keep the topic out in the open and in mind for longer than a digital survey might.  

The living survey also has a magical knack of kickstarting a process where people become more mindful of the issues and take action even before the results are in.


So the next time you reach for your online survey tool of choice, ask yourself: How can I get everyone engaged in the insight gathering and participating more fully?

The most powerful thing about all of these techniques is that they allow you to gather insight and consensus simultaneously. You get better ideas and more valuable insights because everyone is engaged and everyone has an equal voice; and because all participants own the ideas and the data, you have much more buy-in and commitment from everyone involved.

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Lucy Blake

Lucy is Head of eLearning at Happy.

More by Lucy

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