What to Do When Participants Rain on Your Parade:
Understanding and Using the Distribution Report
SETTING THE SCENE…
You are responsible for designing, distributing, and reporting on a major
employee engagement initiative at your organization. The results of the
survey will determine the organization’s hiring, management, and overall
practices for the next several years. It is imperative that things go well.
You create the survey, putting enormous time and energy into its
construction. You then launch the initiative and hope all goes well. As you
cross your fingers, you begin to receive emails from employees with the
- "I’m trying to do this survey, but every time I click on the link it says
that I’ve already participated."
- "I already finished the survey yesterday, but I received a reminder
- "I clicked on the survey link, but the information in the survey questions
Don’t panic. These types of issues occur often in “Private with Unique Key”
surveys (a survey that can only be taken by an individual one time, in order
to prevent “ballot-box stuffing”). When issues such as these arise, turn to
the Distribution Report for guidance.
DEFINITION: The Distribution Report is designed to help participants
understand the status of their survey initiatives as it relates to
participation. The Distribution Report will reveal if a participant has
“Participated” (including the date & time) or “Not Participated,” or whether
the “Email [was] Read” (i.e. the participant opened the link, but did not
complete the survey), or “Bounced.”
WHERE IS IT LOCATED?
HOW IS IT USED?
If a survey recipient mentions any of the complaints above, do the
Does it say “Not Participated”? Or, can you not find the email address at
all? Don’t be confused. Just ask your participant if one (or all) of the
following things could have happened:
- Go to the Distribution Report.
- Search for the proper email address.
- Look in the status column to determine their status of participation.
- Did someone forward you the survey invitation? If a user forwards a “Private
with Unique Key” survey that’s already been taken, then the recipient of the
forwarded email will see this message:
- Did the participant forward their invite before taking the survey
him/herself? If the recipient of the forwarded message participates first,
then the original invitee will be unable to do so.
Does a participant say that they received a reminder today, even though they
took the survey days ago
- Visit the Status column of the Distribution Report. Look for the
participant’s email address and note if the system indicates that they have
not participated. If a participant took a forwarded survey and not the
survey originally intended for him/her, then the participant will continue
to receive reminders.
Does the participant say the information in the survey is not their own?
- If a survey contains Pre-Population (a feature that allows survey creators
to pre-fill a survey with information about the participant), and someone
forwards their survey, the recipient of the forwarded survey will see the
original recipient’s information.
Example: You send Amy in Marketing a survey and it contains her first and
last names, direct telephone extension, and her position title as the
Director of Marketing. Amy forwards the survey to the Marketing Assistant,
John. John then opens the survey and finds Amy’s information. When John
contacts you about the “mistake,” ask him if he received the survey via a
The Distribution Report is a helpful tool to learn “what happened” to your
survey invites. Learn it. Embrace it. Use it.