Best practice for creating salary surveys

The IDA Trade Union reveals to you its best tips and tricks

Salary is often a taboo subject between colleagues, so where do you acquire knowledge about your peers' salary levels? 

Every year, many trade unions carry out a salary survey of their members' salaries, which members can use as a guide in negotiations to ensure that they are compensated fairly for their work and skills.

And it's precisely these salary statistics that this article will focus on – because how do you create them and ensure the highest possible quality? And how do you ensure a high response rate?


We will give you the answer here.


Salary survey as one of the most important services

Most of the large trade unions in Denmark carry out salary surveys for their members, and for many of the trade unions, the salary statistics are one of the most popular and valuable services for their members.

In fact, salary surveys are a key tool in helping employers and employees understand salary trends and compare salary levels across industries, regions and job titles.

The IDA Trade Union is a good example of how salary surveys can offer real value to both organizations and their members. With their targeted approach, IDA has managed to achieve a response rate of up to 45% in their SurveyXact salary surveys. This figure is well above the average for other salary surveys, and testifies to IDA's ability to engage and motivate their members to actively participate in the surveys.

Chief Analyst Finn Tidemand from IDA explains that salary statistics for members have been an integral part of IDA’s work for almost 70 years. Salary statistics play an important role in attracting members to the Trade Union.

"The salary statistics are one of the Member services that our members value most and rank highest when assessing all the services we as a Trade Union provide to them"

Finn Tidemand

Chief Analyst, The IDA Trade Union

6 tips to boost response rates and improve the quality of your salary survey

Let’s now examine some of the key strategies and actions that IDA has adopted to improve response rates and thereby enhance the quality of their salary surveys.


1) The key to a good response rate is preparation

You can’t just send an email with a link to your survey and expect people to respond. In fact, the key to a high response rate is to take the initiative several weeks before the start of the survey and actively awaken the interest of participants in salary statistics over a period of time.

Specifically, the IDA has implemented an information campaign as part of their strategy. For the IDA, motivating participants is essential to generating interest and engagement among their members.

Through a number of newsletters and articles on their website and in their member magazine, The Engineer, the IDA conveys the message about the upcoming salary survey and salary statistics in general. The proactive communication creates an expectation and motivation for members to participate in the survey.

According to Finn Tidemand at IDA, about 70% of participants who responded to the salary survey the previous year also replied. This suggests that participants recognize and value of the survey as an annual event worth attending.

2) Target the surveys at the right participants

A key part of IDA’s strategy is to ensure that the information provided by the members is correct and up-to-date before the questionnaire is sent out.

Through the information campaign, they encourage members to update their personal information, such as location and type of employment, before sending out the questionnaire. This gives the IDA an advantage by having relevant data in advance and enables a more accurate and differentiated distribution of the survey.

For example, they can tailor surveys to private and public employees, resulting in more accurate and targeted results. By ensuring that participants fill out questionnaires that are directly relevant to their employment relationship, the IDA increases the chances of higher response rates.

Members see the purpose of the survey in relation to their own work and are therefore more inclined to participate actively.

3) Remember to remind your participants

In our everyday lives filled with emails, tasks and deadlines, it is not uncommon for a single email about a salary survey to quickly be de-prioritized or lost in transit. Therefore, it is important to send repeated reminders.

The IDA is aware of the challenge of capturing the participant’s attention on a busy day, so they send reminders via both email and SMS over a period of one month. This helps to maintain the participant’s awareness and creates an increased awareness of the importance of participating in the salary survey.

The repeated reminders increase the chance of participants responding and participating in the salary survey, which ultimately results in a higher response rate and more reliable data.


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We have created a checklist that you can use to conduct salary surveys with SurveyXact, so you obtain good quality data and a high response rate.

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4) Divide the survey into need-to-know and nice-to-know

When planning the salary survey, the IDA adapts the survey to the time constraints and preferences of the participants. 

The IDA therefore divides their salary survey into two parts: “need-to-know” and “nice-to-know”.

In the mandatory need-to-know part, participants are asked to answer questions about their salary and terms of employment. This is the crucial information that the IDA needs to collect from all participants in order to prepare the various salary statistics products they provide. This section ensures that even participants with limited time can contribute the essential information.
In the nice-to-know part, participants are asked to answer further questions, such as their attitude to working from home or other topics. This gives participants who want to invest more time the opportunity to provide deeper insight and perspectives. 

The differentiated approach ensures that both those with a busy everyday life and those who want to engage more, feel included and satisfied by the survey.

5) Soft validations in the survey

When analyzing statistics, it is necessary to obtain good quality data with as few errors as possible.

For example, errors can occur if participants accidentally enter their annual salary instead of monthly salary. In this case, the IDA will include friendly reminders and clarifying questions in the questionnaire to help participants ensure accuracy.

Another way the IDA enhances data quality is by displaying responses from previous surveys. This allows participants to compare and validate their own answers while reminding them of previously entered information.

6) Something for something – a thank you to the participants

Without the goodwill of members to share their salary information, there would be no salary statistics. So, in order to show their gratitude to the members who have replied to the survey, the IDA wants to give something back to those who have participated.

After the participants have completed the questionnaire, they will receive an email with a personal salary check. The salary check gives them insight into their current salary level and position in relation to others in their industry, job type, seniority etc.

By providing members with direct and useful information about their salary as a thank you, the IDA strengthens the relationship between itself and its members. This creates a virtuous cycle of participation and collaboration that benefits both members and the IDA as a whole.

Per Mangaard Jørgensen

Account Manager, Member organizations

Xact By Rambøll

M +45 51 61 78 82