Vic Management Interns' blog

Blog posts by Victorian Management Interns of the Australasian College of Health Service Management. Views are those of the individual authors and not those of ACHSM or management interns’ host organisations or employers.

Oscar Chaffey
Oscar Chaffey

Health Management Interns, ACHSM

On Being A Survey Monkey: Swinging from the Tree of Dismissal to the Tree of Relevance (Michelle Middleton)

By Michelle Middleton

1st Year Management Intern

Publication date: 28 May 2021

With a notoriously low response rate, surveys are still often the method of choice for measuring employee wellbeing and patient satisfaction.

As a clinician I remember dismissing emails asking me to fill in the People Matter Survey. There was no communication of how the survey was relevant to me. My colleagues were under the impression that nothing changes based on responses. Also, I barely had the time. What incentive was there for me to give up my already precious lunch break to fill out a non-compulsory survey that didn’t seem to have any likelihood of improving working conditions for me or my colleagues?

Fast-forward six months later, and as a health management intern I now have a completely different opinion on surveys. In particular, the People Matter survey (PMS).

According to the Department of Health, the PMS is ‘…an independent opinion survey where employees from organisations across the public sector can have their say.’1 Job satisfaction, wellbeing, bullying, and career development are some of the topics addressed.  But what is actioned as a result of this survey?

Being on the other side of the fence allowed me to see the importance of PMS. The results of this survey matter and are discussed in hospital performance meetings. Reports of bullying are of a particular concern, and if these are reported hospitals are asked what plans they have to address this. The same goes for any other issues raised: what is the organisation going to do to address these concerns? All of this is noted and reviewed at performance meetings to ensure they are actioned.

What happens when you do not have a high response rate?

Even if there are only a handful of participants; if one or two report bullying or harassment or anything else negative, sample size isn’t really considered by the Department of Health. They assess what is reported. Three respondents out of ten reporting bullying compared to three out of 100 changes the percentage of bulling from 30% to 3%. Sample size is often cited as a defense by the health service, but nevertheless, the Department of Health and Safer Care Victoria (SCV) want to know what plans are in place to address the incidence reported for bullying and harassment. Those three people reporting maybe only three in 300, but that’s not what the Department sees.

How can you improve response rates?

The department has a variety of resources you can disseminate across your organisation to promote the survey, from e-mail banners to posters. One thing that would have encouraged me to fill out the survey, would have be a frank discussion with my manager. If they approached the team and said ‘hey guys, the People Matters Survey closes on Friday, I’d really appreciate it if you took out five minutes of your time to fill it in. If you’ve got concerns, the organisation has to actually address them, and if you don’t have any, it reduces the chance of us having to do unnecessary training for bullying and wellness if you’re already satisfied. So we’re more likely to get more funding for things that are important to us,’ I’d have responded.

No one had such a conversation with us. So I didn’t see how important it was. If you don’t feel you could influence an outcome, why would you bother?

Ultimately, it’s in the best interest of the employer to encourage employees to respond. Some organisations hold competitions and the department who has the highest response rate gets a reward or prize. If people have only negative things to say, it will result in the hospital actioning it. If most people have positive things to say, it may negate the hospital dedicating resources to unnecessary anti-bulling programs which takes away resources for other programs of work. In the forever tightening budget-world of hospitals, you can’t take from Peter without giving to Paul.


  1. 2021 People Matter Survey commences in May - VPSC
Views are those of the individual authors and not those of ACHSM or management interns’ host organisations or employers.

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