Amid the slew of employee listening companies out there, and their many different kinds of workforce survey platforms, there is one thing that most have in common: A do-it-yourself policy when it comes to interpreting the data you collect. That is, they give you a way to collect information about your workforce, but no specific guidance on how to find out what it means it or act upon it.
While larger companies may have their own in-house consultants and data analysts to parse results, or may hire a company to do that work for them (for a fee that can run in excess of $200,000 for consulting services alone), most companies don’t have these resources at hand when they conduct a survey program.
At the same time, they might be trying to convince themselves that strategic advice isn’t needed. Doing without expertise certainly might save money in the short run, but creating the right survey questions and interpreting the data that follows isn’t always easy. And missteps in interpretation mean that your money, time and effort might go right out the window.
At CultureIQ, we offer unique–and affordable–strategic guidance as part of our client solution—because we believe well-trained eyes and minds are essential to teasing out the best insights and getting the most value out of your employee survey.
We asked two of our finest minds, Principal Strategist Paul Mastrangelo and Managing Director (Culture Solutions) Scott Young, to explain why strategic consultants provide such good survey-program stewardship:
Apparent, but not real
Paul: One easy example is that you might see a pattern in survey results that you feel have to jump on right away to solve—allocating your work/effort/budget/time in that pursuit, but in reality, the pattern is not what it appears to be. For instance, the fact that engagement scores drop among employees with more than 2 years of tenure is NOT unique; in fact it is found almost universally. Or that really high scores from Mexico that suggest problems in other regions, when in fact Latin America just always has higher scores than the global average (Why? Buy a strategist a drink and hear the hypotheses). There are so many patterns that we see across clients, but the company that doesn’t want to hear about those patterns will inevitably invest time on things that are apparent but not real.
Scott: Another example of Paul’s point is that often what appears to be a difference between two groups on a demographic segment (such as men and women) is often reflecting a difference on another demographic (like job level). So, for example, it may seem as if women are less motivated, collaborative and engaged than men, when the problem is actually just that women are under-represented in higher-level or more desirable jobs, and those jobs tend to be the jobs where employees score higher on these culture metrics.
For example, if your call centers are disproportionately women and your engineers are disproportionately men, the reason women feel less empowered is likely because of where they work in the organization, and not necessarily because men and women within the same job family are experiencing different levels of empowerment. In this example, it is likely the case that the question the organization should be asking is not how to make women feel as empowered as men, but how to hire more women engineers.
What lies beneath
Paul: The flip side is that there are many problems that can hide in your survey, like when sales scores are always among the highest in the company, leaders assume that there are no problems in sales. Yet, sales staff typically have very high scores, so if you know that, you can start to tease apart problems that go undetected.
And there are also topics that get ignored. Typically, communication questions in a survey program deal with downward communication, but there are often bigger problems with lateral and upward communication. The popular media portrays the immediate manager as the most important driver of engagement, when in fact it is typically the least important driver.
Scott: Strategists also can be of crucial importance when deciding when you need to conduct an employee listening program. For instance, determining timing when you are going through a change in strategic direction. A strategist who understands what aspects of culture are important for various strategic objectives can help you make sure that as you are undergoing a change, you’re making the best effort to create a culture that is most likely to help you execute the strategy.
Paul: So, go it alone if you like, and you will likely never even know how much wasted effort you will exert. It’s only when you work with an expert that you start to realize all the wrong turns you would have made.
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