01 February 2010

Science of the survey

I participated in an employee survey today. Advance notice encouraging my participation arrived in my email inbox last week. And I received another reminder on the daily Employee News link too. So I went ahead and opened the link first thing this morning with the best intentions of contributing to the collective knowledge that is our institutional workforce, at least, in terms of this survey.

Truth is, I’m more than a bit dubious about surveys. Most surveys provide an answer array to allow respondents to shade their answers from middle-of-the-road, to extreme. I tend to be a middle-of-the-road girl, regardless of the relative width of the survey’s answer array. I figure that even if I had a single isolated negative experience pertaining to a certain question, I’ve also had at least one good experience, so in the end, it pretty much all averages out. But some people like to click the extreme buttons. So I am not sure how the answers are compiled in a way that recognizes and accommodates the variations in the answering style of the respondents. I can't help wondering about things like this.

I’m also curious about what the survey is attempting to accomplish. I know there is a method to survey design such that the assembled responses boil down to a set of basic feedback indicators. If the indicator is below expectations, then the framework of the survey will also isolate the offending problem area. The science of survey building is as mysterious as it is interesting, at least from my own perspective.

Today’s survey seemed to be about employee satisfaction and retention. Half the questions seemed to be lifted from the standard employee satisfaction survey menu, but the other half were new. They came from the exotic Dim Sum style menu of hypothetical HR benefits, programs and compensation packages. More than a little complex and more than a little tiresome to wade through. This was, after all, purely hypothetical. I found myself clicking, clicking, clicking, wondering if I had stumbled into an endless survey loop or if they were merely trick questions.

Then, just like that, it was over. Until next year.


  1. What? No spam attack from work? They just really wanna know whats going on Diane's head, should have just done some random answers and see if anything substantial comes around.

  2. I hate doing surveys...unless I am particularly pleased or dismayed at something that pertains to said survey. Otherwise, I'm more middle of the road, as well.

  3. Whoaaaa, you mean you have beneifits and retention incentives.......cool. My assumption on the methodolgy, is that they probably have a bell curve where they expect the majority of the answers to fall in (from middle of the road to extreme), and they are looking for spikes in the predicted curve to give them an idea into the employee mindset. Then again, they may just hang the results on a wall and throw darts at it.

  4. could be darts, you never know. I would hate to assume that hard science is applied in the HR department. They're all people oriented touchy-feely types. Not that that is a bad thing, of course. That's who should be in HR!