All Question Types Are Not Created Equal

Despite what your primary school teachers may have told you, there is such a thing as a bad question — especially when it comes to surveying.  The type and quality of the questions you ask will determine the type of data you receive, which ultimately determines the quality of the reports you create.  Good questions mean good data.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating survey questions:

1. If you want only one response to a question, do not give participants the opportunity to select more than one option.

2.When creating a rating scale question, consider making the scale smaller, not larger.  On a scale of 1 – 10, no one really knows the difference between a “9” and a “10.”  You will get more definitive data with a smaller scale.

3. Remember GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out.  If you ask participants to enter a certain kind of information but provide them with open space and no formatting parameters, the participant can enter anything.  For example, if you ask me for my annual salary in an employee survey, but you only provide an open-ended text box, what is to stop me from entering a bunch of &*%^ (junk) symbols?  Format the text boxes to receive certain kinds of data — numbers, percentages, ZIP Codes, Social Security numbers, etc.

4. Don’t double dip when writing your questions.  Double dipping is when you combine two questions into one.  For example:  On a scale of 1 – 5, rate the quality of the hotel accommodations and the cost for the perceived value.  What does the participant do if the hotel was amazing but not worth $600 per night?  Create separate questions for each item.

These are just a few helpful hints as you build your surveys.  Happy questioning!

The Art of the Employee Survey

It’s 9:47 on a Tuesday morning.  You and your colleagues are gathered in the conference room brainstorming how you are going to create the new employee study requested by the CEO.  There have been some stirrings in the company about satisfaction levels, opportunities for improvement and a lack of corporate efficiency.  But before contacting vendors for project quotes, it is important to consider a few issues.

While you may have a general idea of what you want, make sure that you have a clear understanding of your project’s purpose.  Do you want to conduct a satisfaction study or an engagement study? 

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is defined as the heightened connection that employees associate with their jobs. This association influences them to apply additional effort for the company. The predecessor to engagement studies were employee satisfaction studies, which simply explored the question, “Is the employee satisfied with her job?”  As satisfaction studies evolved, researchers realized that a significant piece of the puzzle was missing.

Employee Satisfaction

An employee can be satisfied with having a comfortably air-conditioned office, sufficient coffee supplies in the break room and a consistent paycheck.  None of these items, however, leads the employee to apply additional, discretionary efforts to her job.  She won’t necessarily work diligently to help the company meet its bottom line, if she is just satisfied with status quo.  Thus, satisfaction is a limited measure.

Reporting Considerations

In addition to the type of employee surveys you would like to conduct, think about the kind of information you want to see in the reports.  The best way to answer, “What do we ask in the survey?” is to determine the information you want to obtain from the reports.

How are you going to distribute the survey to your employees? Are there staff members who do not use their email on a regular basis?  If so, perhaps you should consider providing an email, paper and/or telephone option to accommodate all employees.

You might also consider if the survey should be conducted in multiple languages, the time of year it will be distributed, and how employees will be notified that the survey is on its way.  Remember, the pre-survey communication effort is just as important as the survey itself.

The possibilities are quite extensive but with the right partner firm and a clear sense of direction, you will succeed!