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Wondering If You Should Seek Help with Your Survey?

Six Questions to Ask Yourself

How do you determine if you need an external research firm to assist with your survey?

Surveys are great tools to help you assess an organization’s culture, measure customer satisfaction, and gain critical information to help you develop effective strategies to address many organizational challenges. It’s no wonder survey platforms such as SurveyMonkey, Zoho Survey, SurveyGizmo, and SoGoSurvey have become so popular—they make it quick and easy to design, execute and report the results of your survey.

 

But do these DIY survey tools provide you with the kind of valid, reliable and actionable data you seek?

Possibly but ensuring confidence in your survey results is less about the technology employed and more about the skillset and experience of those who are designing and administering the survey instrument, then analyzing, interpreting and reporting the results. If you have the internal resources and expertise, by all means you can probably go it alone. If you’re not sure, here are six questions to ask yourself to determine if you need an external research firm to assist with your survey.

 

1. Are you able to ensure confidentiality?

Many surveys address very sensitive topics and, often, respondents are concerned about how their confidentiality will be ensured and how their responses might be shared. For example, if employees who work in a safety conscious environment are asked to participate in a survey, they will want to be sure that if they provide honest and open evaluations of their workplace they can do so without fear of retaliation. They need to have strong assurances of anonymity and awareness that they can provide critical opinions without being personally identified. While you may be able to provide such assurances, this condition can best be guaranteed when surveys are conducted and results are analyzed by an independent, external party.

 

2. Will your stakeholders have enough confidence in the neutrality of the survey and its results to participate?

Similarly, to ensure sufficient survey participation, it is often helpful to involve an impartial third party that can work with and reconcile the needs of different groups of stakeholders. For example, to gain wide support and endorsement of the effort, it is best practice to have a neutral party engage representatives of various stakeholder groups in the design process to ensure the validity and reliability of the line of questions. In addition, knowing that an impartial third party is responsible for data collection and analysis can provide respondents with the needed assurance that survey results will be accurate, neutral, confidential and credible.

 

3. Are you confident in the validity and reliability of the survey design?

To provide objective and actionable assessment, it is crucial to ensure that the survey instrument is both valid and reliable. This means that the instrument must actually measure the dimensions it was designed to measure and do so accurately. The questionnaire design should follow rigorous, tried and true methodological procedures for design, review, and pre-testing. Ideally, one would, for instance, conduct a literature review of existing or similar survey results, review and map survey questions, then conduct pre-testing and revision of the survey instrument, all before it is fully deployed. Only a trained and experienced methodologist can provide such assurances.

 

4. Do you have the needed expertise to conduct, administer, analyze, and report survey findings?

External research firms have specialists who are expert not only in design methodology but in analysis and reporting as well. Because they have extensive experience administering surveys and with the facilities and equipment required to do so, they almost assuredly will be able to provide you with better quality results—faster and at a lower cost—than you could yourself.

 

5. Are you prepared to conduct a survey awareness campaign to maximize stakeholder willingness to participate?

We find that a well-prepared survey awareness campaign provides a significant boost in response rates and mitigates any potential stakeholder concerns regarding the legitimacy of the survey effort and confidentiality in its results. Such a campaign requires a sequence of multiple messages as well as materials that inform stakeholders about the survey effort and address how privacy, confidentiality, and aggregated reporting will be ensured. You should be prepared to conduct such a campaign or rely on others with experience doing so.

 

6. Would you benefit from a new perspective?

When a survey is conducted by an independent and external organization, it provides the added benefits of objectivity and a new perspective. For example, within a large, diverse organization, such objectivity can provide a means of capturing a unified picture of the work environment that goes beyond the perspective of any particular individual or group, while at the same time ensuring that diversity across the organization in not overlooked. Then, assuming a consistent set of measures is applied across the organization, meaningful comparisons can be made and benchmarks can be standardized across the organization.

 

Article adapted from Conducting Safety Conscious Work Environment Survey — The Case for Engaging an External Survey Organization.

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