5 ways to gather better employee survey data

Instead of creating generic demographic groups based on age, tenure and gender, try tightly targeted, incisive segments.

Employee engagement data

The more effort you put into cleaning up your data, the more it’s going to tell you.

This is certainly the case for employee engagement surveys. If you don’t take the time and effort to create representative demographic groups, your data will be all over the place and won’t tell a complete story.

Here are five common mistakes organizations make, along with course corrections to consider:

Mistake:  Avoid grouping employees into generic demographic groups such as age, tenure and gender. Broad segmentation can yield some useful insights, but having such wide parameters makes it difficult to take meaningful action on behalf of workers.

Solution: Consider how your organization functions, and break employees into tightly targeted groups such as division, department, job level and location. This will more accurately pinpoint organizational strengths and weaknesses, and it’ll help you gather more substantive, relevant data.

Mistake: It’s also misguided to segment workers into hyper-specific groups based on job title. For example, your organization might have employees with the roles of “Director of Insights,” “Senior Analyst,” and “Analyst.” They’re all doing similar work but are separated in your demographic breakdown.

Solution: Create demographic groups that include similar employees with slightly different job titles.

Mistake: Many communicators divvy up the same demographic groups year after year. Of course, it’s useful to benchmark results to compare yearly data, but you could be missing opportunities to uncover more-meaningful data.

Solution: Create more-targeted groups that are a bit outside the norm. For example, let’s say you recently conducted a pulse survey to capture employee perceptions about leadership accountability. You could establish a demographic for the surveyed employees and judge whether their engagement scores improved. Other possibilities include groups of employees who were recently promoted, were assigned as mentors, or have been in a certain role for years. Get creative, and you might unearth crucial bits of hidden information.

Mistake: Demographic groups often fail to shed light on manager performance, communication and expectations. Managers are a vital piece of the employee engagement puzzle, so it’s important to capture their perceptions.

For instance, if your managers don’t understand the organization’s plan for success, how are they going to get their direct reports to understand—let alone buy into—those plans?

Solution: Break your managers into groups. Employees tend to fall into one of three groups: contributors, managers, and managers of managers. You can divvy your managers into deeper groups if you wish, but starting with those three classes will help clean up your data.

Mistake: There’s often a misconception that slicing employees into cleaner, updated and accurate demographic groups will be time-consuming and difficult.

Solution: Investing in cleaner, more insightful data collection always pays dividends. Also, it’s not nearly as scary or complex as it sounds. You don’t have to be a data scientist (or even an Excel whiz) to craft better, more illuminating surveys. Just start small by creating interesting subgroups, and don’t be afraid to try new things.

A version of this post first appeared on the Quantam Workplace blog.

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