Is A Survey Just A Moment In Time? Or Can It Deliver More?

"The survey can offer a moment in time that supports shorter or longer term actions. The key is reviewing the results impartially, making actions and implementing them quickly."

“I love a survey!” I said, as I completed the feedback survey after an excellent event organised by Claire Griffiths of The Thrive Effect. I was greeted with a surprised response from a peer - “Wow, that’s the first time anyone’s said that!”.

OK so full disclosure – I do loads of survey analysis as part of my job. I get to play with all kinds of survey data – client satisfaction, employee engagement, membership feedback, customer experience – all of it telling a story about what that ‘group’ or audience has experienced. Would they recommend their place of work to a friend? Are they happy with the frequency of the communications received from their organisation? Is there anything that can be done to improve the relationship? Some big questions. But what’s interesting is that, if you’ve gathered enough of the right information, you can get really detailed about who’s saying what by cross-referencing it. Would X business unit recommend us? Is it just Y group who feel we’re not communicating enough? And so on… That’s when you have a story – when you get stuck into the nitty-gritty.

But just because I analyse it, doesn’t mean I still have to love completing it, right? Wrong. Here's why I enjoy a survey – think of them as my top tips to get your audience onboard with completing your next survey:

1. I’m giving my opinion

Hands-up who feels flattered when someone’s asked for their advice? It doesn’t have to be on the future strategy of your organisation. It can relate to any daily situation. Would you prefer chicken or pasta for supper? OK, that’s pretty simple – but the point is, you were asked your opinion AND you were listened to!

2. You’re capturing my feelings at that given moment

Back to supper - let's say you choose pasta. Perhaps later that night, you wish you’d said chicken. Well, fair enough – we all have a right to change our mind. But AT THAT MOMENT, you wanted pasta. It doesn’t make it wrong, just because it was based on a single moment in time. It means that, at that very moment you wanted pasta.

Ramping that up to something a bit more complex – let’s say you asked your employees: Would you recommend this company as a great place to work? Yes / No / Unsure. The survey closes a week later. 14% have said No, they wouldn't recommend it. It might be that if you re-ran it, the numbers changed to 10% or 20%. Does that matter? What matters is the way your employees feel. At. That. Moment.

So, if you employ 100 people and 14 of them would NOT recommend you as a great place to work, you need to dig deeper. Because in that same moment, when those 14 were having a bad day in the office, they could also have spent an average of 142 minutes of their day on social networking and messaging platforms telling others how bad it was (source: GWI report in Jan 2019 about time spent on social media globally/averaged).

(The flip side is, chances are the other 86 were sharing rave reviews!)

3. You cared to ask

I’ll scenario-base this one, to illustrate the point better. Imagine you work in education – in a school or college, for example. You have multiple stakeholders – students, parents, teachers, governors, and so on. As an organisation, a decision is made to get rid of uniform and wear own clothes. The comms go out, and there’s a 'revolt'. Who was consulted on this? Well, it turns out, the governors and teachers worked with the PTA to put the plan in place. But as students, didn’t they have a say? Or the broader parent community? A simple survey would have given a broad sense of what ALL stakeholders felt about the decision. So you consult with your widest audience, to give everyone a chance for points 1 & 2 to happen. They may opt not to reply – that’s fine. But you cared to ask, you listened, you captured their feelings at that moment. And that’s a step towards getting full cooperation.

I’m not advocating surveys as offering a complete picture, all the time. But in some cases, they’re enough. For example:

  • Hosting a survey on a website to get target audience feedback to deliver thought leadership;
  • Instant feedback on a new initiative implemented or training session;
  • Member feedback on current membership options.

At other times, you might need something to support a longer term drive:

  • A pulse check for client satisfaction, carried out at intervals as part of the agency's client servicing strategy;
  • Employee engagement, to literally ‘check in’ and see that teams are engaged – as part of a broader employee engagement and wellbeing strategy; and so on.

The above are all examples where the survey can offer a moment in time that supports longer term actions. The key, whichever route you take, is reviewing the results impartially, making actions and implementing them. These actions might be:

  • Quick wins – in response to feedback coming through loud and clear;
  • Specific action – 121s with those sharing something specific. Call them, meet them, understand their challenge or success, and act;
  • Qual to support the quant – use focus groups can help unpick certain areas. Getting a group together, facilitated ideally by an external expert, to really unpick the feedback received.

So you see – a survey can be a moment in time, but it’s usually part of something greater. If you’d like help building, delivering or analysing your survey – whatever form it may take – let me know. I offer impartial, expert insight to help you make evidence-based decisions within your organisation. I also collaborate with experts depending on your specific needs. So drop me a line to chat more!

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