Why Surveys Fail

As I have mentioned before, the biggest frustration for survey consultants is organizations not using survey results. Although this is understandable under certain circumstances, most of the time it is a simple case of organizations who didn’t realize the seriousness of the problems that they were facing and just simply give up.

But what about those organizations that really try but simply don’t know how to proceed? Obviously, the survey consultant has let them down.

All too often, these organizations build action plans based on issues receiving low survey scores. Makes sense, right? Maybe not. After all, a low survey score, whether based on the response scale score itself or on a benchmark comparison, is a bad thing, right? It indicates a problem, right? Maybe not.

The point here is that all survey questions are not created equal. That is, all survey questions do not have the same impact on organizational performance. Now, I am not talking about a bad question, that is, one that should not have been asked in the first place. I am talking about a good question that provides valuable information but is not as strongly related to performance as are other questions. The information from these questions may help the organization understand the overall work environment better, but they should not set the prime focus.

If a low survey score does not necessarily translate into a problem of immediate concern how do we determine what is a problem of immediate concern? A statistical technique called Driver Analysis provides the solution. Driver Analysis will determine the one or more survey items that should be the immediate focus. Here’s what comes as a surprise. The survey item identified by this analysis may or may not be a low scoring item. That’s right, the organization’s primary focus may be on an area that they are already doing OK or even well on. Remember, we want to identify the item that provides the most leverage on organizational performance. Low scores are good to look at but they may not tell us what we really need to know.

About the author: Ray Seghers is an organizational improvement consultant specializing in employee engagement and customer loyalty surveys as well as employee commitment research.
Blog URL: http://rayseghers.wordpress.com
Business URL: http://www.segherssurveyconsulting.com

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