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Opinion scales – what’s your choice?

December 10, 2015

A number of writers have claimed that employee survey questionnaire using the tried and tested ‘Likert Scale’ using tick boxes on a ‘strongly agree – strongly disagree’ scale can lull organisations into a false sense of security. This was because such surveys fail to reveal the reasons behind responses, and because many consultancies use ‘standardised questions’ which do not take into account the culture or business model of the organisation into account. Such questionnaires fail to provide insights into the reasons for the survey findings. One view is that there should be no more than 10% of such questions in a given survey and that the balance should be tailor made for each individual project.

There are, of course, some serious germs of truth in this perspective. In particular the proposition that an off the shelf questionnaire cannot be as effective as one designed for the specific organisation. And there are, undoubtedly, prospective survey clients who take the line that as a specialist consultancy we surely know the right questions to answer, so preliminary research must be unnecessary. Having said that, such people are in a very small minority.

Most of those who commission surveys are extremely concerned to gain real insights into the reasons why their employees are or are not engaged – that’s why they come to specialist consultancies like Employee Feedback. And that’s why we more often than not go to considerable pains to research the organisation before we ever commit to a questionnaire. And when we have completed a survey we invariably stress the need for clients to go back to the workforce and discuss the findings face to face, precisely to explore the reasons behind the scores and the factors that have made them so.

So it’s not the style of questionnaire that’s really the issue here. It’s the pressure – perhaps from a client, perhaps from an unscrupulous consultant wishing to get in and out as quickly as possible – to keep costs down. Giving in to these pressure will inevitably result in a poor quality job. Careful preparation and comprehensive post-survey feedback hold the key.

In EVERY case where we have seen clients making great progress with building higher levels of engagement it’s not been the style of questionnaire which has had most influence – it’s been a total commitment to doing the most thorough job of research in advance and feedback afterwards. And boy does that approach work!

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