For more than a century researchers have been engaged in observing organizational processes. In the early 19th century the focus was on identifying the efficiency of process. Through this process it was realized that observing changed performance. This simple revelation has strongly influenced how and why we engage in measuring organizational dynamics today.
When we construct research processes the founding principle is that the research is a two way communication. What we ask and how we ask it tells stakeholders what is important to us. The process has the power to create changes for the positive or the negative. Organizational research should encourage collecting valid evidence for decision making and recognize that the audience needs to understand what and why you are researching their activities.
Expected Data Benefits for Planning
- Evaluates what works well
- Provides evidence for what works and what might need to change
- Informs planning process to make future decisions more effective
Dialogue Benefits of Research
- Connects people across the organization – common understanding
- Creates opportunities for feedback
- Facilitates organizational dialogue on common strategic themes
Use Surveys Wisely
- Employees value the ability to provide anonymous feedback.
- Less enfranchised organizational members need communication opportunities.
- “It is safe to say what you think around here” is consistently a low finding on employee surveys across all sectors
When Organizational Research is Done Poorly
- Employees don’t think anything changed
- Questions are not relevant to their immediate experience
- Senior managers receive and use the results but the results do not impact the day-to-day life of the participants
- People feel they gained a voice in decision making
When Organizational Research is Done Well
- The results of the research can identify current strengths and challenges.
- Each participant can focus and move towards a shared vision.
Employees will be:
- More satisfied,
- Managers will have better information for making decisions, and
- Employees and managers will have the means to check on collective progress.
Create the strategic frame:
- The research communicates what is important to an organization.
- What is asked and responded to creates a social contract.
- The survey then sets the limits or boundaries for a creative and innovative discussion around continual improvement.
How Organizational Research Should be Done
- Build a consistent process that is repeated
- Enable others to use the findings
- Teams, work units, divisions
- Facilitate localized conversations to create experiential action
- Anyone conducting an organizational survey should appreciate that the very act of surveying itself influences attitudes (Walters, 2002)
- Publicly demonstrating the steps taken to achieve the plan – will impact employees’ perceptions of trust (Gibbons, 2006)
- The process can tell employees you care about their issues and that you are willing to do something about these issues (Church & Oliver, 2006)
- With raised expectations, the importance of action exceeds that of the feedback itself (Kraut, 2006)