Monthly Archives: October 2010

Social Media will not replace the need to survey

Those in hungry need for budgets and time to access the thoughts and feelings of stakeholders are increasingly using social media. This is a vast new frontier for researchers. I am excited to participate in the innovation of new methodologies to interpret our findings.Yet, this exciting new area will not achieve what a survey does.

Most of the new processes like Ideation using tools like PollStream give us researchers new data sets. They allow participants to vote and comment. This is useful data but it must be put into context. It is not a survey that had distribution methodology. Surveys can potentially be generalized to the broader populations.  At their foundation these new tools are qualitative in nature and should be used as such.

In corporate communications research qualitative measurement is gold. They give us evidence and inform why people think what they do. The professional practices that communication and human resources professionals alike should resist is reporting these findings back to executives with the indication that they provide a predominance of opinion. Specifically, for engaging and informing employees the survey retains the position as the best tool to inform and track our progress. With more study, social media tools may emerge with some quantitative elements but we are not there yet.

The employee engagement survey best practices in 2010
To fulfill the objectives of the survey and enhance the value of the benchmark data, I construct a theory of business using leader interviews and organizational plans. A theory of business is a model that reflects the circumstances that organizations believe would bring about goal attainment. This theory includes the foundational measures used in the benchmarks that look at a variety of foundational engagement factors (I use the Conference Board of Canada`s 2006 Meta Analysis on Employee Engagement). The next two areas examined are focused around the mandate/values and the strategic priorities specific to your organization. The last section queries the ability of the participants to engage, innovate and inform decisions. The presentation of these elements in more detail can be illustrated with the following typical items in an engagement survey:


Surveys are powerful two-way communications. Anyone conducting an organizational survey should appreciate that the very act of surveying itself influences attitudes (Walters, 2002). The survey communicates what is important to an organization. What is asked and responded to will create a social contract between the organization and employees. The process can tell employees you care about their issues and that you are willing to do something about these issues (Church & Oliver, 2006). From a leadership perspective, the most powerful survey is one that enables a strategic frame and moves away from purely transactional relationships.

The survey sets the limits or boundaries for a creative and innovative discussion around continual improvement. The survey will be constructed to communicate an outcome focus, important values and supporting mechanisms that will enable goal achievement.

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Filed under Communication, Employee Surveys