Conducting an Employee or Customer Survey In-House vs. Outsourcing

Conducting an Employee or Customer Survey In-House vs. Outsourcing

The ultimate goal of a successful research study is to obtain honest feedback from all participants that can be translated into action to achieve optimal organizational growth and development. To achieve this, participants must be confident in the process, and the organization must trust the results.

Participants need to know that the organization has a genuine interest in listening to their candid opinions, and they must be assured that their input is kept confidential. In order for the participants to willingly engage in the process, the organization must demonstrate sincere plans to incorporate the feedback they gather into future decisions. By the same token, the organization must be confident that the data is accurate and meaningful.

There can be hazards associated with unprofessional attempts to conduct a survey research study. Many organizations rely upon a third-party survey research firm for the management of such studies, whether employee, customer, or market research focused. In so doing, they free up their internal staff resources to focus on the all-important action planning that results from a successful study.

Here are some of the most common reasons why organizations elect not to administer their research studies internally:

Benchmarking Data

Benchmarking data is necessary for clients to understand their results and compare themselves against real world scores. Without this comparison, clients must judge their employee survey and/or customer survey scores relative to the survey scale, which has no relationship with reality. That is, a score of 3.86 may appear to be relatively high compared to a scale of 5 or 6 points, but in fact, it may represent the 24th percentile of the benchmarking database, indicating poor performance compared to other companies, or it may represent the 84th percentile of the benchmarking database, representing relatively high performance compared to other companies. Without this information, the scores generated by any research study are virtually meaningless. Research studies conducted in-house may not, by definition, have benchmarking data.

Executive Summary / Root Cause Analyses

Some clients employ Ph.D. level Organizational Psychologists who can take the survey data and turn it into meaningful, actionable continuous improvement programs. Most do not. For those who do not, a third-party firm, such as NBRI, provides the perfect solution. Cost-effectively, NBRI provides full documentation of the research study, the methodology, results, and recommendations in an Executive Summary. The executive summary also includes higher-level statistical analyses called a Root Cause Analysis (RCA), wherein all raw data is analyzed via correlations, stepwise and linear regression analyses (proprietary, modified), and path analyses by a Ph.D. level Organizational Psychologist. These root cause analyses reveal the fewest number of items that, when addressed, will have the greatest amount of positive impact on the organization. When studies are conducted in-house, clients usually do not have access to, knowledge of, or experience with these analytical techniques, and may spend months after the study addressing issues that have little or no effect on the continuous improvement effort.

Lack of Confidentiality / Lower Response Rates

Research clearly shows that survey participants are less comfortable sharing their feedback when studies are conducted in-house. In addition to generating less candid responses, internal programs also often result in lower response rates due to the perception that the programs are not objective. Ideally, a trusted third-party vendor collects, processes, and reports the feedback from employee and/or customer surveys.

Administrative Burden

Often, program oversight and administrative responsibilities are assigned to individuals whose jobs are varied and schedules are full. A properly managed survey feedback program demands time and attention. Typically, available internal staff resources are in short supply. Turning over program administration to an outside vendor enables clients to align valuable internal staff time on issues related to strategy and action planning. NBRI partners with clients. We dedicate our human capital to meet the data collection and analysis demands of the program, and we provide our expertise in interpreting the results of client studies.

Lack of Expertise / Technical Tools

When clients do not engage psychological research specialists in the design and development of client research studies, it is difficult to arrive at a solution that will have the maximum, positive impact on the organization. Lack of education, experience, and expertise, as well as technical constraints may prevent the organization from utilizing available technology and innovative tools to arrive at a workable solution. Without the benefit of experience in this demanding field, organizations are likely to fall short of their overall program objectives.

Added Complexities

Employee and/or customer survey distribution, reminder notices, data collection, comment coding, language translation, special processing, statistical analyses, interpretation, the executive summary, and action plans are complex pieces of the process. There are numerous factors to address while managing the overall program timeline. What appears to be a cost-saving measure of utilizing internal resources typically turns out to be a more costly and less effective option. Clients need to be able to address the complex needs of the research study in real time, and must know those needs in advance in order to be prepared for them, or the results can be disastrous. Far worse than the public embarrassment of a failed research study due to technical difficulties, is the effect on the organization of management making faulty decisions based on misinformation. With NBRI, clients are confident that their customer and/or employee survey research instrument, research study, and the resulting data are at a level of purity equivalent to that of scientific research.