Predicting the unpredecitable
We have lately been witnessing a lot of research. Tending to make the unforeseeable foreseeable, the research serves as a valuable tool and a foundation by providing clear and exacts data from both markets and the employees within a company, allowing us not to rely merely on assumptions.
How satisfied are the employees by working within companies or with current work-from-home arrangements? How satisfied are they with the benefits offered by the company? Are these benefits adequate or not? Would you like to assess the competencies of the employees and the managers? You can obtain the assumption-based answers by using the existing established and adopted methodologies.
If you wish to develop research that would test a unique assumption within your company, 6 basic rules of good research presented below can be rather helpful.
0. Rule zero – clear communication plan
Develop a clear communication plan for employees regarding the research you plan to conduct. The plan should include research purposes, communication of research results, and research outcome. In other words, communicate why you are conducting the research, that the main findings will be presented to all employees, and finally, that the research results will lead to introducing changes that the research identifies as needed by the employees, to create a better work environment.
The purpose of the plan is to make the employees understand how important their answers are for making a positive climate and to encourage honest answers. The communication needs to take a positive tone, without allowing for the research to be understood in a wrong way by the employees, in particular, the employees must understand that their answers will not have any negative effect on them.
1. Define the research objective
In order the develop successful research you need to begin by forming a clear research OBJECTIVE. Many aspects will depend on the research objective – the way the research is conducted, the target group, and the way the questions are formulated.
For instance, if the company wishes to see how much the employees liked working from home during the lockdown, this can be evaluated with a questionnaire on employees’ satisfaction with remote work, conducted online. However, if the company wishes to deep dive into why the employees liked or disliked working from home, they will opt for different research, conducted via focus group discussions or workshops to examine the reasons more deeply. The researchers often recommend a combination of the two methods as the best option to fully examine a phenomenon, although this is not necessary.
2. Determine the target group
Having formulated the research objective, it is important to determine the target group, more precisely the group of employees you wish to conduct the research with. This is important for two reasons – firstly, this will allow you to adjust the questions of the questionnaire, and secondly, this may influence the way the research is conducted. The clearer the target group is defined, the easier it will be to understand the results later on.
3. Decide on the method of conduction the research and ensure anonymity
Once you determine the objective and the target group, the appropriate research method will often present itself. Online surveys are cheaper and faster and, therefore, companies choose online research more often if all or most of the participants of the target group have Internet access and e-mail address. Online surveys often raise the anonymity issue, because the links are sent to e-mail addresses of the employees, and this makes the adequate communication to employees extremely important, in order to assure the respondents that their answers are anonymous and that the results will be processed on a group level.
The paper-and-pencil survey raises the issue of the conditions in which the employees filled out the questionnaire, if the privacy was ensured or not, this being the crucial aspect to consider if you wish to conduct this type of survey. Despite different drawbacks, both methods are valid and give an adequate picture. The research has shown that only a small number of respondents do not provide honest answers if appropriate conditions are not ensured and anonymity is not guaranteed.
4. Design an unambiguous questionnaire
Once you have established the objective, target group, and the way of conducting the research, a questionnaire needs to be developed in line with the research conducting method. It shouldn’t take more than 15 to 20 minutes to complete an online survey, whereas filling out a questionnaire directly with respondents may take longer. Creating the questionnaire is particularly important for any research, it is essential to it and the main rule is to formulate each question clearly and precisely. It mustn’t be ambiguous, unclear, nor fit several questions in one.
To obtain a real picture in the end, when asking the questions it is important to return to the research objective over and over again and we need to know why do we want to ask a particular question. To test each question, it is best to conduct a small “pilot”, that is to have persons who will not be the respondents fill-out the questionnaire and give their comments.
5. Use demographic questions
“Demography”, as researchers refer to a group of questions, is a rather important part of a questionnaire. Demography involves basic demographic characteristics, such as gender, age, education, etc. In the case of research conducted within a company, it usually also includes the department, length of service in the company, and other characteristics relevant to the specific research.
These questions are important for the analysis and presentation of the results since they allow us to make additional conclusions and identify any significant differences between different demographic groups. For example, different levels of satisfaction among different departments or genders. It is rather interesting that significant differences may often be observed between the answers of the people who have been with the company longer and those who have been working for the company for a shorter period.
6. React to research results
Finally, each research conducted within a company needs to be followed by the company’s reaction. Once the research is completed, the company needs to introduce at least some changes to make the employees aware of the results of the research. Otherwise, the employees may feel that their opinion is not valued and that it did not bring any change, and they likely will not be willing to participate in future research or they will provide false or desirable answers. You will create an open culture where the employees can freely express their opinion and propose changes.
During the entire process of research, from item zero to item six, it is crucial to never lose sight of the main objective and research drive. Research is a tool that serves a cause, it is not the answer or a goal itself. Research is a way to better see, hear, feel, change, and enhance the current situation and relations. It is, therefore, important to carry out the research process systematically and properly and we believe that you will find the suggested steps helpful.