3 Pitfalls of Do-It-Yourself Organizational Surveys

Written by: Meghan R. Lowery, Ph.D.


Advanced technology makes designing, using, and administering online surveys easier than ever. A prominent employee survey vendor even remarked “an intern can create a survey!” In part, they are correct. Organizations often relegate survey design and rollout to internal employees, who, with best intentions, create a measure they feel will help achieve the organization’s objectives – such as measuring employee opinions or understanding customer satisfaction metrics –  but often fall short of the strategic goals.

The DIY method often leaves out integral keys to surveys – pertinent questions, accurate data, and meaningful interpretation. Though the process of actually creating a survey, from the most simplistic to incredibly complex, has been made easier through new technology, the unfortunate reality is that user error has become more commonplace.

Imagine if it was suddenly easier and cheaper to manufacture weight scales by doing it yourself. Everyone on the lookout for a good bargain would buy the discount DIY scale, assemble the pieces at home, and step on the scale. To their amazement, the scale may read they are 15 pounds lighter than they were expecting. This DIY scale also is supposed to measure height, which helps in calculating body mass index. Oddly though, sometimes the measurements are 1 to 2 inches shorter or taller than previous measurements. Now, the individual’s body mass index is not the same – inaccurate in fact – but it’s close, and the scale was inexpensive.

This hypothetical tale of woe illustrates a simple concept: because the scale is DIY, it has a higher chance of turning out to be unreliable. This problem is just one of many pitfalls that can occur with DIY surveys. Here are other drawbacks:

Asking the Wrong Questions

Reliability and validity are integral when it comes to constructing strong organizational surveys. The questions are vital for understanding what an organization actually wants to know. It is important to consider what information you want as a result – not simply what to ask. There is a phrase commonly used to describe a source of bad data: “junk in equals junk out.” If the questions are not reliable, valid, and consistent, the conclusions that are drawn from the resulting data may not be correct. For this very reason, it is important to have a professional trained in survey methodology to design, construct, administer, and even interpret survey data for your organization.

Lack of Candor

Another problem that can occur when surveys are administered by internal sources is the resulting lack of candor from the employees themselves. Receiving candid responses is vital to the success of any survey, and employees may feel they cannot answer candidly when their responses are going directly to another employee, however trustworthy that person may be. Employees may feel responses could be viewed by their boss or another decision maker, and that can be frightening! Protect their interests and gain their trust by having an outside firm complete the data collection and analysis.

Radio Silence with Feedback

Many times, individuals compiling the results deliver the information directly to decision makers, who quietly absorb the report or discuss it with peers in high-level meetings. Though there may be changes made based upon the results, the employees rarely find out how their feedback may have helped the organization itself.  Revealing the entire report will not help in providing meaningful feedback either though.

It is essential to plan through who will be listening to the end results, communicate at a level that is appropriate, and disseminate results and the planned actions in a timely manner. Sounds simple, but this step is often forgotten, which means the employees can become distrustful of how their responses might be used in future surveys. A consultant trained in delivering feedback throughout the different levels of an organization can assist in this important process.

Learn why trust is the key to high performance

Though it is easy to construct and administer a survey using internal resources, the cost of doing so may turn out to be quite high if you get inaccurate data, false results, or have to duplicate your efforts. Data you can trust is invaluable in making strong organizational decisions. Be sure you make the right decisions from the right data.

Focus less on a bargain budget survey and enjoy the cost savings that may come after you incorporate valuable feedback from valid, reliable surveys your employees feel comfortable completing.

Implementing a fully reliable survey process is more affordable than you think – and can save you a lot of time and even help with employee retention. We would love to give you more information to help you improve your organizational surveys – just click here

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