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René Van Someren

Collecting Employee Data

Posted October 20, 2020

See also: René Van Someren's blog.

Various ways exist to learn what employees think and feel at a certain point in time about relevant organizational matters. Examples of collecting such data are by means of employee surveys such as employee engagement surveys, lifecycle surveys, ad hoc surveys and pulse surveys. Those surveys vary in frequency, purpose and length.

Employee engagement surveys tend to focus on how involved employees are in their work, how they value the organization and their willingness to remain with that organization.

Lifecycle surveys are taken at various stages of employment, such as recruiting, onboarding, career development and when leaving the organization. An employee engagement survey aimed at staff retention can also be utilised as a lifecycle survey.

In contrast to general employee engagement surveys which tend to be held annually, the frequency of pulse surveys may vary from quarterly to even daily for certain surveys. Pulse surveys tend to be shorter than annual surveys and they are often aimed at monitoring employee performance and satisfaction indicators.

Organisational network analyses (ONA) or dynamic network analyses are more aimed at learning how organization members tend to interact. This should lead to knowing which relationships exist, how strong those relationships are, who the main influencers are and how this affects various aspects of the business. Such analyses can also be survey-based.

While the previously mentioned surveys tend to focus on general indicators related to the purposes named, ad hoc surveys tend to be aimed at collecting information related to specific events, such as a (prospective) organizational merger, implementation of a new information system or other organizational interventions or events. For instance, one could collect base-line measurements before and after an intervention and comparing both, to learn more about the impact and consequences of the intervention. Ad hoc surveys can also be taken to follow up on outcomes of an annual (employee engagement) survey if those outcomes call for closer examination of certain aspects.

All these methods are utilised to overtly collect data from organisation members. Participating organisation members are aware that these data are collected since they actively provide that information. This gives those participants some control over the data collection. Consequently, they could provide false information, or choose not to participate at all.

When using electronic surveys, the number of participating employees basically has little effect on the duration of the entire process, whether there are 100 or 100,000 participants. However, with larger groups, there may be a desire to diversify analyses and results or even customise surveys aimed at certain subgroups, increasing the amount of work to be done.

Analysis of survey-based data can be time consuming which may especially be an issue for high frequency pulse surveys on highly dynamic indicators. Newly developed computer software to automate analyses may significantly speed up this process.

Poor response rates tend to be an issue with survey-based measurements. However, when organizational leaders instruct their workers to fill in a questionnaire, response rates may be a stronger indicator of leadership/followership effectiveness than of the suitability of surveys as a measurement tool.

Collecting data from smaller groups of employees, or even of individual employees, for instance by means of interviews and observation, is more time consuming. Such methods can be applied as separate methods or to qualify earlier findings from other methods. Researchers, leaders, co-workers, clients and other observers can focus on employees’ interaction, collaboration, conflicts, customer interaction, customer response, and so on.

There are also methods to covertly collect data from organisation members, such as passive ONA. Application of such methods takes place for instance by scanning E-mail traffic and monitoring and analysing workers’ computer actions. This is based on the assumption that changes in organization members’ sentiments and organizational activities are automatically, immediately, completely and reliably translated into pattern anomalies in emails and texts that those organization members produce. Apart from raising ethical questions, one sometimes may argue about the validity, reliability and value of whatever an analyst – automated or not - ‘reads into’ those data obtained from such and similar methods. However, as an indicator, when applied to an organizational unit in which organization members only use computers to communicate with one another, this may add some value to certain other methods.

Both general and individual employee data can be taken from certain records data such as absentee rates, production rates, customer complaints, product returns, quality reports, staff retention, action resolution rates and analysis of the relevance and effectiveness of company meetings.

Combinations are also possible, for instance, our 5-D organizational scans are a customised mix of general periodical scans and specific ad hoc scans, followed up by closer qualitative examination of matters of interest.

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