What's your Survey Methodology? Part 1: Getting a Baseline


Dr People Geek (Jason McPherson) and I just returned from a couple of weeks in San Francisco. The companies there a big source of inspiration for us. However, it was clear they are really up against it when it comes to building, maintaining and scaling their employee culture.

These companies are growing phenomenally quickly, in some cases doubling in size every 3-6 months. With such astronomical growth you can easily feel like you're flying blind when it comes to understanding company culture.

Not surprisingly, a question we were asked a lot was “what is the right cadence for running surveys?”.

The answer is always ‘it depends’, but here is an approach that we are seeing work well for our customers. I find it useful to think about four surveys over the period of a year (quarterly).

In this first part I'll start with the first quarter, the baseline survey. Quarter 1 - The Baseline Survey This is a survey to establish a broad baseline for your culture. These surveys tend to be comprehensive, but we still recommend keeping to a maximum of 50 questions. An employee should still be able to complete this survey in 5-10 minutes.

The baseline survey measures employee engagement as the primary outcome. This is the thing you want to understand and improve. We call this your "index".

In addition the survey should establish how employees feel about the major aspects of your culture. Example topics include Leadership, Strategy, Company Performance, Collaboration, Learning and Development.

In the baseline, you'll get a measure of all these topics. However, you will also use driver analysis to highlight hot spots. Driver analysis tells you which of your topic questions are most strongly correlated with engagement. It is calculated from your employee response data by examining patterns in responses. In this case, between how employees responded to the engagement questions compared with how they responded to the other questions in your survey.

Driver analysis adds a key component to your results. Just because you score highly or lowly on a particular question or topic doesn't mean it's actually important to your employees. You can see an example in our previous blog "If You Ask Employees Pay Just Isn't That Engaging".

In addition to driver analysis, you'll usually include comparisons to the relevant industry benchmarks, such as our New Tech Benchmark. This lets you know where you stand against your peers and competitors. What you see as a "low score" on a particular question might not be that unusual compared to the industry as a whole.

The baseline survey gives you the platform to iterate and take action. In my next blog I'll talk about the next quarter - The trend survey.

You can read more on the Baseline in our Academy.

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