Employee Satisfaction Surveys: Should they be in-house or external?

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It is widely believed that employees are a company’s most valuable resource. Understanding the ebb and flow of human mindsets should be a priority if an organisation is to thrive. Surveying the perceptions of employees has become an effective way of quickly getting to the bottom of dissatisfaction, threats or opportunities that may not be obvious on the surface. This article by Craig Stephens explores the benefits, pitfalls and differences between conducting such a survey in-house or by an external professional facilitator.

Employee Satisfaction surveys provide insights and feedback, revealing employee preferences, expectations, pain points and yes – frustration. Deciding on using an in-house vs. a professional company approach depends on factors like budget, complexity of the survey, the need for customization, and an organization’s expertise in survey administration and statistical analysis. Ultimately, the decision should align with the specific goals and available resources.

In-house Employee Satisfaction Surveys

In-house surveys are typically less expensive to implement since they can be created and managed internally without incurring external costs. Surveys can be implemented utilizing in-house resources, such as existing software and personnel. Apps such as MS Forms, are available for use with a Microsoft 365 license, and will be suitable for a basic survey.

Management will have full control over survey design, questions, and data analysis, allowing for solutions tailored to fit specific needs. Since in-house resources are responsible for data analysis, there are a few considerations:

  1. If employees with survey design and analysis expertise are available, an in-house approach can capitalize on their skills. Of course, if the organization lacks survey design and analysis expertise, the quality and effectiveness of the survey may suffer.  
  2. Management can quickly deploy and analyze surveys, making it easier to gather feedback at short notice. 
  3. Immediate feedback may be available since in-house facilitators can potentially collect and analyze feedback more quickly as they have direct access to the survey data. However, In-house surveys may be more susceptible to bias or lack the scientific validity associated with a professionally designed survey.
  4. Assurance of anonymity may be a further challenge. Surveys conducted in-house will require robust safeguards.
  5. Developing and maintaining a survey in-house can be time-consuming, particularly for larger scale surveys, and may divert resources from other critical tasks. Learning curves may be steep and set-up times excessive.

Professionally Facilitated Employee Satisfaction Surveys:

Professional survey companies bring expertise and best practices to the process. They tend to have experience in designing, administering, and analyzing surveys, ensuring better quality, quicker set-up times and a more cost-effective result. Some points to bear in mind include:

  1. Since they are independent, external professionals can provide an objective perspective and reduce potential bias in survey design and analysis, as well as guarantee respondent anonymity and confidentiality. They have the ability to engage in candid discussion with management, not having to fear potential career limiting consequences. This may be particularly so with comprehensive reports, insights and actionable recommendations. 
  2. External Consultants typically employ a methodology with more advanced features, analytics, and reporting tools to provide more in-depth insights. 
  3. Professional surveys may involve expenditure which needs to be budgeted for, as opposed to internal resources whose costs are already included in operating and administration budgets. 
  4. Any professional consulting firm worth its salt ought to be able to accommodate and tailor the survey to cater for specific requirements. It is therefore imperative that the right team is tasked with briefing external consultants to ensure a tailored fit.

There might be a perceived distance between employees and the survey provider, potentially affecting the willingness to participate. This is overcome by working with the consultants to market the survey to employees ensuring that respondents feel encouraged to participate and comfortable in expressing honest opinions. External companies are better equipped to handle surveys for organizations of all sizes, making them suitable for large-scale surveys.