Most custom surveys start with these basic elements:
- Job Title: sounds simple, but as you’ll see in a minute, it’s very important.
- Benchmark Job Duty Features: The most important element. These are the essential job duties that, along with the job title, will guide your survey participants in selecting the position within their company to report. Generally, keep the list short; only three to four maximum. As a rule of thumb, use the duties that take up at least 50 percent of their time. You don’t want to include duties such as planning the annual company picnic (unless it’s an essential duty).
- Match Strength: For each position, include an indicator that the respondent can use to gauge how close of a match their position is to yours — generally a one to ten scale. If it’s a low match, such as a one or two, you may want to exclude the data. If it’s higher, but not strong (five or six) you can adjust the data in relation to strength of match.
- Pay Data: As mentioned above, you want to gather enough information to answer your questions, without asking for too much. Not all companies have the same compensation system, so you’ll want to keep your data fields as general as possible.
The overriding theme of a good survey is “simple.” If you want good responses, you need to make it very straightforward for the respondent and not overly burdensome. Therefore, don’t send out a survey for 20 positions, ask for eight different pay sources, and ask for it back in a week. Compensation analysts will turn their nose up at you every time.
As it goes with most things, garbage in, garbage out. The root of any good custom survey is a well-designed job description. That sounds logical enough, but it’s surprising how many companies have not done a good job analysis. If you have put together a tight job description, then picking the benchmark features should be easy. Again, you want to make it simple for the HR person on the other end to find the match in their organization.
Once you’re ready to send out your survey, there are a few time-honored tips to keep in mind:
- If your survey is somewhat involved, pretest it on a colleague or coworker. Unclear syntax or directions can be cleaned up before “going live.”
- Call candidate respondents ahead of time to get their OKs on participating. You may need to play salesperson a little. Be upfront about the details of the survey and what will be expected.
- Be reasonable — but firm — on response time. Never use phrases such as “at your earliest convenience” or “ASAP,” but state clearly the response date. Keep in mind that certain times of the year are worse than others, particularly in the Fall when budgeting and pay adjustments for many companies are being planned.
- Have multiple options available for respondents to give you information. Depending on the size of the survey, a simple phone call will do. Some are fine with paper surveys, but many might like to get a spreadsheet and to send it back via e-mail (NOTE: the convenience of spreadsheets sent via e-mail is attractive, but take some time to work out security measures, such as encryption and virus protection, so that respondents are comfortable with receiving and sending pay data).
- Check in a couple of times with respondents to make sure the survey is understandable and also to remind them of the survey deadline.
The other important thing to do, even before you decide you need to survey, is develop a network of survey respondents. Local chapters of human resources organizations, such as SHRM, are good places to start. If it is difficult to find respondents in your local area, look at cities within a reasonable distance from your location and realize that you may need to adjust your data for cost-of-living. If certain individual respondents are hard to come by, then perhaps industry associations will have pay survey data that can be used.
Now that you’ve received your data, it’s time to analyze it and match against your data. Allow enough time in your survey process to be able to go back to your respondents to clarify any confusing information that they sent. Then get to work on compiling the information so that you can report back to your respondents with the summary data.
You should take no longer than two weeks to finish up your analysis of the survey data and report back to respondents.
As with anything done well, organization is key to a successful effort. Whether short or long, you can conduct a successful survey as long as you give yourself and your respondents enough time.
- Stimulates employee productivity.
- Conveys a clear message to both good and poor performers.
- Links reward to contribution.
- Attracts and retains high quality staff.
- Encourage enterprise and strategic thinking.