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Outsource magazine: thought-leadership and outsourcing strategy | August 23, 2017

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The future of employee research

The future of employee research
Outsource Magazine

The Future of Employee Research is an open-access project, carried out by Silverman Research, that uses the wisdom of crowds to generate insight about what the future may hold for this area of practice. It is, in itself, an effective demonstration of how social and digital technologies are changing the way we participate in conversations and exchange feedback about our opinions, experiences and ideas.

The field of employee research is shifting – from giving feedback behind closed doors to providing feedback in an open forum. This crucial development is making organisations slowly wake up to the realisation that static feedback mechanisms controlled by management are no longer in keeping with an increasingly social media savvy workforce.

Progressive organisations have already embraced some of the emerging technologies in employee research and the benefits are plain to see. However, many organisations are simply not yet attuned to the need for change in this area. These organisations will continue to use outdated research practices through a mixture of lack of knowledge, fear and weak leadership.

This research used an online tool to allow participants to leave comments and rate the comments of other users – allowing for a crowd-approved list of top comments.

Just over half of participants believe that the traditional employee survey is dead. This is damning for the vast majority of large organisations who conduct them on a regular basis. Likewise, two-thirds think that the future in this area will be more qualitative, as opposed to quantitative, and that mobile devices will become an instrumental tool for employee voice. It is clear that relatively few organisations are currently using social technologies to gather employee feedback.

In addition to identifying participants’ comments that resonated most with the community, text analysis identified themes regarding the future of employee research. These themes included the evolution of the traditional employee survey, enhanced data and analytics, the proliferation of devices and digital technology, the increasing need for transparency and a focus on actionability.

HR, and to some extent internal communications, own employee research within organisations. As such, it is their responsibility to keep up to date with advances within the field, and to be brave enough to advocate new approaches. Most importantly it is about people who deliver employee research within organisations being motivated to do things differently. It’s about putting the right people in charge of employee research in organisations. The field needs people who want to push things forward, not people who are there just to blindly deliver a survey and regurgitate employee engagement waffle from big survey providers.

The fact that employees are a captive audience for research (compared to customers or consumers) has undoubtedly caused the field of employee research to become lazy and fall behind the curve in attempts to generate feedback and make the research process engaging for participants. Arguably, the evolution of employee research is already happening in a minority of organisations, but the movement en masse away from traditional employee survey methods is, unfortunately, likely to take considerable time.


About the Author

Michael Silverman 150Michael Silverman has a background in organisational psychology and business research having worked with Ipsos MORI, before moving to Unilever as Head of Employee Insight. Michael now heads his own research business – Silverman Research – specialising in applying social media and data visualisation technology to opinion research. 

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