Content Analysis

In almost all our employee surveys, our clients choose to include one or more “open-ended” questions; questions asking for comments by employees. Senior management usually is very interested in the information we gather from these comments. Often, however, there are far too many comments for busy senior managers to read and digest; it isn’t uncommon for there to be hundreds of pages or more of comments.

One solution to the problem of too many comments to read is content analysis. We read each comment and classify it into one or more categories, such as “employees want to be treated with respect” or “more communication between departments needed.” The resulting output summarizes the comment categories, letting the reader know what percentage of comments are in each category.

In addition to providing senior management a summary that can be understood in very little time, our coding provides an objective assessment of what employees are saying. This reduces the chances that a manager may be misled by overweighting comments that mirror their own feelings.

Here is an example of the output of a typical content analysis:

What can this company do to increase the level of enthusiasm you feel about coming to work and doing your best every day?


% of All Responses (Excluding “No Answer”)
Career growth/promotional opportunities/ promote from within/ job enrichment 139 7.1%
Increase compensation/ pay is low compared to other companies/ cost of living raises 126 6.5%
Improve/maintain quality/products/services/innovation/creativity/ less focus on numbers 100 5.1%
Training/Education/Coaching 97 5.0%
Better relationship between pay and performance/responsibilities/ incentives/ bonuses/ commissions 90 4.6%
Fair/equal treatment/ reduce favoritism/ have more consistency 90 4.6%
Listen to/ trust/empower employees/take action on employee input/ reduce micromanagement/ gather employee input 88 4.5%
Communication (not between departments) 85 4.4%
Better managers/supervisors/leads 76 3.9%
Reduce/redistribute workload/ increase staffing/ reasonable goals/ less stress/ increase call-handling time 75 3.8%
Treat employees with respect/courtesy/”value us”/improve people skills 74 3.8%
Better internal equipment/ systems/ maintenance/tools/IDA/vehicles/internet access 67 3.4%
Change time-off policies (personal days, vacation, holidays, attendance policy, etc.) 61 3.1%
Scheduling issues/ change working hours/ flex time 54 2.8%
Benefits mentions (not time-off related) 53 2.7%
Recognition/appreciation 42 2.2%
Communication between departments 34 1.7%
Teamwork 31 1.6%
Performance evaluation issues 29 1.5%
Better physical environment/ ergonomics/ cleanliness/ temperature 29 1.5%
More recognition of seniority/ better treatment of long-tenured employees 28 1.4%
Morale needs improvement/ turnover is too high 26 1.3%
Better planning/strategies/execution/ improve profits/ grow the business 24 1.2%
More accountability/ remove/discipline problem employees/ improve employee behaviors/ hire/promote better people/ problems with other employees 24 1.2%
Improve culture/make it fun to work here/ need more of a “family feeling”/ mission/values/ethics issues 23 1.2%
Hiring/other HR issues 23 1.2%
Better leadership/senior management/middle management 22 1.1%
Process improvement suggestions 20 1.0%
More/better “perks” (including employee cable) 19 1.0%
Cafeteria/vending machine/breakroom/lunch/breaks issues 17 0.9%
Job security issues 15 0.8%
Clear job descriptions/goals/policies 15 0.8%
Dress-code/uniform issues 14 0.7%
Work/life balance/ fewer hours 14 0.7%
Reduce/eliminate bureaucracy/testing/petty rules 13 0.7%
Change write-up policy/ don’t reprimand us/ probation period too long 13 0.7%
Don’t know/NA/”No comment” 11 0.6%
Events/parties/outside activities 11 0.6%
Offer overtime/pay for overtime/being “on call”/ shift differential 9 0.5%
Feedback/positive feedback/ not just negative feedback 9 0.5%
Be honest/open/transparent/keep promises 9 0.5%
Reduce/eliminate politics 7 0.4%
Rewards (small items, tokens) 6 0.3%
Allow/encourage telecommuting 5 0.3%
Safety issues 5 0.3%
More community involvement/environmental issues 5 0.3%
Different work location 5 0.3%
Expense reimbursement issues/ want to use company car 5 0.3%
Make me a full-time/permanent employee 5 0.3%
Change organization structure 4 0.2%
Shouldn’t have to tolerate abusive customers 4 0.2%
Too many managers 4 0.2%
Smoking issues 1 0.1%
Positive comments 88 4.5%
Other 7 0.4%
Percent of comments coded 10.0%
Percent responding with an answer 65.2%
Total number of responses (not respondents), excluding “no answer” 1950