ESAT Key Steps
Interpreting the Results of Your Employee Satisfaction Survey

It is astounding how much "data" can be created by a survey. Each scale question has multiple possible answers, each of which must be reported along with each item's average score; there are results for various subgroups, and there is statistical analysis. The data must first be packaged into information (via proper presentation of tables, graphs, and statistical analysis). Then, it must be properly interpreted. Different analysts may take different approaches. Here is one approach.

  1. Analysis of Strengths and Weaknesses. In this step, we look at the intra-survey strengths and weaknesses, i.e., how the items in the survey compare to each other, and the extra-survey strengths and weaknesses, i.e., how the results compare to other results from similar surveys (norms). This can be done on the attribute (individual question) level as well as on the section (groups of questions) level.
  2. Look for Patterns. Typically, common themes will emerge. For example, it is common to find problems in inter-departmental communication when teamwork scores are low. These patterns give clues to the underlying circumstances in existence at the organization.
  3. Leverage Analysis.Limited company resources require companies to be able to quickly identify those areas that are most important (leverageable) to its employees. Leverage analysis provides a way of selecting areas to focus on, by calculating each area's leverage on a "bottom line" measure - overall satisfaction. The high-priority targets identified by quadrant analysis (see chart below) are those areas which meet two criteria:
    1. They need improvement, and
    2. Their improvement will strongly leverage the bottom line - overall satisfaction.
    We look at the statistical relationship between each attribute measured and overall satisfaction. Items with high leverage (correlation to overall satisfaction) will have more impact on satisfaction than will items with low leverage. By plotting the leverage (correlation) scores and the performance scores (the percentages or average scores for each attribute) in two-dimensional space, it becomes apparent which items need immediate attention.

    When each question's correlation and average rating are plotted on a chart, the result is a quadrant map. Those questions that plot in the northwest corner of the map are those areas that deserve immediate attention and company resources.
  4. Comment Analysis.Simply reading comments can give one a flavor for the types of issues on employees' minds. However, proper interpretation becomes difficult, if not impossible, for two reasons.
    1. The reader may have pre-conceived notions about what the comments will say, and may tend to give more weight to comments that mirror his/her point of view.
    2. The shear number of comments can be overwhelming, as scores, hundreds, or thousands of pages of comments may exist.
    The solution is to "code" comments. This is done by reading all or a large sample of comments, and creating categories into which comments seem to fall. Each comment must then be read and "coded;" that is, placed into one or more categories. At the end of the day, this yields a table of results showing how prevalent are comments of various types.

    Usually, the items identified in the leverage analysis also will show up in the comments. However, it is not uncommon to find one or two other items rising to the top in the comment analysis.
  5. Sub-group Comparisons. In some cases, most or all subgroups will feel the same about a matter. In others, there will be large differences in how sub-groups (e.g., departments, people of different tenures) feel. We have seen instances where a large sub-group is almost completely responsible for a low score for an entire company. Without an analysis of sub-groups, corrective action may not be as effective, since targeted action will be necessary in certain cases.
  6. Summarize Findings. In this stage, the analyst wraps up what has been found. The end result is recommendations of key items and areas to target for improvement on an overall organization level and at the sub-group level.
  7. Recommendations. At this stage, the analyst recommends actions to take to address the items targeted for improvement. Further discussions with the client, before and after this phase, often are necessary.