What We Do…

We offer custom, cost-effective solutions for two types of data collection projects.

 

icon-surveyStakeholder Surveys – collect the opinions, attitudes or concerns of people who have an interest in your organization or group. You might ask…

  • Employees about their working conditions.
  • Customers about your service quality.
  • Citizens about important community issues.
  • Staff about their training needs.

icon-360360 or Multi-rater Assessments – collect feedback from observers regarding an individual’s behaviour or performance. You might assess…

  • The impact of a leader on followers and others.
  • The behaviour of team members as seen by their co-workers.
  • The performance of a CEO according to the Board of Directors.

 

How We Do It…

At each of four stages of a survey or assessment project, our expertise, service and technology will exceed your expectations and differentiate us from our competitors. Scroll down and click the + signs to learn about the steps to a great data collection project and see how we help.

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On-line tools are a great way to collect data. Do-it-yourself and off-the-shelf solutions seem helpful, but come with hidden costs and limitations. 

 

The sponsors of your project can count on us for…

  • Customization: Your needs and audience are unique. We help you ask your questions, your way, using branded tools.
  • Rapid Deployment: Your business moves quickly – so do we. We get your custom survey or assessment on-line, working, fast.
  • Low Cost: Off-the-shelf isn’t custom. Do-it-yourself has hidden costs. We deliver the value of customization, for the cost of off the shelf.

Here’s how…

 

Define Your Goals

No project should go far without a clear statement of purpose and specific outcomes to target. Ultimately, the data collected is not as important as the change produced with it. Begin with your end in mind, describing clearly the change you desire in your organization or individuals involved. 

 

Writing these things down brings clarity you’ll appreciate as you solicit support from stakeholders, or work with us to keep your project on track. Questions like these may help…

  • What do you hope will change as a result of the survey or assessment?
  • Why does that change matter – to the business, stakeholders, potential respondents, you?
  • Who can tell you what you need to know to make the right decisions or take needed action related to that change?
  • How can these respondents help – what can they tell you?
  • How will you use the information they give you?
Set Budget & Schedule

Any survey or assessment takes time and money. Better data does mean better business, but it has to be worth what it costs to get it. On-line data collection gets you more data for a smaller investment because…

  • We invite respondents to participate easily via email.
  • On-line tools are easier to complete than paper and pencil methods, so more people participate.
  • Data entry is streamlined – quicker and with fewer errors.

Often overlooked in budget calculations is the time needed to achieve your goals. Where we really help is reducing technical and administrative time. Much of this time is hidden when you use DYI or off-the-shelf solutions, time internal staff spend learning the technology or doing unfamiliar tasks when they should be doing other valuable activities you hired them to do. Also, be sure you have a handle on your time-related expectations of…

  • Stakeholders assisting in design or action taking.
  • Respondents to complete your survey or assessment.
  • Individuals or teams acting on survey information.
  • Managers or supervisors held accountable for related change.

We can and do work quickly. But, good things take time. Here are the minimums you should expect…

  • Survey Design: 1-4 weeks – Depends on the design approach taken and availability of key players on your end.
  • Deploy On-line: 1 week – We get your on-line tools up and running in as little as 48 hours, then test it with you.
  • Data Collection: 2 weeks – On your schedule, but we recommend deadlines about 10 business days out to create urgency while allowing respondents a chance to respond.
  • Report Preparation: 48 hours-1 week – Frequently used reports can be delivered within 48 hours of the completion deadline. In-depth analysis for a one-off survey takes a little longer.
  • Report Delivery: On your schedule, from the immediacy of reports emailed as they are produced, to facilitated debrief sessions.
  • Action Taking: 90 days or more – The right action needs time to deliver results. Allow time for change to happen.
Turn Purpose Into Questions

Ultimately you need questions that suit your goals and audience – “what” data you need, “why” you need it, and “who” you will ask for it. Our technology makes the “how” of questioning easier, with 35+ question types to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. The most common are…

  • Rating: using a scale to have respondents report agreement, satisfaction, importance, frequency, etc.
  • Ranking: asking respondents to order a set of items by preference, importance, impact, etc.
  • Selection: having respondents choose multiple items from amongst a set of possibilities.
  • Comment: seeking text responses to open-ended questions in order to explain, expand, share observations, offer advice, etc.
  • Drill-down: following up on a response to seek clarification, assess impact, ask for suggestions, etc.

Working from a template or pre-existing tool can make this step easier. We have templates available in core areas of our consulting practice (i.e. leadership, followership, engagement, team or BOD assessment), can adapt a model or framework you suggest, or will do some research with you to find suitable references.

 

Even experienced survey developers can benefit from having a 3rd party review their questions. We’ll use our expertise and objectivity to help you avoid four common questioning pitfalls…

  • Confusion: Your questions must be understandable to respondents, free of jargon and seeking just one answer at a time.
  • Bias: You don’t want to be leading or prejudicing responses in any way.
  • Fatigue: To get the best data, the survey or questionnaire should be considerate of respondents’ time and attention span.
  • Miscommunication: Your survey, questions and related correspondence should communicate clear and positive messages about the survey itself, and your organization.
Build the On-line Tools

This step is largely ours to take on your behalf. About 48 hours after your final questionnaire is in our hands, we’ll have it transformed into an on-line tool for data collection. These tools will be available 24/7, and easy to use on a desktop computer, tablet, smart phone, or embedded in your organization’s web site. We can even provide paper and pencil formats and the related data entry, if you like.

 

We’ll work with people you identify to test these tools to ensure they function as expected, are easy to use, and represent your organization well. As needed, we can also help with translation (support for 64+ languages) and accessibility issues that might challenge your respondents.

Brand Everything

When respondents encounter your survey or assessment, they have a decision to make: “Will I respond?” Among their considerations is whether the survey comes from a credible source, someone they trust with their responses. A world full of junk emails and internet scams has put everyone on guard.

 

Branding your survey or assessment is critical to putting their minds at ease. Putting your organization’s identity upfront, presented in a professional manner, inspires respondent confidence and increases response rates. We work with you to ensure your survey and assessment tools feature your…

  • Logo – or other identifying images familiar to respondents.
  • Colours – to highlight create interest without jeopardizing clarity.
  • Style – (e.g. fonts, layout) consistent with your organization’s on-line presence.
  • Invitation – welcoming respondents in your name so they know they are at the right place, responding to your request.
  • Promises – clarifying commitments to respondent privacy, anonymity, or confidentiality, as appropriate.

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No sense asking if people don’t respond. For your investment in data collection you should get high quality and a high quantity of data. 

 

As we collect data on your behalf, count on us for…

  • Convenience: Your easy to use tools are available 24/7, on any device your respondents want to use, with help just an email or phone call away.
  • High Response Rates: Our clients frequently exceed 80% response rates for their surveys. For 360’s, 100% participation is our goal.
  • Data Security: World class technology and procedures ensure your data only goes where it should, and stays there.

Here’s how…

 

Target the Right Respondents

Among your first questions should have been, “Who has the information we need?” Then, there are practical concerns – data collection can be costly. More people is generally better, but not always necessary.

 

In a survey project, sampling your population may make more sense from a cost and time perspective, while getting you data that is as valid and useful for your purposes. Getting the sample right is a technical subject we can help you through.

 

For a 360 assessment, the number of respondents is not as important as having enough responses from different perspectives to give the individual being assessed a full picture of their behaviour or impact, as seen in others’ eyes. Our custom assessments allow you to group feedback providers any way you like. And, we’ll work with you to develop appropriate privacy policies to ensure respondents have a reasonable expectation of promised anonymity.

 

In either case, our email invite process and on-line tools keep your data collection costs very low on a per respondent basis, much lower than traditional paper and pencil approaches. And, when respondents complete your survey or assessment on-line, their data is immediately in our system, saving data entry costs and potential errors.

Prepare the Audience

The people asked to respond to your survey or assessment are sharing valuable information, and may feel at-risk when they do so. They need to feel that their efforts will produce meaningful results, and that any promises made to them in the process (e.g. anonymity, follow-up) will in fact be kept.

 

We have templates to help you prepare respondent communications to share your purpose, promises and process with respondents. You might consider pre-survey/assessment correspondence from…

  • A senior leader or sponsor to clarify purpose.
  • Project committee or HR to explain the process.
  • Local management to express support, promise time to complete, or clarify follow-up plans.
  • In a 360, the individual being assessed to personally request feedback.

Personalize the Contact

We contact respondents via email with a personal invitation to participate in your survey or assessment. As an arms length 3rd party, respondents generally feel more comfortable dealing with us than they might dealing with staff seeking their opinions from inside your organization .

 

Each personalized invitation includes…

  • Their name and the organization’s name.
  • A clear request to participate.
  • The deadline for responding.
  • Our promise of anonymity for them.
  • Straight-forward instructions.
  • A unique web link to access the survey or assessment.

Our back-end process allows us to connect any demographic data you provide about respondents with their responses. This means we don’t have to ask respondents for that data, saving them completion time and allaying any concerns they might have about confidentiality. This approach also allows us to personalize every email with the respondent’s name and individualized instructions to build their confidence in the process.

Support Respondents

Your survey or assessment will be available on-line 24/7. Responding to on-line surveys and assessments is easy. That’s why we get higher response rates than paper and pencil surveys. Throughout the data collection period, our staff monitor completion rates, reporting them to you at regular intervals, even real-time if that is helpful. We pinpoint problem areas, then proactively take action with you.

 

Fortunately, because our tools are so easy-to-use, help requests from respondents are infrequent. We can’t guarantee an immediate response all the time, but our friendly, professional staff are always available to help out, generally within an hour. If you do anticipate problems with a specific question or the technology, we can use “tool-tips” and other support tactics to pre-empt any confusion, or offer helpful “how-to’s” in our on-line tools or invitation emails.

 

As the data collection deadline approaches, those who have not completed their responses are emailed gentle reminders (no more than 2 in most cases) and offers of help to ensure every respondent has an opportunity to respond.

Protect Your Data

Our survey platform is world-class, the same core technology that powers FluidSurveys (a division of SurveyMonkey).

 

Your data is stored in Canada on redundant servers, protected by leading edge firewalls and security scans. Data is backed up daily and stored securely off-site in case of an unexpected disaster. Rigorous privacy policies are in place to maintain the confidentiality of your business information and anonymity of individual respondents, as appropriate. Any personal or contact details provided to complete our work with you is only used for that purpose, held in the strictest confidence, and deleted from our system after use.

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Your data only becomes useful in the hands of decison-makers and action-takers who understand what it means, and appreciate what should be done about it.

 

Count on us to empower change agents with…

  • Practical Analysis: Our reporting highlights what is “practically” useful, rather than what is “statistically” significant.
  • Quick Turnaround: The faster you get the right data to the right people, the quicker things happen. We report on your schedule.
  • Confidentiality: Define an anonymity policy suited to your purpose and culture. We’ll help you honour it.

Here’s how…

 

Report for Action
Frankly, we’re not “stats geeks”, not that there’s anything wrong with those who are. We just think data analysis and reports should be designed to facilitate action for change, not to prove something statistically. Any change, whether organizational or individual, involves various stakeholders with differing roles to play in change, therefore different data needs. We’ll help you target your stakeholder audiences, then prepare analysis and reports suited to each one…

  • Executive summaries that highlight trends, illustrate issues with high level numbers and curated comments, share conclusions, and make recommendations for their support of needed change.
  • Overall reports for mid-level leaders who need top-line averages, comparative data for groups, teams or demographic identifiers, and verbatim comments so they can prioritize areas of interest, then focus resources on needed actions.
  • Breakdown reports for team leads and individuals, showing just the data and comments for their group so they can see what needs to be done, and are inspired to take it on.
  • Raw data files in various formats for support groups like HR to conduct in-depth analysis as needed.

Whatever the audience, clear, concise and relevant are the keys to practical reporting. As you prepare to report, ask these questions…

  • What change are we expecting?
  • Who will be involved in that change?
  • What decisions or actions do we expect of each of these individuals/groups?
  • What data should they have to do what we expect?
  • What else should they know to use that data appropriately?

Make It a Conversation

We suggest you think of surveys and assessments as conversations to answer the questions you had when you started the project. Rather than set out to “prove” something statistically, seek to fully understand and appreciate what your respondents are telling you. With our analysis, we’ll help you…

  • Explore the concerns, opinions and assessments of respondents, gathering information to identify the alternatives you could be working on for improvement.
  • Describe or measure the strength of respondents’ opinions, the depth of their concern, or to compare assessments amongst respondent groups, information that can help you set priorities to focus action.
  • Discover possible cause and effect relationships, sorting out problems from symptoms, or what’s relevant to an issue from what is trivial or unconnected.

As with any conversation, complete understanding requires ongoing dialogue, checking back and asking follow-up questions. The survey or assessment is probably not the end of data gathering. Focus groups, one on ones, even further surveying may be needed. As you work toward action-taking, do so with an open mind, constantly testing your assumptions and confirming your conclusions with respondents.

Report Quickly

Any time you ask questions, you create a sense of anticipation among those you ask. For some, that anticipation is ambitious – they can’t wait to see what happens next and how they can get involved. For others, it feels more like anxiety – they worry what will happen, and how it might harm them. Reporting back as soon as is feasible sustains momentum for action, while defusing concern for negative consequences.

 

It does take time though to fully understand and really appreciate what your data means. It is also advisable in most cases to hold off on reporting until your path forward is somewhat clear – the first question you’ll be asked is, “What next?” Sharing a reporting schedule up front helps to keep expectations at bay. An interim report may satisfy for a time. But, the faster you get your data out there, the sooner the right things can start to happen.

 

We can turn basic or repeated reports around in as little as 48 hours from the end of the data collection period. Deeper, more sophisticated analysis may take longer, or cascade out of your follow-up conversations with respondents. We’ll work on your schedule to keep things moving.

Inspire Confidence

Move quickly, but do your reporting right. People won’t act on data if they don’t trust it. Those without the expertise to assess the technical credibility of your data often base their trust decision on more basic cues, how a report looks and feels. Professional presentation, with a clean, concise layout, free of obvious errors helps get them on board.

 

Our reports inspire confidence because they are…

  • Relevant – with only what the audience needs to know or appreciate to take the actions expected of them.
  • Organized – with a structure, index, and headings to guide readers through the report.
  • Highlighted – using colour and layout to draw attention to the most critical findings.
  • Visuals – with charts and graphs to inform and invite reflection on the part of respondents.
  • Jargon free – fully explained, with language appropriate to the audience.
  • Objective – reporting interpretations or recommendations so they can be heard, in a non-judgemental, direct manner.

Protect Anonymity

Different organizations, teams and individuals have differing expectations or desires for anonymity. While some are quite comfortable with total transparency, others would be devastated to see any of their responses attributed to them. We encourage you to take a position on anonymity consistent with the goals of the project and culture of your organization. Communicate a clear anonymity promise upfront to respondents, then honour it. We’ll do the same.

 

You still need to share data appropriately with stakeholder audiences, while keeping that promise. For quantitative data, where respondents have been asked to assess or rate, we can deliver almost perfect anonymity by averaging individual responses over larger groups. That’s not so hard in a survey with many respondents. In a 360 assessment, we’ll work with you to set a minimum number of respondents for group reporting. Data from groups where the response is smaller than that number can be folded into other, larger groups for reporting.

 

For text or comment responses, the most basic protection is to never attribute these responses to an individual. Even without attribution, verbatim comments should be shared only where there is a real need to know exactly what was said. Everyone writes “with an accent”. Report readers invariably speculate about who said what based on quirks of grammar, phrasing or spelling. They won’t know, and are often wrong, but the speculation alone can set your project back.

 

In a staff survey, best practice is not to publish verbatim comments in public reporting. Instead, use edited excerpts to illustrate key points. For a 360 assessment, we recommend comments be treated as personal feedback, only to be shared with the individual being assessed, and perhaps a trusted boss or coach.

 

You might wonder why we don’t simply edit or summarize comments in all cases. We’re not in a position to understand the specific content, context or potential implications of what your respondents have to say. We believe decision-makers need to hear respondents in their own words as much as possible. As needed, we can help you curate and categorize large sets of comments to identify trends, draw out themes, or illustrate key findings.

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Rule number one is, “If you won’t act, don’t ask.” Even with the right data, change can be difficult. The quality of your leadership will be tested.

 

In support of your leaders, count on us for…

  • Debriefing and Facilitation: We can help you get key messages out and hear from those who matter to the change needed.
  • Change Management Expertise: We’ve been in the business of organization and individual development for 30+ years. 
  • Coaching: Change can reveal weakness, especially in those expected to lead it. We help leaders build competence and confidence for changing.

Here’s how…

 

Choose Your Path
The sponsors of your data collection project started with a purpose, a clear statement of “what” they hoped to accomplish and “why” that mattered. With data in hand and understood, they should go back now and think realistically about their priorities going forward. Whether organizational or an individual improvement is the goal, you can’t change everything, not all at once. The right priorities will balance two things…

  • Value – serving the interests of critical stakeholders.
  • Capacity – the capability and resources available for changing.

For each priority, define a clear path forward, an initial plan you can share with others that includes…

  • What – the goals to be achieved or desired outcomes. Show them where you’re headed.
  • Why – the change matters, the value pursued or consequences to be avoided. Explain why you, and they, should care.
  • How – the next steps to be taken, behaviour expected, and resources available. Ask them to do what they can to help.
  • Check – metrics, measures or indicators of achievement, with realistic targets and milestones. Prepare them to see progress.

Set your sites initially on 90 days out. That’s close enough to create a sense of urgency, while sufficient time to accomplish something meaningful. In our busy environment, with all the distractions it offers, sustaining focus and energy for change is often harder than deciding to change.

Lead People
Strategy, systems, and structure are the programs of performance; people are the programmers. If you want your organization to change, people need to change. People must choose to change – you can’t change them. When they are not ready to choose, they resist. Resistance emerges in many forms, from active revolt, through malicious compliance, to absolute passivity.

 

Effective change leaders strike at the roots of resistance, at the beliefs and feelings people have about the needed change and how it will affect them. These leaders engage people in choosing to change by offering…

  • Connection – to the forces driving change, honest, direct communication about why change is needed, even if it is bad news.
  • Clarity – specific, meaningful goals to be achieved, with the immediate next steps to be taken.
  • Consideration – careful, respectful listening to fully understand the concerns behind resistance.
  • Capacity – access to the resources, capability and authority needed to do what needs to be done.
  • Community – connecting people with others involved in change so they can share experiences and lessons learned.
  • Conviction – inviting others to choose while the leaders themselves take the steps they ask of others.

Top leaders are important players in change. You need them setting priorities, communicating key messages, putting resources in place, and holding others accountable for action and results. But don’t overlook front-line leaders. They have direct access to people at the working end of an organization, day to day interaction with those who need to be on-board for any change to truly take hold. Give these leaders what they need so they can to use their influence to guide and inspire action.

Support Change
Organizations and individuals don’t change quickly. You have to keep doing the right things long enough for new behaviours to become habits, for new ideas to be accepted as common sense, or for cultures to embed different values. Even those who choose to change can…

  • Get tired – as the energy of starting, and excitement of early progress, wanes, while the hard work of changing carries on.
  • Get lost – in the myriad of competing demands and distractions that draw focus and resources away from the goals of change.

Leaders can sustain momentum for change by…

  • Caring for Early Adopters – empowering their choice to move first, then recognizing their progress to encourage others.
  • Charting Progress – tracking and communicating a few key metrics so all can share in the satisfaction of achievement.
  • Celebrating Successes – recognizing gains made and reinforcing the people who made them happen.
  • Positioning Coaches/Champions– especially at the front-lines, close to the action, prepared to support learning, experimentation and problem-solving.
  • Confronting Barriers to Change – fixing unhelpful systems, strategies or structures, and challenging people who block progress to get on the path, or go elsewhere.
  • Consolidating Gains – solidifying the new normal by, for example, documenting new practices, revising policies, or re-building processes for selection, orientation, training and succession.

Capture Lessons Learned
Success can be a great catalyst for learning, if you take the time to understand what worked and why. And, no matter how good your intentions or strong your plan, breakdowns will happen. Throughout the change, take time regularly to step back and capture the lessons learned along your path by doing four things…

  • Review – Ask, “What’s happening?” Look in particular for successes, setbacks or shifts, where things have changed since you started down the path to change.
  • Reflect – Ask, “Why did it happen?” Look especially for faulty assumptions in your original plan, limiting beliefs that fuel procrastination or resistance, subtle patters and trends, or improved tactics and practices that can be used in other places.
  • Re-focus – Ask, “What have we learned?” Use your new information and understanding to decide where your attention, time and resources will be best deployed going forward.
  • Respond – Ask, “What are the next steps?” Define the specific actions that will be taken to turn your new learning into better results going forward.

Refresh and Repeat
Data becomes more helpful when it has context, when you have other relevant data to view with it. For example, a respondent satisfaction level of 7 out of 10 might seem high until you find out the same respondents gave your competitors a 9, or that not that long ago they rated you a 4. Numbers take on new meaning when set among appropriate benchmarks.

 

External benchmarking, comparing your data to the same data from others is popular and can be helpful. You should be concerned though about relevance or validity. Are they really like you? Does comparison actually tell you anything about your own data and situation? This is especially a problem when you have customized your data collection to get just what you need – there may be no valid comparators.

 

We believe the best comparative data is your own over time, using data about you in the past as benchmark to evaluate change in the current data. Have you progressed, grown, improved, or have you moved in the other direction? The only way to really know is to conduct the same survey or assessment again, then compare the results. Repetition over time refreshes your view, especially in changeable circumstances. Use it to track gains and keep your action-taking on track.

Let Us Help You…

Contact us to tell us about your data collection needs or project ideas. We’re always happy to talk about our work, and there is no charge for asking.