Bespoke research – the next Twitter trend?

#bespokeengagementresearch probably won’t be tomorrow’s trending hashtag, but tailoring the content of your employee engagement surveys to your organisation’s objectives is key to winning – and keeping – your people’s hearts and minds.

This week I met with HR directors from leading organisations to discuss this hot topic. But why is it so crucial right now?

For a start, employees are wise to inauthenticity. Receiving the same survey questions year after year tells your people “we’re not that bothered what you think”. So expect them to respond in kind with fewer complete – and useful – responses.

Pretty much every organisation is experiencing huge change in the wake of the recession. This is not the time for off-the-shelf surveys that don’t measure that change and people’s reaction to it. Send the same old survey and you’ll be ignoring – even denying – a major part of your employees’ experience in the workplace.

If you’re wise you’ll be measuring change itself, using bespoke surveys on a staggered basis, with different questions asked at the beginning and end of the change process.

But data is only part of the story…

I am the first to admit that even the best data is only useful if your organisation has the agility to act upon it. You need to be quick on the uptake, using your bespoke survey data to correct issues – and, more importantly, to spot them before they become a problem.

Which brings me to one HR director I met with in the session this week. He came from a law firm and mentioned the fear in his firm created by a lack of clarity around potential redundancies. Although the firm had made no redundancies, the fear in the market was sufficient to effect employee engagement. A bespoke, pulse survey would have highlighted these fears early on, giving the HR director and his team the potential to act quickly to minimise fear.

Let’s deal with the ‘b’ word

The distraction that crops up in many of our get-togethers with HR folk is benchmarking. Many are preoccupied with it. The error they often make is comparing their engagement scores to competitors without analysing their market share or objectives.

Engagement should always be driven by your business objectives – and ultimately organisational improvement – but how you go about achieving these will be very different to how a company in a different sector does so. How does comparing them to you help you to increase engagement in your company?

In our experience a bespoke survey can be far more effective at driving action in an organisation than benchmarking against competitors.


By Dr Andy Brown
CEO & Practice Head: ENGAGE Leadership