Snake Oil and Science in Employee Research

Most organizations regularly survey their employees to better assess the state of the employer/employee relationship. The intent is to bring some science to bear on the problem of identifying areas of strength and weakness. By identifying what is important and what isn’t, management actions can be based on the best available evidence. This provides a foundation for a rational approach to improving levels of employee loyalty, engagement and satisfaction.

Unfortunately, most employee research contains more snake oil than science. The three signs of snake oil in employee research:

  • The use of statistical significance testing to indicate areas to which managers or employees should pay attention,
  • Using the research to determine overall levels of employee satisfaction or engagement,
  • Conducting ranking comparisons with other organizations.

Organizations thinking they obtaining solid evidence concerning the strengths and weaknesses of human resource practices are in fact getting  nonsense. The damage is amplified as actions are taken based upon the research. Important issues are missed while areas of  little or no importance gain management attention.

The costs to organizations can be enormous as the employee/employer relationship deteriorates.

In Science and Snake Oil in the Conduct of Employee Survey Research, the latest White Paper from Converge, these three signs of snake oil in employee research are detailed as are the critical factors behind this unfortunate trend.

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