Employee Surveys, Human Resources

The case against standard survey tools (even when you’re on a budget)

Lydia Watson

You want to send a survey. First things first, congratulations – you’ve chosen the best method for getting useful, actionable employee feedback (we’re not biased, it really is).  So what next? 

There’s 101 different survey tools to choose from, from the fiendishly complicated and distressingly expensive to the most basic, budget option. And you’d be forgiven for leaning toward the latter.

Small businesses have smaller budgets – especially in HR

There are a lot of great things about small businesses. Full of passion, agility, and that ‘start-up spirit’, employees are invested in driving success. The one thing they don’t have is an unlimited budget – and although ‘you have to spend money to make money’ is a cliché, it does have a ring of truth about it. 

So if you’re a HR professional or team leader that desperately needs people insights, you’re in a tricky situation. High-cost engagement solutions aren’t an option, nor are industry-leading analytics platforms – so making the most of standard survey tools seems like your best bet. 

But there is another way and several reasons you shouldn’t settle…

The disadvantages of standard survey tools:

Questions

It goes without saying that questions are the most important component of any survey. So when you’re using a standard survey tool to collect employee feedback, there are two challenges you can encounter:

  • Using pre-written questions: Surveys aren’t one-size-fits-all. If they haven’t been researched and written with employee feedback in mind, the results won’t be optimal.
  • Writing your own questions: It’s so difficult to write your surveys yourself, we wrote a whole article explaining why – not to mention, who’s got the time to get that signed off?

Setup

Again, as standard survey tools aren’t designed specifically for gathering employee feedback, it’s not going to be a seamless process to use for that purpose. You’ll have to think about what data you need to generate, and how to encourage people to respond:

  • Setup will be slow and complicated: If there’s limitless functionality, that’s a problem in itself – you need to make unnecessary choices yourself, taking time you don’t have.
  • They don’t help you get the length right: surveys can be too long and too short, so how do you raise response rates but get enough data? Standard tools won’t tell you.

Responses

For some people, sending the survey is the point of the whole exercise – as it’s just a way of showing you’re listening. But in time-poor, data-hungry businesses, that’s not worth the effort. It’s really about about the responses, and ensuring that A) there’s enough of them, and B) they’re high quality. That’s a problem with standard tools because:

  • You get fewer responses from your employees: You need to hear from your entire team to make any real assertions, and long, rambling surveys stop that from happening.
  • Poor quality questions means poor quality answers: If people race through your survey to get it done, or don’t understand the question, the data you get will be useless.

Analysis

Sending a survey is one thing, but analysing the results is another. With standard survey tools, you often end up having to do a lot of manual analysis to understand what you’re looking at – and what the responses are really saying:

  • You have to make your own interpretations: You’ll see the results, but not the full story – as most tools aren’t built with smart suggestions, like our platform.
  • It’s not easy to segment by teams or departments: Some tools might offer filters around demographics like age, but sometimes you need to focus on teams instead.

Insights

When you’re trying to understand specifically what’s driving certain attitudes or behaviours in your teams, you need to dig deeper than ‘on a score of 1 to 5’ type questions. The trouble is, standard survey tools don’t often give you the deeper insights you need:

  • No language analysis of open-text answers: Including open questions is useful for adding context to scores, but manually analysing yourself is flawed and takes time.
  • Difficult to identify common themes: Again, this will require manual work and analytical expertise if you’re using a basic tool – and may be hard to trust any insights.

Next steps

Send a survey, get results, analyse the data – even if you’ve got that far, how do you know what to do next? Because they’re not made for employee surveys, standard tools aren’t going to guide you to take your next steps based on results.

  • No suggestions for further surveys: Where our platform is able to tell if you need to dig deeper in a particular area, you won’t get that with a standard tool.
  • No indications of what initiatives to prioritise: How do you know what the biggest issue you’re facing is? If the tool you use doesn’t make that clear, then you’re stuck.

Get advanced surveys at an affordable price

The alternative to using standard survey tools? Qlearsite Foundation. 

Faster, simpler surveys that offer the advanced insights you need – but at an incredibly affordable price. It’s built for small businesses with limited budgets, team leaders who need fast answers, and anyone else who wants cost efficiency without compromising. Try it out for free for 21 days:

Sign up for a free 21-day trial (no upfront payment details required)

Faster, simpler surveys – free for 21 days

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