SurveyMonkey:Increasing Employee/Employer Collaboration

SM Logoby Chris C.

SurveyMonkey is listed as number 64 on Jane Hart’s 9th annual Top 100 Tolls for learning list (Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies, 2016). SurveyMonkey is a web-based survey provider founded in 1999 by Ryan Finley and headquartered in Palo Alto, CA; the company touts itself as the “world’s leading provider of web-based survey solutions” reaching millions of customers through such businesses as Facebook, Kraft, Virgin America, and Samsung (SurveyMonkey, 2016). SurveyMonkey claims 99% of Fortune 500 companies have used the digital tool with over 90 million interviewees monthly (Konrad, 2015).

SurveyMonkey (2016) provides leaders in any organization or occupation the ability to create and distribute surveys. Survey questions can be developed by the survey leader, or SurveyMonkey can provide templates adjusted for use in such fields as private business, education, or healthcare. Of particular importance for my dissertation topic, which seeks to identify variables that affect employee engagement at Georgia-Pacific, the digital tool offers an employee engagement survey template developed by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). SHRM (SHRM, 2016) is the world’s largest human resources (HR) organization with over 275,000 members, providing HR professionals continuing education and guidance within their field.

SHRM LogoSHRN

Fees for using SurveyMonkey vary based on the number of questions desired and the amount of responses required by the researcher. A simple survey consisting of 10 questions and 100 responses is free; for a fee, users may choose several other pay-per-month programs, ranging from $25-$85 a month, allowing the originator the ability to ask any number of questions, get unlimited responses, and access SurveyMonkey’s statistical analysis tools, which may be exported to numerous charts and diagrams (SurveyMonkey, 2016).

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SurveyMonkey is widely-used because of its simplicity. Using their own questions or the website’s templates, leaders can quickly create, distribute, and assess any topic of interest among an organization’s members. Data can readily be analyzed and displayed using SurveyMonkey’s graphing tools. As a leader responsible for over 100 employees working within a plywood mill, I am constantly balancing the needs of the workers with the ever-present requirement to create value for the company. I chose SurveyMonkey for this week’s digital tool research topic because of my need to assess the engagement of the employees. The mill currently experiences significant employee turnover and has had an increase in process interruptions and safety incidents. SurveyMonkey, or another web-based survey tool, may provide one method to assess worker engagement. However, I am constrained by the employees’ limited access to computers and their familiarity with computer systems. If I use a survey tool such as SurveyMonkey, I will have to provide employees time after their shift ends, paid as overtime, in order to allow them to participate in the quantitative portion of my research.

Concerns about using web-based or hard-copy surveys are not necessary. Huang (2006) suggests most participants do not respond differently to similar questions provided on paper or computer-based surveys; however, surveys only provided online may skew research results as participants uncomfortable with a computer are less likely participate. Nevertheless, research participants using a computer survey tool generally responded twice as quickly as those using paper surveys. Despite the faster return rate, completion rates were similar between both survey formats (Hayslett & Wildemuth, 2004).

While my dissertation focus is on one plywood plant, SurveyMonkey is highly adaptable for a company such as Georgia-Pacific, which has over 30,000 employees within the United States. The survey tool allows nearly any leader, with permission from their legal counsel or human resources representative, the ability to collaborate with any worker who can access the internet; such a method to gather and analyze employee data was nearly impossible 20 years ago (Watwood, 2016). Of course, developing and distributing surveys is not a new phenomenon, but SurveyMonkey and similar tools provide the layperson the rapid ability to create, distribute, and analyze surveys. As Shirky (2014) states, collaboration is the key to change; data gathered from SurveyMonkey may allow organizational leaders to quickly and efficiently understand employee morale and welfare, possibly increasing the tempo in which decisions are made.

If you are further interested in SurveyMonkey, the website is: http://www.SurveyMonkey.com.

Below is a link to an interview with the founder describing how the company started.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/aboutus/

Another video, from YouTube, describes the available SHRM survey template.

References

Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies. (2016). Top 100 Tools for Learning 2015. Retrieved from www.http://c4lpt.co.uk/directory/top-100-tools/

Hayslett, M. W., & Wildemuth, B. M. (2004). Pixels or pencils? The relative efectiveness of Web-based versus paper surveys. Library of Information Science and Research, 26, 73-93. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2003.11.005

Huang, H.-M. (2006). Do print and Wed surveys provide the same results? Computers in Human Behavior, 22, 334-360. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2004.09.012

Konrad, A. (2015, April 2). Spurning IPO, SurveyMonkey now allows you to compare data with rivals. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com

Shirkey, C. (2014, March). The disruptive power of collaboration: An interview with Clay Shirky. (M. Chui, Interviewer) Retrieved from http://www.mckinsey.com

Society for Human Resource Management. (2016). About the Society for Human Resource Management. Retrieved from http://www.shrm.org

SurveyMonkey. (2016). SurveyMonkey. Retrieved from http://www.surveymonkey.com

Watwood, B. (2016). Web 2.0. Retrieved from https://blueline.instructure.com/courses/1070921/pages/week-2-overview?module_item_id=9893316

 

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18 thoughts on “SurveyMonkey:Increasing Employee/Employer Collaboration

  1. Hi Chris,

    I have used Survey Monkey as well throughout my professional work and found it to be a very easy tool to use that provides valuable feedback. As I was reading your blog post, I was thinking about the applications online survey tools such as Survey Monkey has on leadership implications. Specifically I asked the question, are the benefits of a leader collecting formalized feedback from followers with Survey Monkey reached by just distributing the survey or to maximize this application, it is necessary to demonstrate action with the feedback?

    Atwater, Roush, and Fischthal (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1744-6570.1995.tb01745.x/abstract, 1995) review upward feedback, or the influence of follower’s perceptions of leadership provided to the leader after the distribution of a formalized survey. Overwhelming support demonstrated the leader’s behavior (especially neutral or negative) improved after the feedback and the followers rated satisfaction in providing feedback.

    However, are we missing something as transformational leaders? What do you think is the best way to incorporate Survey Monkey to maximize the long-term benefits and perceptions of followers? Is this a platform to start the communication process or something we can use successfully long-term?

    Kristin

    Reference
    Atwater, L., Roush, P., & Fischthal, A. (1995). The influence of upward feedback on self‐and follower ratings of leadership. Personnel Psychology, 48(1), 35-59.

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    1. Kristin,

      Excellent points! When I was in the military, it seemed we had a new online survey to conduct each week. The surveys became tedious and distracted us from our other duties. Many individuals, myself included, were so burdened with administrative tasks that completing the questionnaires became a chore; most of the feedback we provided was rushed and likely resulted in questionable survey results. Many of the junior Marines expressed their dissatisfaction with completing the surveys as well. During my time with Koch Industries, however, I have only been asked to complete one online questionnaire. This fact, combined with the deepening rapport I am developing among my subordinates, should assist me in collecting relevant, honest data if I chose to use SurveyMonkey or a similar tool for my dissertation research.

      Chris

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  2. Nice post. We have had several of you blog about polling tools, and SurveyMonkey is one of the more widely used and robust out there.

    Kristen’s comment is insightful. Polling is one thing…but the follow-up actions are even more critical. Doing so in a transparent manner … and yet doing so in a way where all voices get heard … requires skill. Sometimes a manager might want to bring an outsider in to give the survey and to participate her or himself … and then be part of the conversation within the team around the results.

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    1. Dr. Watwood,

      Thank-you for the guidance; I had not considered using an outside source to conduct an employee engagement survey. If I chose to use such a service for my dissertation research, would that be considered unethical?

      Chris

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  3. Chris-
    When I think about survey tools I cannot help but think about them in terms of my own experiences with them. I work for a data collection organization and surveys are a large part of the work that we do. As a part of this most of them are completed on paper but the organization is trending towards having more completed online. What we have found as an organization as far as response rates are concerned using paper versus online surveys a generational gap exists between response rates based on the age of the selected sample population. My experience validates what Huang (2006) stated that your research found because participation in the instrument online is highly connected with the age of the participant.
    I did a quick research analysis to see if these trends are changing in my organization and over the past three years of using online surveys to compliment paper surveys no statistically significant change has occurred either in response rates or participation based on age, however a slight increase in response rates have been observed geographically for online surveys. This trend, which is slight but moving upward, is being attributed to the increased acceptance of technology and increased availability of high speed internet in rural areas. One hypothesis organizationally is because cable companies are trying to cut costs and move services digitally they are promoting and investing in systems that have a larger geographic footprint. They are seeking customers for more than just television services because they can combine and bundle services such as internet and home phones and operate them all on a shared service line into a home without any additional cost but substantial increased charges to the customer. Because of this more customers are subscribing to internet services that have traditionally only subscribed to television services.
    This all ties into our online survey discussion because as internet services are subscribed to more the use and acceptance of technology increases, As this presence increases so does the acceptance of instruments like survey monkey and other survey tools.
    Overall, I like the tools survey monkey offers because for a fee several data analysis tools are available. The problem is with increased knowledge comes the need to be able to address the results of the survey. Nothing is worse than asking for an opinion then not having a plan to address the problems that arise when they come out. Thank you for your overview.
    -A
    References
    Huang, H.-M. (2006). Do print and Wed surveys provide the same results? Computers in Human Behavior, 22, 334-360. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2004.09.012

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    1. A,

      Thank-you for your response! I concur with your assessment…leaders may ask for the opinion of their peers and employees, but they must be ready to accept the results of the survey and seek methods, as required, to correct employee concerns. Another important aspect of data analysis is the ability to comprehend the survey results. While SurveyMonkey provides numerous means to graph and display data, it is still the responsibility of the originator to properly interpret the results. The raw data, if interpreter bias is present, will result in what the originator wants to see. Data only leads to knowledge and understanding if assessed properly. I plan to use an online survey in my dissertation research. As someone who is results-oriented, I must be patient and carefully analyze the survey results instead of coming to a quick conclusion.

      Chris

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  4. Survey Monkey is a tool we have used in my organization for many purposes and have found it to be easy to use for both the surveyor and participants. For example, I conduct a board survey each year asking all board members to provide feedback on their personal as well as group performance. These questions align with some formal tools I used early on but were cost prohibitive. Since I have been doing this for several years I can trend their results over time – we use the results to focus on board education or other initiative to address a top priority. More recently my medical staff launched research projects with local college students and for some of these projects they will be collecting data using survey monkey. There is such flexibility and applicability to the tool nearly any type of survey could be facilitated. Years ago we used Survey Monkey for our employee engagement process. In the end we abandoned that and are using another commercial tool. We did this for several reasons. First, we wanted to get comparative data and we didn’t have access to that using just Survey Monkey, Second, our staff size is likely big enough and we had a high participation rate that our internal resources for data analytics was insufficient. Neither of these is insurmountable but we did decide to try another tool.

    I would concur with the other comments that really what is most important is what you do with the data you collect, particularly when it involves a staff engagement survey. It is important to ensure all staff have access to the survey if they want (and expect) to participate. Ease of use is a nice factor, and anonymity (we have found) is always important. That said, even more important is what happens next. Good luck!

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    1. Raven,

      I appreciate your suggestion to remember to provide the survey results to the participants! While that is easily done, I did not consider it while brainstorming how I would create and distribute the survey. What tool did you use instead of SurveyMonkey? SurveyMonkey (2016) provides an interesting tool to assist leaders with providing additional participants for a survey, called Audience. For an additional fee, SurveyMonkey will send your survey to a targeted audience chosen from participants who complete surveys using SurveyMonkey; participants are rewarded with charitable donations and sweepstakes entries (SurveyMonkey, 2016). While this idea is novel and likely popular, I do not think I would use the service. Audience may provide me data on perspective employee engagement in other companies, but I would be hesitant to consider the data truly valid. What do you think?

      Chris

      Reference

      SurveyMonkey. (2016). SurveyMonkey. Retrieved from http://www.surveymonkey.com

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      1. The tool we use is called Avatar and we are early in our experience using it. It certainly costs more than Survey Monkey but it has a lot of analytics as well as follow up plan development and tracking built in. It is easy to use and navigate. The challenge I see with survey tools such as this is the data – not that it is wrong but that it is a point in time and each survey includes only those who participated that time. That is, in our first suvery we had about 600 people take the survey; when we take it again I there is no way to match or ensure the same 600 (or most of them take it). We will likely have new people as well. Now, given the number of participant a few here or there will not change the outcome. Our goal is to track and trend results overtime though. So big swings in number of participants or who participates may influence the results. (I am not a statistician – can you tell?!). Further, when we look at organizations for comparison, the Avatar company has few in our industry and of similar size. I don’t think that provides for an appropriate comparison. So we have limitations in this regard. We could use a tool that has a lot of similar organizations but then there is so much compression in the data that there is no meaningful comparison (e.g. is a score of 92.3 materially different from a score of 92.5?).

        The more I think about surveying people on anything – and even use of tools such as we are discussing this week, I sense a gap that I haven’t quite identified. I think it has to do with the connection of asking and getting input and what is done with that input to effect a change. I only complete surveys I believe will be used to make something better – otherwise I toss or ignore them.

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  5. Raven,

    Excellent point concerning analyzing data. I am not proficient in “crunching” numbers. Part of the allure of survey tools is the ease at which participants can be reached. However, understanding the results of the data is probably the most difficult portion of research and something that could be easily misinterpreted.

    Chris

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  6. Chris,

    I understand your reason for wanting to use SurveyMonkey in your research. It is quite efficient in gathering data, especially since you do not have to wait for someone to mail it back to you. I have had the opportunity to take and create surveys using SurveyMonkey. It is very user-friendly like you said. However, if you wanted a more comprehensive survey, you will have to pay hopefully an organization would utilize it more than once a month. Overall, it is worth any organization investing or allocating funds for at least as a way of monitoring performance or obtaining employee feedback.

    You mentioned that Georgia-Pacific had a high turnover rate. By having employees complete the survey, are you hoping to deduce why employees are leaving? It would be interesting and worthwhile to educate all employees enthusiastic about using technology. By empowering employees on the use of technology, it may provide an incentive for them to stay and provide opportunities for advancements. Just a thought and I enjoyed reading your post.

    Sheila

    Like

    1. Sheila,

      Yes…through my research, I hope to understand the lack of employee engagement within the plywood mill. While the work is not easy, I believe the company has not committed itself to finding how to fulfill the needs of its employees, despite the fact that having satisfied employees is a foundation of Koch Industries’ organizational culture. I plan to use a survey tool like SurveyMonkey during my research.

      Chris

      Like

  7. Hi Chris

    In my former place of employment management staff were sometimes given scholarships to a local university to complete a MA degree. Many, if not all these students were using Survey Monkey to do research and complete their thesis and, like you the number of online surveys at work became a mockery and most of us stopped doing them. At the time the university had somewhat of a dubious reputation for pumping out MA graduates whose credentials were not recognized by government in areas like the teaching profession. A co-worker was in one of the programs and was having trouble getting people to complete the survey needed for his research and was constantly walking around the office “advertising” and cajoling people to complete it. It annoyed me enough that I looked into Survey Monkey a little bit and found it had a few glaring problems. Being my argumentative self I used these issues as a reason not to complete these things. This was about 2011 so it may have changed a lot since then but Survey Monkey ran afoul of accessibility and privacy laws at the time and its design, if you were using high levels of security on you computer, may have contributed to spurious results. While it depended on your question design the JavaScript used to replace standard browser tools could make the survey appear differently to a variety of users influencing their answers and it is difficult to verify identity excluding those who should not be taking the survey (e.g., those under 16 years) .
    I think the biggest problem I found with Survey Monkey at the time (and I will fully admit it may have changed since I last looked at it) has to do with the idea of informed consent needed in research. It is difficult within Survey Monkey to give all the relevant information needed and allowing potential respondents to ask questions needed to shape informed consent. For example, these surveys are only anonymous if the option to collect computer IP addresses is purposely switched to “No” as the default is to collect such information and the respondent needs to be coached through this. So while Survey Monkey may be appropriate for a non-academic setting, I think one should be careful in the design and construction of the survey in an academic environment. I’m not saying it can’t be done but the potential variables that Survey Monkey adds need to be taken into consideration before somebody punches holes through the research.

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    1. Cam,

      You bring up an excellent point concerning privacy that I had not considered. Before I conduct my research with Koch employees, I will need permission from Koch Business Solutions, the legal and administrative subsidiary of the company. Addressing privacy concerns will likely be crucial in my research proposal to the company. Thank-you for the knowledge!

      Chris

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      1. What might be even worse is that fact that many people completed the surveys multiple times just to tip the data in their opinion…while I’m sure there is a work around to that now who knows how many decisions were made because the disgruntled were apt to use it as a complaining tool.

        Like

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