How to choose an employee survey vendor
When choosing a survey vendor for your company there are many factors to consider besides cost that should influence your decision. In our opinion, the most important things to ask about involve reports and benchmarking. The quality of the reporting, the method of analysis and the benchmark data the vendor uses to establish a context for your results are vital and will form the foundation of your action plans. If your vendor can only provide boilerplate reports that give you no understanding of how to make sense of the numbers in YOUR specific situation, find someone else.
Here are some important things to consider when choosing a vendor. A good vendor will be able to fulfill all the items mentioned on this list. If they can't, even if the price is a bargain, you may well be wasting your time and efforts.
Experience & Cost
- Experience counts. Does this vendor have more than 5 years experience?
- Has the vendor done surveys with companies of all sizes and in many different industries? This gives them a better perspective on employee findings.
- Do they have current references? Ask for at least 3 and check them.
- Compare pricing intelligently and look further than just the base cost. Expensive isn't always better, but cheap can be deceiving. Look for the value you will get from the reports and analysis. Some vendors will inflate the costs with extra charges for every little request or try to up-sell on additional consulting. Ask about the cost of add-ons not included in the quoted price.
- Can they survey employees in different ways (i.e. online, pen & paper) within the same project?
- Can the vendor handle multiple languages in the same survey?
- Make sure online surveys are hosted on dedicated high-capacity servers and can handle many users doing the survey simultaneously.
- What kind of support is provided to your employees during the survey?
- Do they have specific policies regarding anonymity? How do they protect employees identity?
- Ask about survey completion rates and average participation rates among their other clients. How do they ensure high particpation?
- What steps do they take to understand your specific needs? What's the consulting process?
- Do they allow for survey customization or is their survey tool "one-size fits all"? Ask to see the full question set beforehand.
- Do they have a well-designed questionnaire (i.e. tested, validated and conforming to established research standards) that has a variety of question types and is not just a simple list of rating statements?
- Can you collect freeform open ended data from questions?
Reporting & Benchmarking
- Do they have comprehensive but easy-to-understand reports? Ask to see samples.
- Ask what kind of written analysis is provided in the reports. Who does this written analysis? Make sure it's not just boilerplate or automated text. Good reports put all the numbers in context and provide recommendations.
- Do they provide valid benchmarking for your industry using more than just their client data? What makes up their norms database if they have one?
- Do they allow you to drill down into the data for unit level reporting? What is the extra cost, if any?
- Do you own the data or does the survey company? Do they use your data in their benchmarks? Do they archive your data for trending in future studies? Is there a cost for this?
- What ability do they have for presenting results to management? Can they present to management in person? Can they present by Webinar?
Other things to investigate are the other services offered by the vendor. Do they have a well-rounded suite of complementary services? You may not need them now but experienced vendors should be able to do more than one thing should you need it. It's good practice to have consistency when collecting data. This can help avoid compatibility problems down the road if you need to compare data from different studies.