Survey Says

Shawnee Love   •  
March 5, 2015

As a kid I used to love the game show Family Feud.  Guessing the answers that would rank the highest was an exercise in understanding human nature not to mention just fun competition within my own family.  To this day, whenever answering a survey, I try to guess what most of the people will answer.

In my business, conducting surveys on culture, practices, rewards programs, retention, motivation is part of what we do.  I still get those warm fuzzy feelings each time we get the go ahead to kick one off, and I can turn my mind to survey design and questions.  One of my standard practices in this process after developing the survey is to see what types of questions other organizations ask in these situations.  Not only are there great ideas being shared, but it also is another quality check for us in ensuring our survey is well worded and complete.  It is in this process, that I have discovered not all questions or surveys are created equally and just because a company is well respected doesn’t mean its surveys are good.

Many surveys are going to get bad data.  Garbage in, garbage out as the saying goes.  The reason there is going to be garbage going in (in the form of participants’ answers) is often because the questions are worded so poorly.  Here are some best practices when wording survey questions:

  • Make survey questions concise.
  • Address only 1 concept per question.
  • Use junior high level language.
  • Be precise.
  • Ruthlessly avoid questions which show judgment and/or biases.
  • 3 rules of thumb when ordering questions:
    • Simple topics to complex
    • General to detailed questions
    • Known concepts to unknown

What survey questions tips can you share?

p.s. Next week we will discuss how to create good options for survey answers. Hope you come back.