Is quantitative or qualitative research the right approach for your survey?

This is now the fourth in our summer series about how to get the most from your employee survey.  This blog and our next will be discussing the various approaches for your survey.  You can read all our previous blogs here.

In our last blog we looked at defining aims and objectives when conducting employee research and employee surveys.  The objectives of your survey will not only provide focus for the project, they will also determine the best approach to use.

Quantitative or qualitative research?

Both methodologies can be highly effective in employee research, but each is best used in specific areas.

Qualitative research is most appropriate when:

  • The research involves relatively small groups of people;
  • You wish to pursue a subject in great detail;
  • You are attempting to determine strength of feeling on a certain subject;
  • You are trying to understand root causes of a feeling rather than just the symptoms of issues;
  • You are trying to seek the connections between issues.

Face-to-face individual interviews and focus groups are the most common forms of qualitative techniques used in employee research.

Quantitative research is most appropriate when:

  • Large numbers of people need to be included in the research;
  • The research needs to cover a large number of different subjects;
  • It is important to have robust numerical data;
  • You need to have measurable comparison data between different groups;
  • You want to be able to compare performance against other external organisations;
  • You want to identify correlation with other research data (e.g. customer satisfaction data);
  • You want to undertake advanced statistical analysis on the results (e.g. regression or correlation analysis).

Employee surveys are the most common form of quantitative research.

Sometimes, the two methodologies can be effectively combined. For example, in an employee opinion survey, you may decide to use focus groups before designing the survey in order to determine the survey content and/or pilot questionnaire. Then you may want to use qualitative research after the survey data has been collected to better understand the meaning behind the quantitative results.

Find out more about how we can work with you to maximise the potential of your employee survey.