What Is Employee Research?

Lainie Petersen

Employee research is an organizational development tool that enables employers to better understand the attitudes and needs of their employees. The process of employee research can be an internal process, in which human resources or management conducts surveys or speaks to employees individually. In addition, there are organizational development consultants and organizations that specialize in this type or research, using carefully developed methods for assessing employee attitudes and assisting companies in changing their culture in order to ensure a high level of satisfaction among workers.

Some companies hire external consultants who specialize in employee research and surveys.
Some companies hire external consultants who specialize in employee research and surveys.

From time to time, employers often want to develop a better understanding of how their employees feel about their work environment and their jobs. Without this information, corporate culture can become stagnant or even toxic which can result in high employee turnover or employees that simply become apathetic and do not perform to their full potential. While individual supervisors may attempt to talk to employees about their work experience, employees may be reluctant to be honest with their supervisors out of fear that they may lose their jobs.

Employers can hire outside consulting firms to engage in employee research. Successful research programs typically employ several methods of research that take place over a period of many months. This third-party organization can begin by offering psychometrically valid surveys to employees under anonymous conditions, such as the use of confidential websites. Using the information gleaned from these surveys, an employee research consultant can then ask employees to volunteer for “focus groups” in which the employees are encouraged to have a frank discussion about things that they would like to see changed in the organization, as well as those things that they like about working for their employer. These groups are monitored by staff members of the company that performs the employee research.

The information gained from surveys and focus groups is often compiled into a report by research specialists that is presented to the organization's managers, executives and owners. The organization that performed the employee research may be able to guide company leaders in making policy decisions that address the concerns expressed by employees. After these changes are implemented, ongoing employee research can help company leadership understand and track the success of these changes. As it can take time for an organization to adapt to new ways of doing things, employee research may continue for quite some time after initial changes are made. By continuing the research, an employer can fine-tune its efforts toward employee satisfaction.

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