Change in an organization can be daunting, but much less so with solid research to guide and support your decisions. Survey research is a science. It calls for expertise to make sure results from a sampling of members can be applied to the larger group. Survey research is also an art; interpreting numbers in way that is meaningful to you and to the organization and its members.
Once you decide to invest in third party research to guide the discussion around change in the organization, the next decision is who to partner with to help lead the process.
Recently an Association Executive called her survey results “A dose of tough love.” The process and subsequent findings are important facts that help start conversations about change, and also help to counter board members or staff convinced they know what members think because they’ve been around a long time.
Who should you look to construct, plan, and deploy your survey? What should you look for when outsourcing a survey or focus group? What critical skills will help ensure the survey results are relevant and present a clear and honest perspective for discussion, debate and, yes…change?
Your partner in this investment should lead you through the process from question development to steps to prepare to get the best response. Most important is the ability to analyze findings that will mean something and return real value. Here are four key areas of questions to ask yourself as you finalize the selection of a research partner:
- Does the researcher have the ability to not only report findings but also easily grasp the issues with which leadership and staff is grappling—all while assisting the team on priorities for decision-making?
- Does he/she understand the basics of your industry? The complexity of the organization and its members? The various levels of the organization and the member types and roles within their business, e.g., owner, manager, independent contractor or employee?
- Does he/she understand your industry sufficiently to uncover essential questions for your consideration that will help you interpret the findings on a broader perspective? (Making sure you can see the forest along with the trees.)
- Does the researcher add value beyond reporting the findings? Can he/she help you get to the next step and assist you with how best to package or present information that may be sensitive to some?
While a survey report is filled with facts and numbers—all of which has its merits—you should expect more. Expect actionable recommendations that you can take to staff and board members to begin discussions about positive change. Expect that member research can feed into a more meaningful value proposition. Expect member research to be the foundation for a stronger organization. Now that’s a payoff worth your investment.