Are you getting enough value from your L&D surveys?
Is your L&D team analysing survey data, or simply describing the results?
By Andy Burns
Surveys are one proven method for gathering qualitative and quantitative data; unfortunately they often don’t reach their potential. One major reason is that developers spend so much time developing the questions, and ignore an analysis of the survey demographic.
There are two critical elements to any survey:
1. Questions that need answering (the data)
2. People answering the questions (the demographic)
Of course the data is the purpose of the entire effort, but the similarities and differences in the survey demographic is what enables analysis to occur. The more that is known about the demographic, the further an analysis can progress. This is known as Attribute Coding and is a First Cycle Coding Method. The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers is an outstanding qualitative research publication that I thoroughly recommend.
The value of Attribute Coding is demonstrated as follows:
33% of respondents found the training difficult.
Minimal, if any, value is provided other than recognising that every third person in a particular demographic found training to be difficult. It raises more questions than it answers, and is merely a superficial description of what is obviously a deeper problem.
Compare that with example 2, where Attribute Coding has been applied and analysed:
33% of respondents found the training to be difficult.
40% of the respondents who found the training to be difficult were males from the Operations Branch between the ages of 18-25 who completed the course in March 2008.
Example 2 clearly provides a greater level of understanding and reliability that enables cause and effect factors to be analysed.
The list of potential demographic criteria is enormous; essentially, it comes down to having a clear understanding the survey population. The Australian Bureau of Statistics Census provides extensive examples of demographic variation points that Government employs for long-term policy development. Attribute Coding needs to be specific and targeted to the issue the survey is attempting to address.
BCT employed Attribute Coding during a recent Australian Defence Organisation engagement, where we were able to identify specific issues and recommendations – similar to examining and comparing a jigsaw puzzle piece-by-piece – relating to four major systems used across Navy, Army, Air Force and the APS at various rank levels, positions and experience.
This detail could not have been achieved without the use of Attribute Coding, and critically, it provides our client with significantly more awareness for planning and investing resources that will enhance capabilities through a measured, surgical-type approach.
Attribute Coding is the difference between superficial description and detailed analysis. The ability to compare and contrast demographic similarities and differences with the primary survey questions is of premium value, and is the catalyst for enabling detailed, fact-based data that supports good decision making.
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Andy Burns is a consultant at BCT Solutions in the Learning and Development practice. He has extensive experience in Performance Needs Analysis using qualitative and quantitative data analysis methods.
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