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Instructions for Fap

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Instructions for the FAP:
Field Application Project Handbook
Professor Katherine Klein
MGMT 621/653
June 2012

This document is a resource for you to use as you plan and carry out your team’s Field Application Project for this class. As described in detail below, you and your team will gather data within an organizational unit, diagnose the challenges the unit is facing, and prescribe action steps the unit can take to overcome these challenges and realize new opportunities. The process of carrying out the FAP is both challenging and rewarding. You will gain valuable knowledge and experience as you work with your team, gather and analyze data to gain an understanding of the roots of the unit’s management dynamics and tensions, and propose a course of action to enhance the unit’s effectiveness. Each year, the FAP reports and presentations are incisive, constructive, and fascinating. I look forward to talking with you about your FAP over the course of the semester and to reading about and hearing your team’s FAP findings and recommendations.

CONTENTS

1. Introduction to the Field Application Project

2. Timetable / Project Requirements

3. Choosing a Site

4. Gaining Access

5. Working in Your Study Group

6. General Principles and Guidelines for Data Collection

7. Strengths and Weaknesses of Different Data-Gathering Approaches

a. Archival Data

b. Interviews

c. “Shadowing” Job Incumbents

d. Focus Group Interviews

e. Surveys

8. Analyzing the Data You Collect For Your FAP

9. Writing Your FAP Report

10. Tips on FAP Presentation

11. A Look Beyond the FAP Presentation

12. Appendix: Sample Survey Reminder Email and Survey Items You Can Use or Adapt

1. INTRODUCTION TO THE FIELD APPLICATION PROJECT (back to contents)

The major assignment for this course is the Field Application Project (FAP). The FAP is designed to allow you and your learning team members to: (a) collect and synthesize the data necessary to conduct a rigorous diagnosis of the nature and sources of a real organizational problem; (b) draw on class readings, discussion, and your own experiences to prescribe specific action steps that the organization should implement to overcome the problem; and (c) justify and explain your recommendations.

As you carry out your FAP, you are likely to deepen your appreciation of both the challenges and the value of gathering data in organizations, reaching a cogent diagnosis of the problem, and prescribing evidence-based solutions. Most organizational problems and challenges are messy and multi-determined. Quick fixes rarely work and may backfire. In contrast, more careful, analytical efforts to understand and address organizational problems are more likely to succeed. Your team will undertake such an analytical effort during the FAP – one that will prove an excellent learning opportunity for you, your team, and your FAP company or organization.

You will work on the Field Application Project in your study group, providing further exposure to the dynamics of group decision-making and the management of knowledge-intensive work. The final course paper will be based on your FAP work. Both this paper and a FAP presentation on the final day of class will be the responsibility of the study group.

The written report will count for 35% of your grade for the course, and the in-class presentation will count for 5% of your course grade.

By way of illustration, some project titles from the past several years are:

Motivating & Engaging Employees at Johnson & Johnson
Prescription Vison: Eyemaginations’ Path to Profits
The Meadows: Retaining Clinical Staff
Gender Diversity at BMO Capital Markets
Improving Motivation and Productivity in the DTCC’s Internal Audit Organization
Improving Sales Force Retention at Vital Signs Devices, a GE Healthcare Company
Fostering Healthy Coaching Relationships During Times of Crisis at PwC
Performance Management at NBCUniversal: Encouraging the Account Manager’s Heart
Developing and Maintaining a Variable Workforce within the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital
Attrition – The Elephant in the Room: Retaining Finance Rotation Program Hires
Mind the Gap: Confronting Generational Myths among Cisco Employees
Deutsche Bank: Managing the Risks of a Location Optimization Strategy
GE’s Financial Management Program: Doing It Better
The Limited Inc.: Redesigning the District Manager’s Role
Managing A Biotech across Two Continents: Organizational Challenges at Chemizon

2. TIMETABLE / PROJECT REQUIREMENTS (back to contents)

FAP Team Progress Meetings at Wharton

We will devote certain class sessions to meetings about FAP between the instructor and each study group.

The first FAP progress meeting, roughly 20-25 minutes per team, is scheduled on June 15, 2012. In order to get the most out of our first meeting, please be sure that everyone on your team reads this FAP Handbook before our first meeting. Also prior to our first meeting, please prepare a 1-2 page memo describing the following:

1. The organization you will study;

2. The specific management problem the organization is having to the best of your current knowledge;

3. How exactly you plan to gather the data you need to diagnose the problem (what will you do and why is your plan both appropriate and feasible?);

4. What makes this organization and problem of interest to your team; and

5. Any questions or concerns you would definitely like to discuss with me.

Please email your memo to me by midnight EDT on June 12th.

Before the first FAP progress meeting or very soon after, be sure to email me a draft (in Word) of your FAP interview questions (if you plan to conduct interviews at your FAP site) and your draft survey (if you plan to conduct a survey at your FAP site). I will provide comments and suggest possible edits.

The second FAP progress meeting is scheduled on July 26, 2012. This meeting is for a progress report, again roughly 20-25 minutes per team.

For our second meeting, on July 29th, please prepare a 1-2 memo describing:

1. The data you have collected thus far;

2. Your preliminary diagnosis of the causes of the problem;

3. Your thoughts regarding possible action steps;

4. Class concepts you have drawn on or will draw on in diagnosing the problem and planning action steps; and

5. Any questions or concerns you would like to discuss with me.

Please email your memo to me by midnight EDT on July 24th. As this description suggests, my strong recommendation is that you collect all necessary data before the end of July.

Final Report

The FAP Final Report is due by midnight EDT on August 22, 2012. PLEASE BE SURE TO INCLUDE THE EXACT WORDCOUNT FOR YOUR PAPER AT THE TOP OF YOUR REPORT. Your entire report must be no longer than 6,000 words maximum, not including course name, your names, professor name, date, title, appendices, tables, and references.

Your final team report should include the following sections:

1. Executive summary

2. Brief description of the company or organization

3. Problem description: What is the nature of the problem you hope to solve? In brief, how do you know there is a problem here? Why is it important to solve this problem?

4. Data collection: What data did you collect, and how did you collect these data, to gain an understanding of the problem? Why is this an appropriate data collection strategy for this project/problem?

5. Diagnosis: What are the causes of the problem? This section should make extensive and explicit use of:

a. The data you collected: What did you learn through your surveys and/or interviews and your examination of archival information?

b. Class concepts, readings, and research findings: How can the class concepts be applied and extended to solve the problem?

6. Recommended action steps: What specific action steps should the organization take to solve the problem? What changes should be implemented?

7. Measurables: How will you know if your recommended action steps have had their intended effect? How can you, or the organization, measure the effectiveness of your plan?

8. Challenges to implementation: What are the potential challenges, barriers, and obstacles to following your recommendations?

9. Risks, costs, and unintended consequences: What are the risks, costs, and possible unintended consequences of following your recommendations?

10. Communication plan: How will you communicate your findings to your clients and overcome potential resistance?

These sections will clearly vary in length. Typically, #5 (diagnosis) and #6 (recommended action steps) are the longest single sections.

Grading the FAP Report

We will evaluate the following four dimensions in grading the FAP reports:

1. Quality of data collection and analysis (e.g., How well does the data collection strategy fit the organization and problem? Are the data collection instruments, data analyses and data presentations of high quality? Was their appropriate depth and detail of data collection, given opportunities and constraints of the project site?)

2. Quality of diagnosis (e.g., How clear, insightful, and convincing is the diagnosis? Is it well-informed by data and by theory and research presented in the course? Is it appropriate in scope, targeting neither too few nor too many issues?)

3. Quality of action steps, measurables, description of challenges, risks, and communication plan (e.g., How appropriate to the data, diagnosis, and organization are the action steps? Are they specific, actionable, and likely to be effective? Are they well-informed by theory and research? Is the discussion of risks and challenges thoughtful? Are the measurable appropriate and feasible to collect and monitor? Is a thoughtful communication plan presented?)

4. Overall quality (e.g., professionalism, quality of writing, quality of supporting materials)

Due date and presentation

On the last day of class (August 24, 2012), each learning team will present FAP project to the class. The presentation will count for 5% of your course grade. This presentation gives you the opportunity to share your learnings with your peers and to benefit from their questions and suggestions. While the percentage of your grade that depends on your FAP presentation is low, the implicit motivation to do well on the presentation is typically high given executive MBA students’ strong work ethic, natural competitiveness, and pride in their work.

I will let you know the total time allotted to your group presentation; the length is generally between 16 and 20 minutes. Please plan to spend half of the allocated time on your presentation and use whatever tools you need (presentation software, transparencies, other audio-visual equipment, classroom computer facilities) to communicate the learning from your project effectively. The second half of your allocated time is for responding to questions from the audience.

3. CHOOSING A SITE (back to contents)

Choosing a site is the first step in doing the FAP, and it is important that you get an early start on doing this. Ideally, by the end of the first week of the program, you and your fellow group members will have already begun narrowing down the possibilities to those that look most promising to investigate.

Most teams choose the organization of one team member as the FAP site, while other teams find their FAP sites through other organizational connections of team members (e.g. a place where someone volunteers; via a family member.) Do read the section on Working in Your Study Group and be sure that your will not be too defensive if your team conducts its FAP on an organization to which you have strong ties.

In general, FAPs are most valuable, engaging, and insightful when the FAP site:

• Is experiencing significant problems of satisfaction, turnover, conflict, hiring, promotion, or performance. In short, there are real problems to be solved here.

• Is genuinely uncertain what is causing the problem. In short, the diagnosis is not obvious as the sources of the problem are fairly complex.

• Will allow you to collect extensive data (and may give you additional background data) so that you can arrive at your own deep, detailed, and convincing understanding of the problem.

Further, FAPs seem to go best when the organizational unit you are studying has at least 20-25 employees and no more than 150-200 employees. If there are fewer than 20 employees, your team may overwhelm the focal group. If there are more than 150-200 employees, it is difficult to get a handle on what is going on in the group.

Whatever organization you choose, be realistic when setting the scope of the problem (FAQ: What makes a FAP project and report strong?). You won’t have much time and things won’t always go as quickly or smoothly as you would like. Better to define a relatively narrow slice of a larger problem and treat it thoroughly than to cover a broad topic superficially. On the other hand, the project should link to something of strategic importance to the organization or it won’t hold your interest (or mine, or theirs). I will give you guidance on choice of problem since some may be too big-picture strategic and not closely enough tied to "managing people" or organizational issues.

Feasibility considerations include timing of issues related to the focal problem (if there is an organizational change that you want to investigate but it will be implemented in the fall, it will be hard to collect valid data because you will only hear about what people anticipate rather than their actual reactions); physical location of the places where you would collect data (to the extent that you are doing on-site interviews vs. more remotely); and the timeline for any approval processes that the organization might require. One prime purpose of my meetings with your study group is to discuss these issues (and you can always consult with me during the first week and by e-mail between our class sessions.)

Don’t overlook the importance of having a site and organizational problem/situation that really holds a high level of interest for most, if not all, members of the team. You’ll be putting a lot of time into this assignment and the intrinsic interest of the topic will make a big difference in how much you learn from (and enjoy) the experience. I’m hopeful that you’ll learn something that is valuable for your personal career planning or can be applied in your own organization at some point in the future. In addition, you’ll certainly learn about how to do more effective project-based work in a group of peers.

4. GAINING ACCESS (back to contents)

Here are some ideas about how to gain access to an organization to conduct your FAP. In general, I find that the following approaches are helpful:

1. Emphasize to your potential sponsor and host organization that this is an opportunity to get help looking at a problem that is either urgently important right now or is part of that symbolic stack of long-range-important-but-not-immediately-urgent issues that a manager has sitting (figuratively if not literally) on his/her desk. In a sense, this is free consulting from a group of highly talented and intelligent Wharton students, with each person bringing a wide range of experience and expertise.

2. Reassure them that you will take a high level of precaution to protect individual and organizational confidentiality. This report is being prepared only for your professor and TA and they will not allow anyone else to read or see it. (In fact, we are happy to sign a confidentiality agreement if that will help.) Nothing in the report will identify any individual and the company’s identity can also be disguised if necessary. Whatever you feed back to the organization, it will be their choice about what/whether to circulate the findings.

3. Appeal to their goodwill by portraying this as a project for a course that is part of your MBA education. Here, rather than playing up the idea that “we are high-powered Wharton students here to solve all your problems”, you would rather emphasize that “we are students eager to learn and hoping to be helpful.” Some modesty and asking for help in meeting your educational goals can go a long way here.

If it would be helpful, I am happy to be in touch with the person who would be the sponsor of FAP at a potential site to address any concerns he/she might have. I have found that it is more effective to do this in a customized way, based on the issues that are raised, rather than trying to write a formal letter in advance that covers all questions they might have.

5. WORKING IN YOUR STUDY GROUP (back to contents)

The success of your overall project, from identifying an appropriate site to gathering data to writing it up to presenting it well depends on the effectiveness of the group processes within your team. Good processes lead to good outcomes. It is very difficult to succeed with bad processes.

While there are several kinds of bad process, here are four that we have noted most frequently. The first involves teams that are so committed to getting along that when one or two members have objections to the direction the team is taking, they either voice them quietly or concede quickly in the face of apparent group consensus. While of course it is important for each team to decide on a direction and a plan, it is also important to base those on as much data and as many good ideas as possible. Taking the time to hear out a person or subgroup with a minority opinion and listening really carefully for the value in it can actually speed the team’s work and make it better.

Another bad process is the “tyranny of agreement” in which all members assume that everyone agrees with a direction or plan, even when no one actually does. Before it knows it, the group ends up in “Abilene” when no one wanted to go there. If you haven’t heard of the Abilene Paradox, here’s a quick link that will fill you in: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abilene_paradox

A third example of problematic team behavior is where individuals fail to take responsibility for their own pieces of the writing and implicitly delegate them to a designated team editor/writer. This creates a separation between the first hand knowledge of the original writer and the inferred writing of the team writer which can lead to gaps in your narrative. Once again, experience teaches us it is better to take your time, deliver early and allow team members to vet the emerging whole carefully.

A final problematic team process arises when one team member has a lot of pride in and loyalty to the project site and thus feels defensive when and if the team criticizes the site’s management, employees, or performance. Such defensiveness may be particularly likely when this individual is shouldering more than his or her fair share of the team’s work on the FAP. When one individual’s defensiveness makes it difficult or impossible for the team to gather meaningful data, analyze the unit’s problems, and propose remedies, the team’s learning and final output are seriously compromised.

Difficulties and breakdowns in group process like these, infrequent as they are, offer opportunities to learn about key dimensions of teamwork. At some appropriate point during your work on the FAP and also at the very end of the class, Peter Kuriloff will gather data from you on your own experience in the team and you may use that to further such learning. During the first round, he will get in touch with groups that seem to be struggling with their teamwork to see if they want a consultation via Skype or phone. After class is over, you will all fill out a survey and then will get an extensive report from him that shows how your team rated its performance on key dimensions of teamwork. Peter will be available to consult with teams that are interested in going over their results.

On occasion, somewhere in their collective effort, a few teams may experience some dynamics which members worry may affect their progress in developing their FAP. Should your team experience these, first discuss it with each other as a team. The sooner you deal with such issues, the more likely you will nip processes in the bud that could be destructive to the ultimate success of the project. If, after talking among yourselves, you feel you need further help, please feel free to contact Peter Kuriloff (Kuriloff@gse.upenn.edu). He will arrange for a phone consultation.

GENERAL PRINCIPLES AND GUIDELINES FOR DATA COLLECTION (back to contents)

Confidentiality

In research, “confidentiality” means that you know the company or individual’s name but you do not reveal that information to others. “Anonymity” means that you do not know the company or individual’s name.

To make the company that you are studying comfortable sharing sensitive information with you, it may be necessary for you to promise that you will not reveal the company’s name to anyone outside of your study team, JR, and me. That is, you may need to promise the company that the information they provide you is confidential. If the company allows you to reveal their name to your fellow students when you give your FAP presentation, that’s great, but this is not required. Further, JR and I (and you) can certainly sign non-disclosure agreements

Regardless of whether the company’s name is kept confidential, you should keep individuals’ names confidential. Let interviewees and survey respondents know that you will not reveal any individuals’ names to anyone and that you will not reveal any identifying information that would allow anyone to determine who said what. It may be possible to provide anonymity to survey respondents if you choose to do a survey; it is unlikely that you need to know survey respondents’ names.

Finally, as discussed below, it may be important that only the members of your team who do not work or have personal ties to your study company learn what individuals said (by name) in interviews. In short, you can and perhaps should keep some information confidential from team members who are insiders of your FAP company or organization.

Diagnosis before prescription

A fundamental principle is that diagnosis should precede and guide prescription, not the reverse. Gather data to learn about the problem: What are employees experiencing? What do they find most gratifying and enjoyable about their work? What frustrates or worries them? What organizational strengths and weaknesses do they perceive? Use their answers to diagnose what limits the company or organization’s greatness and then prescribe action steps. Begin the data collection process from a place of “not knowing” – not going in with fixed ideas, assumptions and hypotheses. If the nature or source of the problem were crystal clear, it’s quite possible the company or organization would have fixed it years ago. If you enter the organization with fixed ideas, assumptions, and hypotheses, you limit the scope of data gathering and may well prescribe the wrong intervention.

Start your data collection with key stakeholders but don’t stop there

I recommend that you start your data gathering by holding interviews with key stakeholders. This is very likely to include the senior executives of the company, organization, or unit you are studying. Remember, though, that they are telling you their perspective and senior executives may be out of touch with the reality that lower-level employees experience. In short, you may ultimately conclude that their diagnosis of the problem is incomplete or inaccurate. Still, you want to understand their perspective and you certainly want their buy-in for your work. After meeting with senior executives, expand your data gathering to include other managers and stakeholders, and ultimately lower-level employees (who may be the focus of your FAP), as well. Don’t just rely on who is readily available to meet with you. Think carefully about the people from whom you need to gather data in order to arrive at a meaningful diagnosis of the organization’s challenges.

Manage expectations

When you conduct interviews or surveys with employees, they are likely to ask you: (a) who you are; (b) why you are conducting this project in this company or organization; (c) what you will do with the data; (d) whether they can get a report of your findings; and (e) whether anything will change as a result of your data collection, analysis, and recommendations. Discuss these questions within your team and with your company or organization sponsors, so you have clear answers to provide to the employees you interview or survey. Indeed, you may want to provide answers to these questions even before anyone asks you.

Anticipate and manage role-conflict

In most teams, at least one team member is an insider – for example, an employee, executive, or board member – of the company or organization you are studying. This gives you access and inside information, both of which are tremendously helpful. And yet, the team member who is both a Wharton student and member of your study company or organization is likely to experience some role-conflict. Please think carefully about how to handle this role-conflict. It has the potential to create at least three problems: (a) the FAP project will give your teammate information he/she would not have otherwise had and, as a result, others in the company or organization may feel uncomfortable or disadvantaged; (b) your teammate may have strong opinions about what the diagnosis and prescription should be even before you start data collection; and (c) defensiveness, as discussed above.

Discuss these issues within your team: Who might experience role conflict? What is the nature of the role conflict and how should you handle this as a team? To limit or avoid the first problem above, consider having the insider sit out of interviews and limit the information he/she knows (especially regarding who said what). You may also wish to consider gaining the company or organization’s permission to share your final report or a summary or presentation of your findings with the employees from whom you have gathered data, or the unit as a whole. This keeps everyone in the know. To limit or avoid the second problem, consider appointing a devil’s advocate within the team, or a person whose job it is to “represent” the perspective of lower-level employees. To prevent the third problem, consider switching to a more neutral site for your FAP project if your team member with ties to the FAP site is feeling defensive and worried about the FAP.

Note that above I have used the word “consider” advisedly. As thoughtful and experienced professionals, you will figure out what makes the most sense for your team and organization.

Data collection and analysis will require both your intellectual and your social skills

As you go about data collection and analysis, you will discover that you need your intellectual skills to make sense of the data you are gathering and your social skills to put others at ease and gain their confidence. The more candid and comfortable the people you interview or survey are with you, the better the information you will collect. Your job is to make it easy and comfortable for them to tell you their candid opinions. Pilot your interview questions and survey items by answering the questions yourself: Would you feel comfortable answering the questions about your own work? If possible, have others in the company or organization review and comment on your questions too: What did they find difficult to answer and why? (And please remember that I recommend that you have me review your survey and interview questions before you roll them out to numerous people.)

Use conversational language when collecting data: Talk (and write) like you actually talk

A common mistake when writing interview and survey questions is to use formal, stilted, or particularly erudite wording. Such questions make it less interesting, pleasant, and easy for others to answer your questions. Instead, write like you would speak to a family friend or respected colleague. This is probably especially important for interview questions. But, the best survey questions also have this clear, straightforward quality. Indeed, one of the reasons I like to conduct interviews before writing survey items is to learn phrases that employees of the company use, so I can incorporate that language in my survey items.

Use the “funnel approach” to interviewing

The funnel approach, which I described to many teams during the first FAP meeting, is to begin the interview with broad, open-ended questions and then to move to questions about more specific topics. The beauty of this approach is that you will learn what is on interviewees’ minds without your prompts; you allow interviewees to first speak their minds and only later in the interview do you raise topics of specific interest to you. Here are some examples of broad, open-ended questions:

• If a friend were coming to work here, what would you tell him or her about [company name]?

• What do you think is particularly distinctive about [company name]? What’s special or different about this company compared to other places you’ve worked?

• Suppose a relative – perhaps your aunt, or uncle, or cousin – asked you what you do on the job, what would you tell him or her? How would you explain or describe your main work tasks?

• When you first came to work here, what were you most excited about? What made you join [company name]?

• What do you find most satisfying about your work here?

• What do you find least satisfying?

Follow broad, open-ended questions with questions about more specific issues, taking care that your questions don’t seem to presume or invite negative responses (i.e., complaints about the company or organization).

After you’ve asked a series of broad, open-ended questions, it may be effective to ask questions about specific topics. You’ve already asked employees questions that allow them to tell you what’s on their minds. Now, it is your turn to focus their attention on specific topics. When you do so, it’s important that you ask neutral questions – not questions that seem in any way to call for a particular response. Because many of you know that employees at your FAP sites are somewhat disgruntled and/or underperforming, you may well be inclined to ask questions designed to unearth the source of their frustrations and underperformance. That makes total sense, but you don’t want to ask questions that seem to call for complaints. If you do, employees may feel manipulated. And, you may only hear what you expect to hear from employees, not everything they have to tell you.

The difference in wording is subtle, but here’s an example: Rather than asking “If employees here perform well, do they get rewards and recognition for their performance?” try asking your question in a more neutral manner. Here’s a possibility: “Suppose someone performs really well here. What opportunities, praise, rewards, or other positive outcomes might he or she receive?” Or you might ask, “What kinds of things do managers and supervisors do to recognize and reward employees who perform really well?”

Further, when you ask about specific topics, it’s generally helpful to ask about each topic in turn. Don’t ask about several topics in a single question, as that may confuse interviewees.

Compensation is a particularly hot topic, of course. Interviewees may get anchored or stuck on this topic, or conversely, they may feel uncomfortable discussing the topic. If you want to ask questions about compensation, I recommend you bring the topic up in the second half of your interview (perhaps ¾’s of the way through), not when you begin asking about specifics.

Finally, I recommend probing interviewees for specific examples. Suppose someone says “the culture here really encourages innovation” or “managers here are inept.” These comments indicate strong feelings, but offer few details. So, I recommend asking for specifics, for example: “How so?” or “Do you have an example or event in mind when you say this?” or “ If I visited your company for a day and just observed what was going on, what might I observe that would lead me to say, ‘Yep, that’s right: the culture really encourages innovation”? Your diagnosis and prescriptions will be stronger if you have specifics — rather than vague sentiments – to build on.

Avoid “hypothesis-testing” survey items and interview questions.

Another common mistake is to ask “hypothesis-testing” survey and interview questions. These are questions that essentially ask respondents “Would you be happier (or more effective, or more productive) if X (e.g., if you were paid more, if there were a commission system, if management held weekly Q-and-A sessions)?” (The survey item variant might be: “How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘I would be more satisfied with my work if there were a commission system.’”) The problem with these kinds of questions, oddly enough, is that people often don’t know what would make them happier, or more productive, or more effective. Faced with these kinds of questions, respondents answer based on common sense or social desirability, often telling the interviewer or research team what the respondents believe they want to hear.

A better strategy is to keep your focus on diagnosing the problem. Focus your questions on employees’ experiences at work and their observations of the work environment. If you want to know what employees think would make the work environment better, ask them. For example: “What do you think management could do to improve morale around here? If you were in charge and wanted to increase sales, what would you do?” But, don’t suggest an intervention (e.g., a commission system, a weekly Q-and-A session) and ask employees what they think of it. Or, if you do, make this one of your last questions, after you’ve heard employees describe their work experiences and their observations of the company, and after you’ve asked for their ideas about how to improve work, without your prompting of specific interventions.

Balance positive and negative questions and survey items, asking positive questions first (especially in interviews)

To avoid biasing and offending respondents, it’s best to be very balanced in your questioning, asking both about positive and negative experiences at work. Before asking “What’s the most frustrating part of your job?” ask “What’s the most enjoyable part of your work?” Before asking “This company’s goal is to do X. What gets in the way of accomplishing this goal?” ask “This company’s goal is to do X. What are strengths that will help the company accomplish this goal?”

Avoid asking why

Why questions (“Why did you do that?” “Why hasn’t X happened?”) may make interview respondents feel defensive. And often respondents actually don’t know the reasons why they do things. Rather than saying “I don’t really know” in response to why questions, interviewees may make up a reason on the spot. Accordingly, it’s best to avoid asking such questions. You can get at the same issues by asking questions such as: “What do you find most enjoyable about doing X?” “What gets in the way of doing X?” “What’s led the company to do X?” So, I recommend you try these questions out before resorting to why questions. If these alternatives don’t seem to work, go ahead and ask why questions if you’re lacking information you need.

Comparisons are very helpful

During your data gathering and analysis, it is very helpful to compare groups of employees or units. Do men and women differ in their responses? What about newcomers versus others who have been with the company or organization for a longer period of time? How do different branches or units within the company or organization differ? If possible, plan ahead to ensure that you will be able to undertake comparative analyses of your qualitative (interview) or quantitative (survey and/or archival) data. Whom do you need to interview in order to draw meaningful comparisons between groups? What demographic questions do you need to include in a survey in order to be able to compare men’s and women’s responses, newer and older employees’ responses, etc.?

7. STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF DIFFERENT DATA-GATHERING APPROACHES (back to contents)

What are the strengths and weaknesses of existing (archival) data?

Archival data (e.g., regarding turnover rates, promotion rates, the hiring process, customer and/or employee satisfaction over time, etc.) can be tremendously valuable. Collecting such data is usually easy – all you have to do is ask for it – and the data may be extensive, spanning many units or time periods. Because many companies and organizations collect data that they never analyze, you can provide a real service in analyzing such data. Of course, a weakness is that you are limited to the data the company has collected when you work solely with archival data; you can’t ask your own questions. That’s why I encourage you not to rely solely on archival data in your FAP. If you can, base your diagnosis and prescription on archival data and data collected in one of the ways outlined below.

And that said, if you can get access to relevant archival data for your FAP – if asked, you can and should sign non-disclosure agreements, and JR and I are happy to do so as well – you may well glean important insights for your FAP and for your host company or organization. At Wharton, for example, we have learned a great deal in recent years by analyzing years of data on who gets tenure and who does not, and who gets promoted to full professor and who does not. You might well imagine that we would know this information simply as a function of watching the process unfold each year (we certainly pay attention to tenure decisions), but not so.

In a similar manner, you may learn a great deal by examining turnover records (who leaves and when?), sales records (who are the best performers? do they remain so over time?), differences between units (do turnover and performance differ across units?), promotion patterns (are senior positions filled from within and, if so, by whom, or from outside?), and so on.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of one-on-one interviews?

Clearly, one-on-one interviews are excellent for gaining in-depth insights into an individual’s experiences, feelings, and observations. Further, they offer the respondent privacy in answering your questions. Often, one-on-one interviews yield rich insights and illuminating quotes. These are important strengths. But, one-on-one interviews do have some weaknesses. They are time-consuming to conduct and transcribe, assuming you tape-record your interviews. If you don’t audio-record your interviews, taking detailed notes while you conduct an interview is difficult. Further, analysis of one-on-one interview data can be challenging, especially if individuals offer unique and idiosyncratic responses. When this is the case, discerning common themes across the interview transcripts is difficult.

Please be sure to get my comments on your draft interview questions before conducting interviews at the FAP site.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of “shadowing” job incumbents?

Shadowing a job incumbent for several hours while he or she perform his or her job is a great way to learn what the person’s work is like, assuming the person’s work is interactive (he or she is not sitting alone and working on a computer all day) and assuming the person doesn’t change his or her behavior because you are watching. Shadowing won’t, by itself, give you insights into the person’s thoughts, feelings, and observations. So, consider shadowing as a supplement to, not a substitute for, interviews and/or a survey.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of focus group interviews?

Focus group interviews are more efficient than one-on-one interviews, as you can interview several people at once. This is obviously an important strength. For the kind of topics you are investigating, I find it effective to interview 3 to 6 people at once, typically for 1 to 2 hours. Further, I find it very valuable to conduct focus group interviews before designing a survey. I use the focus groups to determine what topics and issues to explore in the survey.

But, focus groups do pose challenges. You will have to manage the group, taking steps to ensure that everyone speaks and doing your best to make everyone feel comfortable. Further, people may be uncomfortable talking in front of one another. As noted above, you can and should let interviewees know that anything they tell you is confidential. That is, you will not reveal their names or tell anyone who said what. You can encourage them to keep the focus group conversation confidential, but you cannot guarantee this. To encourage participants to keep the conversation confidential, a colleague asks participants to follow the “Las Vegas rule”. More specifically, after introducing himself to the focus group participants, explaining the purpose of the focus group, and assuring them that he will never reveal individuals’ names or who said what, he gives the following instructions:

Before we begin, I would like to suggest some ground rules for this discussion:

• Everyone’s input is valuable, so it is important that everybody contributes.

• One conversation at a time; no side conversations or interruptions, please.

• There are no right or wrong answers, if you disagree with someone that is fine but they are not wrong—you just disagree

• While we have up to two hours and that may seem like a lot of time, we also have a lot to talk about, so help me keep the discussion on task and on target.

• I can only go so far in ensuring the confidentiality of your responses by not documenting who said what. You also have to help. In order for this discussion to be open and honest, can we agree to the Las Vegas rule, that “what happens here stays here”?

You may want to try a similar approach.

Another challenge is that the group may fall in line with the first person who speaks up to answer a question. So, if one person says, “We really need X around here,” you may never hear others’ points of view; indeed, others may never come up with their own ideas. One way to prevent this is to pose a question and ask everyone to think about it for a few moments, jotting down notes, before they speak.

Two more suggestions: During focus group interviews, consider having one or two of your team ask questions during the focus group, and have one or two other team members take detailed notes. You can switch roles if you conduct additional focus groups. And, finally, note that, because you are interviewing employees in a group, it may be best to ask interviewees to describe the experience of employees in general (or sales reps in general, or nurses at their hospital in general), rather than asking them to describe their individual experiences.

Please be sure to get my comments on your draft focus group interview questions before conducting interviews at the FAP site.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of surveys?

Surveys allow you to gather quantifiable data from a large number of respondents very efficiently. They can be tailored to explore a wide range of issues. And they allow respondents great privacy – indeed, often anonymity – in answering the survey. But, it is difficult to learn to write effective survey items and your survey will, of course, only be as good as the items. Further, getting a good response rate to your survey can be quite a challenge. If your survey takes less than 15-20 minutes to complete, is well-designed so it touches on issues of interest to respondents, is easy to complete, and has been introduced to potential respondents in such a way as to foster comfort and confidence and you send out reminder emails, I would expect a response rate between 40 and 75%. Those, however, are big if’s. In short, it is difficult to meet these ideal conditions. Please do not feel obliged to conduct a survey. You can conduct a superb FAP by relying on other data collection methods.

One more note on the points above: If you conduct an employee survey, a good way to foster interest in the survey is to have a senior executive of the company or organization send an email to employees endorsing the survey, ensuring them that their survey responses are entirely confidential (that is, no individuals’ names will be revealed), and telling them that they are eager to learn from the survey results so they can make the company or organization as good as it can be. Here is an excerpt from one of the Deputy Dean’s emails to the faculty about the survey: “We are very interested in how faculty view the research and intellectual environment of the school, the strategic directions that the school is pursuing, and other important facets of faculty life at Wharton. We are confident that the results from the survey will be highly informative and that they will help us enhance Wharton’s strengths as a premier institution for faculty research and teaching.”

Please be sure to get my comments on your draft survey before conducting interviews at the FAP site.

How do we create an effective survey?

To create a survey that will be helpful to you in diagnosing the company, organization, or unit’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s critical that you are quite familiar with the company, organization, or unit that is the focus of your investigation. That’s why I very strongly recommend that you conduct interviews before you write your survey; you need to know what employees think of their work and the organization. You need to know how they talk so your survey “meets respondents where they live.” Your survey should reflect their concerns and input. If it does, they are likely to find the survey meaningful and enjoyable to complete. If it doesn’t, they are much less likely to complete the survey.

a. Topics

Once you have conducted interviews and identified a set of topics that are of substantial interest and concern (including both positives and negatives) to representatives of the survey respondents you hope to reach, make a list of those topics and order them by priority: Which are most important for you to study? Also note redundancies in your topics. It’s common that topics overlap to some extent. Too much overlap will lead to confusion during the data analysis process. So, keep your topics distinct.

Can you use or adapt existing survey measures to assess the topics you have identified? Be sure to check the appendix for sample survey items. It’s easier, of course, to use or adapt established survey measures rather than to write your own.

If you are writing your own survey items, draft multiple survey items regarding each topic. You will want to ask at least 3 questions regarding every topic. If you ask just one question per topic, you’ll be in trouble if the survey item didn’t work as well as you intended (e.g., in retrospect you see that it was ambiguous).

b. Likert scale items (back to sample survey questions)

I recommend that you construct Likert scale survey items. Likert scale survey items ask employees how much they agree or disagree with a series of statements. Use a 5-point response scale in which:

1 = Strongly Disagree

2 = Disagree

3 = Neither Agree nor Disagree

4 = Agree

5 = Strongly Agree

It’s possible to use survey items with a different format, but Likert scale survey items are easy to write, flexible (you can write them regarding any topic), and tried and true. That said, if you want to ask questions that ask how often people do certain things, or think or feel certain things, a common response scale is:

1 = Very rarely or never

2 = Rarely

3 = Sometimes

4 = Often

5 = Very often or always

c. Use simple, clear language

If you are writing or adapting survey items, strive to write simple, clear survey items, using language that is familiar and comfortable to survey respondents. Consider using wording that they used in your interviews. Be conversational not formal or technical, and make the survey items as short as possible. Don’t use sophisticated vocabulary, especially with less educated survey respondents. Your reading level is much higher than the average for the US.

Avoid double-barreled survey items. Double-barreled survey items ask (implicitly) about two topics at once and are thus confusing to respondents. An example is: “My work is easy and stimulating.” Or, “I am likely to stay at XYZ Company because I find my work so rewarding.” In the first case, I may find my work easy, or stimulating, but not both. In the second case, I may plan to stay at XYZ Company but not because I find the work rewarding.

Avoid “wishy-washy” survey items. Your survey items should have a strong point of view. Here’s why: If you write what I’m calling a “wishy-washy” item, respondents may not know how to respond to the item, and interpreting the survey results may be impossible. For example, if your survey item is “I think the weather in Philadelphia is okay,” both the person who loves and the person who hates the weather in Philadelphia may disagree strongly. To avoid such confusion, write stronger, more opinionated survey items such as “I love the weather in Philadelphia.”

In the appendix, I have included examples of a number of survey items. Some were developed by other students for their FAP projects. Some were developed for (and in some cases are commonly used in) academic research. Feel free to make use of the items you see in the appendix. You can use the items as they are – assuming they seem to tap issues you believe will be important to your FAP site respondents – or you can modify them as necessary.

Organize by topics

On the survey, organize the survey items by topics, so that respondents aren’t constantly switching back and forth between topics. (When survey items are not organized by topics, you find more “halo” in survey respondents’ answers; their general sense of the company and their work presents a positive or negative halo that colors all of their answers and it is difficult to discern which topics are of particular importance, satisfaction, or concern to respondents.) Think of the survey as a conversation you are having with employees. It should flow logically from one topic to the next.

Put general satisfaction and commitment questions towards the end of the survey, not at the beginning. So, the advice for ordering survey topics differs from the advice for ordering interview questions. In surveys, we start with survey items regarding specific topics.

Make your first topic easy for respondents to answer, and not controversial, intrusive, or highly negative. Ask survey items about compensation, if you’re going to do so, after you’ve asked about other topics, but before you ask about general satisfaction. (The reason not to ask general question at the start is that this too increases halo: Respondents tend to fall prey to consistency bias and, as a result, their answers about their general satisfaction and commitment color all their other responses.)

End the survey by asking demographics (gender, age, education, tenure, etc.). If you put demographic items first, it may make people fear that it will be easy to figure out their identity, even if the survey is anonymous, and this may affect their answers.

d. Be sure to get my feedback on your survey items before you administer the survey.

Please email me a draft of your survey items in Word, so that I can use Track Changes to give you my feedback and suggest edits to help ensure that your survey is clear and engaging for respondents and useful for your team.

e. Reminders

To get a strong response rate to your survey, it will be important to send multiple reminders to employees. Give employees a deadline to complete the survey (perhaps 2 weeks) and send reminders 2-3 times (e.g., one week after your original email providing the link to the survey; 3 days before the survey deadline; and 1 day before the survey deadline).

In the appendix at the end of this document, I have included a sample reminder email. Note that we usually send the email reminder to all employees, not only to employees who have not yet completed the survey (even if we could identify them, which we can’t always do).

What software program should we use if we decide to administer a survey?

You are free to use any software program you like. Through Wharton, you can sign up for a Qualtrics account. We use Qualtrics to create the surveys we administered during MGMT 621 and it is fairly easy to use. Click this link to set up an account: http://www.qualtrics.com/academic-solutions/the-wharton-school

But, please do remember: Surveys are challenging to write and administer. A survey may not be appropriate for your FAP. Many excellent FAPS do not include surveys.

8. ANALYZING THE DATA YOU COLLECT FOR YOUR FAP (back to contents)

I encourage you to keep your data analyses simple and straightforward. I’m not expecting statistical tests, regressions, factor analyses, analyses of variance, and the like. One can learn a tremendous amount by using more basic analyses, so that’s what I recommend. The FAP is already a lot of work. You don’t need to spend a great deal of energy mastering and interpreting more complex statistical analyses. Here are some more specifics:

To analyze your interview data, sort through your transcripts or notes of the conversations and identify key themes – topics and points of view that come up relatively frequently. It’s a good idea to have multiple members of your FAP team work independently. Then check to see whether you agree in your identification (and later your coding) of key themes. If so, great. If not, discuss what you see differently and why, and come to an agreement regarding how best to understand and summarize the data. Now that you know what the key themes are, go back over your transcripts and notes, sorting by theme so that you can (a) report how frequently the theme or point of view emerged in your interviewees (e.g., “40% of the sales people we interviewed commented X”); and (b) include particularly insightful and effective quotes from the interviews in your presentation and write-up. Look for consistency and inconsistency across interviewees: Does everyone agree? Do managers see things differently than more junior employees? Do you see differences when you sort by the location in which employees work? Then sort respondents by group: How, if at all, do individuals of different genders, tenure, hierarchical position, or location differ in their views?

To analyze your survey data, start by calculating the mean response to each survey item and also the percent of respondents who Agreed or Strongly Agreed with each item. Sort the items by mean and/or by Percent Agree and Strongly Agree: Which items garner the greatest endorsement and which the least? Next sort the items by your focal topics: What picture emerges regarding each topic?

When analyzing your survey data, be sure to pay attention to the wording of the question. If everyone disagrees with a negatively worded item, that may be indicative of great enthusiasm for the organization. For example, if many people disagree with the survey item, “I regret my decision to work at XYZ,” that’s good news. You may prefer to reverse code such items. (If you need more details about this, just ask me.)

If you are interested and think it would be helpful, use Excel, SPSS, or a similar program to examine the correlations among your survey items (or ideally, your survey scales regarding different topics). But, remember, correlation doesn’t mean causation. You may observe a negative correlation between pay satisfaction and organizational commitment. Does that mean that pay satisfaction causes organizational commitment? You can’t be sure.

In social science research, “triangulation” means using different research methods to investigate the same topic. Triangulation gives us greater confidence in the conclusions of the research. So, if you can integrate your qualitative (interview) and quantitative data (survey and perhaps archival records) to yield insights into the issues your company or organization is facing, that’s often very helpful. In a nutshell, do your findings using one method corroborate and complement your findings using other methods?

9. WRITING UP THE FAP REPORT (back to contents)

What makes a FAP Report particularly strong?

Each FAP is unique. Some of you are studying large organizations, some much smaller ones. Some problems are relatively narrow and well-defined. Some are, as yet, more amorphous. Virtually every FAP presents some challenges – gaining entry to the site, scheduling interviews, getting access to the data you need, making sense of divergent perspectives, and more. Dealing with these challenges is, of course, part of the learning experience.

Because each FAP is unique, it is difficult to describe exactly what makes for a strong FAP. With that caveat in mind, here are some of the characteristics of excellent FAPs:

FAP projects and reports are strong when the diagnosis of the company or organization’s challenges is clear, thorough, insightful, and convincing. One reads, or listens to, the FAP report and concludes: “The team has done a very good job collecting and analyzing data to understand the problem and their diagnosis makes sense.” It is neither so simplistic as to be unrealistic or incomplete, nor so complex and unfocused as to create confusion and uncertainty. This underscores the importance of collecting good data and bringing together different data sources to highlight coherent themes. The best FAP projects rest on careful data collection and thoughtful analyses that yield powerful insights into the sources of the organizational unit’s challenges.

Further, FAP projects and reports are strong when the prescribed action steps are thoughtful and well-matched to the diagnosis – when the team has offered a clear logic, ideally informed by prior theory and research, to explain how and why the prescription will address and overcome the problems identified during data gathering and diagnosis.

Finally, FAP projects and reports are strong when the discussion of measurables, challenges to implementation, risks, costs, and unintended consequences, and communication is thoughtful, well-reasoned, practical, and clear.

How much detail should we provide in the FAP report regarding our data collection process?

Describe your data collection process in detail. Your report should provide a detailed picture of how you collected the data and from whom. If you relied on interviews, be sure to provide a detailed account of how many people you interviewed, their job titles/roles, and whether you conducted with individuals or groups of employees. Also be sure to describe how many of your team members participated in the interviews. If you used a survey, describe what topics you included in the survey, how you decided on the sample, how you contacted people, and what the response rate was. Include the survey or a list of your survey items in an appendix, making sure it’s clear what topic or issue each survey item was intended to tap. Similarly, include your interview questions or guideline in an appendix. Without including all of this very important information, a reader will not be able to understand and evaluate the data you used to arrive at a diagnosis.

What data should we report in the FAP report and how?

Do be sure to let the raw data speak: Early in your report (and class presentation), tell us what employees said in their own words in your interviews and/or via the survey. For example, employees are very unlikely to say “The job design for my work is poor.” They are much more likely to say “My job’s okay but it sure gets boring after a while.” Your analyses and recommendations will be far more convincing if you report the latter rather than (or in addition to) the former.

What messages did you hear repeatedly and most passionately? Focus on the most important issues about which you have good data – the issues that you believe that the company or organization should try to address ASAP to prevent further problems and to address employees’ most pressing concerns.

Some issues that you expected to uncover may have turned out not to be important and new issues you didn’t anticipate may have risen to the surface. That’s fine. In fact, that’s exactly why data collection and diagnosis before prescription are so important. Note in your write-up and presentation the issues you’ve decided to focus on and those you are setting aside (though the company or organization may wish to collect additional data about these issues later on, on their own)

What is the role of class readings (presenting theory and research findings) in the FAP project and report?

This project is not designed to test your knowledge of class theories, frameworks, and research. Rather, it’s designed to give you a team experience in uncovering, diagnosing, and prescribing interventions for management problems. Use theories (3 to 6 should suffice) to justify and strengthen your diagnosis and interventions, but avoid manipulating and forcing your data to fit the theories.

Do not feel obliged to organize your FAP report around distinct theories. Real world problems are very messy; they may not fit perfectly within the confines of class theories. That’s fine. The goal is to understand and make sense of the mess, not to illustrate class theories.

How should we as a team write up the FAP report?

Writing up what you’ve learned is never easy, particularly when preparing a team paper. I recommend assigning small chunks of writing that each team member completes quickly and circulates right away, with time for multiple iterations of this process. Don’t hold your rough draft back to polish the writing, just get them to each other right away. Be kind but candid – give each other feedback, ask questions, press for clarification particularly where observations seem to conflict, either within one person’s account or across the accounts of multiple team members.

I don’t care so much about having a highly integrated writing style, with seamless transitions and a consistency that makes it seem the report was written by a single person. Achieving this can be important in some situations, but it is not how I want you spending your time. So even if you have one person who is pulling all the pieces together, that person should not be “super-editor” who spends hours to create that integrated style. I would much rather have your ideas be integrated than your writing styles. Please don’t take this as license to turn in pages of poorly edited writing. I will certainly take the quality of the writing into account when assigning a grade.

10. TIPS ON FAP PRESENTATION (back to contents)

With an allocated time slot of 16-20 minutes, only half of which (8-10 minutes) can be presentation, you will have to be very selective in what you present. Remember that the in-class presentation is primarily for your classmates. Think of what about your FAP has been most intriguing for you and would be most interesting for them. Do be sure to explain what data you collected and how, what your diagnosis is – what are the sources of the unit’s struggles and what are its greatest assets? – and what you changes you recommend for the organization. If you have any confidentiality concerns, just leave out anything that would be problematic – you will only have about nine minutes for the presentation.

How you distribute the presentation time is up to you; there is no need to give everyone “air time”, presentation grades won’t be based on this. For the FAP Q&A, it is best to have team members that haven’t presented step forward to field the questions. Of course, some questions relate to the specific research done by one team member, so this isn’t an absolute rule. The idea is to get the whole team involved as much as possible. I lower the presentation grade when presentations plus Q&A (combined) are dominated by 1-2 people.

During the FAP presentations, I take careful notes and use them in order to evaluate the clarity, insight, creativity and timeliness of what your team communicated.

11. A LOOK BEYOND THE FAP PRESENTATION (and the end of this course) (back to contents)

Be sure that your planning horizon for this project extends to include a plan for feeding back your analysis and recommendations to your host organization. You owe them this as reciprocity for welcoming you into the organization and giving you access. Besides, this can be highly rewarding, as it will increase the likelihood that your recommendations will be noticed and have impact, plus you’ll have the chance for direct dialogue about your findings. You may not have the time or opportunity to do this before turning in the FAP report to me, but schedule it while the material is fresh in your head and you have some momentum.

I also advocate for trying to get something back to the people that you interviewed, even if it is just a brief summary of your main findings. It will be your call as to how best to do this, and you’ll need guidance from whomever is the senior person sponsoring your project. If people give you their time and access to their personal (often heartfelt) feelings about their work, they should be able to learn something about what was done with their contribution while being assured of their confidentiality.

Remember that one of the criteria of an effective team is being able to respond affirmatively to the question “do we still like each other and can we work together effectively on future projects?” Accordingly, I’d urge you to plan some time, after the FAP is over, for the team to take stock of what you learned about how you work together, as an investment in your future effectiveness and enjoyment. You may find it valuable, in this meeting, to go over your team’s results on Peter Kuriloff’s survey as well as to consider the broader questions about the effectiveness of your analysis, what the company may have learned and certainly what you have learned from the project.

Finally, take some time to celebrate the completion of the FAP project. It is a real milestone at the end of this intense first semester in your Wharton experience and deserves recognition!

APPENDIX (back to contents)

Sample Survey Reminder Email

Dear [individual name],

If you have already completed the ASCENT Survey, thanks so much! We really appreciate it.

If you haven’t yet completed the ASCENT Survey, number XX, we would love to get your confidential survey responses by [DATE]. We know the end of the school year is a very busy time for you, so we’ve extended the deadline for survey completion by one week.

We will only get an accurate understanding of SCHOOL NAME if we have a strong survey response rate. So, your survey responses are very important to us.

Here is a link to the survey. Simply click on the link to get started. If clicking the link doesn’t work, please paste the link into your browser.

****

The survey will take you about 30 minutes or less to complete. We hope you’ll find it interesting and enjoyable to complete. The survey is confidential and voluntary. No one at SCHOOL NAME will ever see your or any other individual’s survey responses. The only people who see or work with the data are the researchers at three universities conducting the study. And, just to be safe, as soon as you complete the survey, we remove your name from it.

Thank you for your time and consideration. We really appreciate your and your colleagues’ participation in our research project. If you have any questions or concerns about the survey or this research effort, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Best wishes,

Survey Items – Several Examples

I’ve listed example survey items below, including several from previous FAP projects. You will also find quite helpful examples and advice at: http://www.custominsight.com/employee-engagement-survey/sample-survey-items.asp

Note: All of the survey items below are best paired with a Likert Scale

Employee satisfaction and engagement

1. I am aware of my company’s overall strategy.

2. I understand what my company is trying to achieve. 3. I feel my department gets support and teamwork from other areas within the company.

4. Overall, I am very satisfied with my job at the company.

5. My manager clearly defines my job responsibilities.

6. My manager/supervisor encourages high achievement by reducing the fear of failure.

7. My manager/supervisor takes responsibility for shaping the attitudes and relationships within our department.

8. My manager/supervisor clearly communicates what is expected of me.

9. My manager/supervisor provides me with continuous feedback to help me achieve.

10. My manager/supervisor demonstrates professionalism.

Turnover Intentions

1. I will probably look for a new job in the next year.

2. I often think about quitting.

3. How likely is it that you will actively look for a new job in the next year?

Individual Goals 1. I have clear, specific and measurable performance goals. 2. My supervisor sets my performance goals. 3. My goals are challenging and attainable. 4. My goals have intermediate milestones or benchmarks that are measured on a regular basis. 5. My goals are motivating and personally satisfying. 6. I receive regular feedback on my profess with respect to my goals.

Recruiting and Selection 1. During the hiring process, XYZ did a very good job giving me a realistic picture of what my job responsibilities would be. 2. When I made the decision to come to XYZ, I had a clear sense of what the job would be like. 3. The right people are involved in hiring new employees. 4. I was attracted to XYZ because of its prestige. 5. I was attracted to XYZ because of the research opportunities it provides. 6. I was attracted to XYZ because it provides a stepping-stone to other opportunities. 7. I was attracted to XYZ because of the quality of my colleagues. 8. I was attracted to XYZ because of the salary. 9. I was attracted to XYZ because of other reasons (please specify).

Performance Expectations, Feedback & Ratings 1. I have a clear understanding of what it takes to get a high performance rating at XYZ. 2. I understand the standards XYZ uses to evaluate whether someone should be promoted. 3. XYZ does a good job of communication performance expectations to employees. 4. My manager provides honest and timely feedback on both good and bad performance. 5. My manager and I have established a clear definition of what constitutes successful performance. 6. My manger and I have established clear objectives requires for me to be promoted 7. My manger often gives me informal feedback to help me improve my work performance. 8. I am recognized for my work performance in ways that are meaningful to me. 9. I feel well-informed about what is expected in my job.
10. I see the connection between effort exerted and patient outcomes.
11. XYZ’s performance evaluation processes recognize and reward real differences in contribution.
12. I believe the standards set for performance appraisals are fair.
13. When assigned a project, I understand the criteria that will be used to evaluate my performance.
14. The ratings I received in my last performance review were an accurate representation of my performance.
15. There are very few factors that influence my performance review that are out of my control.
16. My ratings were consisted with how I believe my peers were rated.
17. My ratings were consistent with how my past performance was rated.
18. My manager communicated the basis of my performance rating.
19. As part of the performance review process, I received constructive feedback that has helped me improve.
20. I believe XYZ’s performance review process is effective.
21. The current feedback system provides me with enough information so I can improve my performance.
22. My job title accurately reflects my qualifications.
23. I feel that my contributions are valued by the department administration.
24. I feel that my contributions are valued by my peers.

Other Managerial Actions 1. My manager understands and cares about my long-term professional goals. 2. My manager makes sure I understand the company business focus and its implications for our team. 3. My manger is good at motivating employees to work in the same direction 4. My manger contributes in creating a positive work environment 5. My manager makes sure our team prioritizes and makes decisions that drive the greatest value. 6. My manger values my opinion. 7. My manager promotes an inclusive climate designed to foster a winning culture. 8. I believe we are appropriately staffed to achieve our goals.

Individual Careers 1. The most competent and qualified people are the ones who get promoted. 2. The people with the greatest internal visibility/profile are the ones who get promoted. 3. High profile client assignments are staffed in a fair and equitable manner. 4. The types of assignments I am staffed on ensure that I am fairly evaluated as part of the year-end evaluation process. 5. In the past, opportunities for growth and job satisfaction have met or exceeded my expectations. 6. I am satisfied with my access to professional networks. 7. I am satisfied with my social access to clients (e.g. client dinners, sporting events). 8. My colleagues include me in challenging assignments/projects that could advance my career. 9. In the last year, I have had meaningful career discussions with senior professionals other than my manager.
10. I intend to stay with XYZ for the rest of my career.
11. I am currently pursuing, or intend to pursue within the next 12 months, opportunities outside of XYZ.

Compensation 1. I believe my total compensation is reflective of the efforts I expend in my job. 2. I understand how my compensation is determined. 3. I would sacrifice a portion of my compensation to work fewer hours. 4. I would sacrifice a portion of my compensation to have greater control over my hours. 5. I would sacrifice a portion of my compensation to have greater control over the nature of my work. 6. I am generally happy with the non-financial benefits from XYZ. 7. My compensation is fair compared to other companies in our industry and profession. 8. My compensation is fair compared to other departments within XYZ. 9. My compensation is fair compared to others in my department at XYZ.
10. I receive rewards based on my performance beyond year-end merit.

Job-related 1. My work goals and objectives are realistic. 2. I am involved in decisions that affect my job. 3. I get a real sense of accomplishment from my job. 4. I find my work challenging and demanding. 5. I find my work enjoyable. 6. Work is distributed fairly and equally in my work group. 7. The amount of work I am asked to do is reasonable. 8. I have a great deal of control over the nature of my work. 9. I have a great deal of control over the number of hours I need to work to meet my job requirements and deadlines.
10. The level of work pressure I experience is acceptable.
11. I get to decide how much work to do at home and how much to do in the office.
12. My job requires my to use a number of complex or a high level of skills.
13. My job is quite simple and repetitive.
14. My job requires a lot of cooperative work with other people.
15. My job requires a lot of cooperative work with other departments.
16. The job is arranged so that I have the chance to do an entire piece of work from beginning to end.
17. I have interaction and exposure to XYZ executive or Executive Level Managers.
18. I have the authority to efficiently solve my client’s needs.
19. I interact with clients face-to-face.

Work-Life Balance 1. I am not forced to choose between work and family obligations. 2. I feel I have acceptable flexibility in meeting my work and life commitments. 3. My job does not cause unreasonable amounts of stress in my life. 4. I regularly take advantage of flexible working arrangements. 5. I would like to have access to flexible working arrangements. 6. My manager is supportive of flexible working arrangements. 7. My colleagues are supportive of flexible working arrangements. 8. Use of flexible working arrangements would have no impact of my potential for career advancement. 9. I am able to balance my work and personal life.

Internal Systems

1. The XYZ offices and facilities provide a productive environment to get my work done.

2. I am happy with the technical systems XYZ provides me to accomplish my job.

3. XYZ’s technical support staff are helpful.

4. My IT service requests are fulfilled in a timely manner.

5. Proprietary system A is an effective system.

6. I believe I have the technology and tools necessary to perform my job at a high level.

7. I have the right tools to do my job.

8. I have the training I need to deliver superior results for my internal and external clients.

Learning and Development

1. Working at XYZ provides informal opportunities to learn useful skills and/or knowledge on the job.

2. Working at XYZ provides opportunities to learn useful skills and/or knowledge through formal training.

3. Learn new skills and knowledge is highly valued at XYZ.

4. Staying current on industry developments is highly valued at XYZ.

5. I believe that formal education will help further my career at XYZ.

6. XYZ provide opportunities to learn from colleagues in other functional areas.

7. My colleagues go out of their way to help me learn new programs, techniques, and/or industry information.

8. I believe I have the skills and training necessary to perform my job at a high level.

9. My manager spends a significant amount of time coaching me.

10. Some of my co-workers spend a significant amount of time coaching me.

11. There is a significant difference between the coaching styles of different managers at XYZ.

12. I am learning skills that will benefit me in my future career.

Leader’s Vision

1. The CEO creates an exciting and attractive image of where the company is going

2. The CEO has a clear understanding of where the company is heading in the future,

3. The CEO expresses a clear direction for the future of the company.

Leader Charisma

I believe my leader . . .

1. Seeks new opportunities for our organization.

2. Paints an interesting picture of the future for our organization.

3. Leads by “doing” rather than simply by “telling.”

4. Fosters collaboration among the staff.

5. Shows subordinates that he/she expects a lot from them.

6. Acts without considering individuals’ feelings. {reverse}

7. Provides individuals with new ways of looking at things which are puzzling to them.

8. Has a clear understanding of where we are going.

9. Provides a good model to follow.

10. Encourages staff members to be “team players.”

11. Insists on only the best performance from us.

12. Shows respect for individuals’ feelings.

13. Has ideas that have forced individuals to rethink some of their own ideas.

14. Inspires others with his/her plans for the future.

15. Leads by example.

16. Gets the staff to work together toward the same goal.

17. Does not settle for second best from subordinates.

18. Behaves in a manner that is thoughtful of individuals’ personal needs.

19. Stimulates individuals to think about old problems in new ways.

20. Is able to get others to commit to his/her dream(s) for the future.

21. Develops a team attitude and spirit among the staff.

22. Treats people without considering their personal feelings.{reverse}

Climate for Innovation

1. Staff are willing to take risks to improve the quality of their learning

2. Staff are generally willing to try new ideas

3. Staff have a positive ‘can-do’ attitude

4. Staff are continually learning and developing new ideas

5. Staff are constantly trying to improve their teaching

6. Only a small part of the Staff are involved in trying new ideas

7. Staff lack professional support for developing innovations

8. Staff aren’t really excited about new learning

9. Staff always give their best to implement new ideas

Burnout

1. My work tasks were unmanageable.

2. After work, I needed long periods of rest.

3. My workload was tolerable. (R)

4. After work, I felt emotionally drained.

5. After work, Ifelt fit for my leisure activities.

6. I could get the amount of work required of me done

7. After work, I felt worn out.

Job Satisfaction

1. I find real enjoyment in my work

2. Most days I am enthusiastic about my work

3. I am fairly well established with my current job.

4. I consider my job rather unpleasant. (R)

Organizational Commitment (Could change school to company or organization)

1. I would be very happy to spend the rest of my career with this school

2. I enjoy discussing my school with people outside it

3. I really feel as if this school's problems are my own

4. I think that I could easily become as attached to another school as I am to this one (R)

5. I do not feel like 'part of the family' at my school (R)

6. I do not feel 'emotionally attached' to this school (R)

7. This school has a great deal of personal meaning for me

8. I do not feel a strong sense of belonging to my school (R)

Pay Satisfaction

1. I am very happy with the amount of money I make.

2. Considering my skills and the effort I put into my work, I am very satisfied with my pay

3. I am well paid.

Group Cohesiveness Subscale

1. If given the chance, I would choose to leave my team and join another (R)

2. I get along well with the members of my team

3. I will readily defend the members of my team from criticism by outsiders

4. I feel that I am really part of my team

5. I look forward to being with members of my team each day

6. I find that I do not usually get along with the other members of my team

Psychological Safety Subscale

1. If you make a mistake on this team, it is often held against you (R)

2. Members of this team are able to bring up problems and tough issues

3. People on this team sometimes reject others for being different (R)

4. It is safe to take a risk on this team

5. Members of my team have a lot in common

6. No one on this team would act in a way that undermines my efforts

7. Working with members of this team, my unique skills and talents are valued and utilized

Communication about Stock Options

1. This company provides employees with a lot of information about stock options.

2. This company goes to great lengths to teach employees the value of stock options

3. This company has explained to employees how stock options work.

4. This company does a poor job educating employees about stock options.

Financial Resource Availability (for the Implementation of MRPII)

1. This plant's financial constraints have made it difficult to offer as much MRPII training as needed. (R)

2. Because of the plant's financial constraints, MRPII implementation team members have been unable to devote as much time as needed to the implementation of MRPII. (R)

3. Financial pressures have caused this plant to rush ahead with the implementation of MRPII before the plant was really ready. (R)

4. In this plant, money has been readily available to support activities related to the implementation of MRPII.

5. We have had to implement MRPII on a tight budget. (R)

6. This plant can't afford to pay for all the MRPII consulting and education needed to implement MRPII effectively.

7. Adequate funds are available to finance this plant's MRPII implementation effort.

Management Support for MRPII Implementation

1. Since MRPII came to this plant, plant managers and supervisors have actively pushed to make MRPII a success.

2. Plant managers and supervisors are strongly committed to the successful implementation of MRPII.

3. Plant managers and supervisors have expressed doubts about whether MRPII will really help this plant. (R)

4. Plant managers and supervisors show little interest in MRPII. (R)

5. Plant managers and supervisors stress the importance of MRPII for this plant.

6. Plant managers and supervisors take an active interest i MRPII's problems and successes.

Implementation Climate

1. MRPII is a top priority at this plant.

2. At this plant, MRPII takes a back seat to other projects. (R)

3. People put a lot of effort into making MRPII a success here.

4. People at this plant think that the implementation of MRPII is important.

5. One of this plant's main goals is to use MRPII effectively.

6. People here really don't care about the success of MRPII. (R)

7. In this plant, there is a big push for people to make the most of MRPII.

Career Aspirations for School Teachers

1. I am content to stay in the role I currently have for a long time.

2. I hope to move into teaching a different grade in the near future.

3. I hope to move into teaching a different subject in the near future.

4. I hope to move to another school in the near future.

5. I hope to become a school administrator (e.g. principal or assistant principal) someday.

6. I plan to leave teaching for another career in the near term.

Speaking Up (Voice) to Boss

1. How often do you speak up to your supervisor with ideas for new processes, instructional approaches, or policies?

2. Give suggestions to your supervisor about how to improve your unit?

3. Point out to your supervisor changes that would make your unit better?

4. Communicate your views about work issues to your supervisor, even if your views differ?…...

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