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How to Design a Talent Attraction Perception Survey

The talent attraction perception survey is one of the most important tools in your talent acquisition toolbox.

This post is a breakout session from our educational blog series, The Beginner’s Guide to Talent Attraction. If you have’t already, go back and read Parts One through Five.

THE PERCEPTION SURVEY

The perception survey is an essential tool for anyone looking to build a strategic approach to talent attraction in talent acquisition. It’s purpose is to help you identify how people really feel about a situation and understand how your brand, culture, company, and people are viewed. Combining new fresh insights with your existing data will enhance your ability to build up a strong employer brand, share a compelling value proposition, understand (and then share) your culture, and even improve engagement and experiences for both candidates and employees.

Conducting a perception survey not only helps you to identify true obstacles to attracting and engaging the people you want to hire most, but the insights gained from your survey will also help you to find and keep more people who can deliver on your brand promise.

Feedback from your survey will help you set a true and important cornerstone – and serve you well as you work to build up your employer brand, value proposition, messaging and more.

HOW TO THINK STRATEGICALLY ABOUT THIS

Ultimately, what we’re doing – by starting with data collection and translation (prior to taking other action) – is drawing a circle in our mind around “fit” and business “ROI”. When we move fit and ROI to the center we reframe everything around a strategic mindset – and this forces us to focus on our core challenges (or “root issues”), and not lead every effort with tactics.

This subtle shift in the way you think will begin to drive you down the path of building a center of excellence in talent acquisition and help you deliver a real competitive advantage to the organization. It also forces you to think about resources more in line with this drawing:

Or to put a slightly different spin on it, what you’re doing here is using data and insights to build up and promote (externally) a strong employer brand, share a compelling value proposition, understand and share (internally and externally) a differentiated culture and DNA, and also define fit around the real needs of the business (culture, performance, role/job and skills).  Once all of this is developed and structured, you’ll be in a much better position to assess which of your available resources you should choose to meet the moment. Here’s a (crude) example of what I mean:

See how “Data + Insights” radiates out to the value prop, brand, culture, and fit? Once you have those bolted down strategically in place, all the other stuff will stop looking like random chaotic choices and begin to look like strategic resource choices. In this way, your insights are being driven by quality research and discovery. Your resources and tactics are being driven by your strategy. Your strategy is being driven by your underlying goals and objectives. This approach gives you the ability to imagine and design down (from goals to strategy to insights) and then also build back up (from insights to tactics and resources).

A WORD ABOUT STRUCTURED AND UNSTRUCTURED DATA

You might want to collect and combine both structured and unstructured employee data from multiple sources and touch points, distill the valuable feedback from the noise, and then translate the data into insights you can use. Together, these structured and unstructured data survey-related approaches will allow you to better understand and act on the preferences of your best employees and the candidates that you want to hire.

DEFINING GOALS

If you are like most others, a few of your top-level outcomes you want to achieve (with all this work) might be to:

  • find new ways to attract new talent
  • hire more “best-fit” people
  • and improve the day-to-day satisfaction of your employees

DEFINING YOUR QUESTIONS

Since the purpose of your perception survey is to obtain useful data and feedback, it makes sense to first clarify what you want to learn. You’ll most likely want to develop clear answers to the following questions:

  • How is our organization perceived as an employer when compared to other companies in our field?
  • What specifically makes our organization attractive to candidates?
  • Which aspects of our employer brand (as it relates to attraction and engagement) are functioning at a high/low level.
  • What sources along the candidate journey are used by candidates to find, and learn about our organization?
  • How can we use our employer-of-choice status to deliver more successful outcomes across attraction, engagement, recruitment, hiring and retention?
  • What are the ways we can improve communication in your organization?

Approaching your perception survey with these questions in mind will help you to learn more about what employees really think and feel. And the insights you gain from the survey will help you to improve your employer brand messages and value proposition to attract and engage more best-fit people. You’ll also be able to use your new insights to strengthen pre-hire and on-boarding processes and improve retention.

DETERMINING POTENTIAL OUTCOMES

The main outcomes you might want to consider for your perception survey include:

  • to gather the authentic views and perceptions from the employee perspective.
  • to use your new data and insights to create positive expectations among potential candidates/recruits, including: behaviors and attitudes, meaningful and impactful work, exciting and purposeful career paths, supportive and inspiring leaders and managers, best/greatest/fun culture and more.
  • to use your insights to support your goal of becoming an “employer of choice” organization, enhancing the impression of your company as a ‘great place to work’ in the minds of current and potential employees.
  • to synthesize and put into context the feedback to improve your ability to be more successful across attraction and engagement of candidates. (insights can also be used to impact on-boarding, win loyalty and retain existing employees).

In addition to the above, you’ll be in a very good position to use your new survey data and insights to develop a forward-looking talent attraction roadmap and best-practice playbook to help your company make improvements in talent attraction and then support other efforts across the talent acquisition landscape, including engagement, recruitment, hiring, onboarding, and retention.

SURVEY DESIGN TIPS

Here are a few items you’ll want to keep in mind before you design your perception survey:

  • What’s the main objectives of the survey?
  • What is your timeline for completion?
  • What role will senior leadership have in the survey and engagement process?
  • What is the level of support you will have with line managers during the survey process? (also make sure to have an advocate within the c-suite)
  • How the survey process should be communicated to the employees
  • Will we share results with all employees?
  • Is this within our budget/timescales?
  • What does success look like? What is the c-suite view of this?

A well-rounded perception survey includes the following sections: survey-based data and reporting, employee interviews, one-on-one interviews, focus groups, web-based data collection, and conclusions and analysis.

PROCESS STEPS

You might want to structure your survey with these (8) process steps:

  1. Design Survey – Design of survey, format, program; set to implement
  2. Online Survey of Leaders and Senior Management (confidential) – To understand the philosophy, procedures, players, brand, and culture. To understand the network, the vision, goals and strategies already in place.
  3. Online Survey of Existing Employees (keep this confidential) – To gain feedback and ratings relative to their relationship with your company.
  4. Employee Interviews (In-person or Virtual; also confidential) – To gather various perspectives by talking to a large enough sample of best-fit employees per function or department to remove bias and gain information to support your efforts.
  5. Exit Surveys (In-person or Virtual; also confidential) – To gather various perspectives by talking to a sample of your company’s past employees. People you wanted to keep but weren’t able to.
  6. Focus group Meetings – To gather various perspectives by talking to your company’s employees in a group setting; use primarily to validate (aggregate) insights from data survey and employee surveys
  7. Data Aggregation – Collection and analysis of information from all prior efforts. Including all survey, interviews, focus group materials and collected information.
  8. Presentation – Include summary of interviews and basic conclusions and recommendations.

Potential perception survey add-ons can include:

  • Best Practices (Roadmap) – an internal-facing comprehensive implementation plan designed for leadership inside your company. You’ll want to provide a clear set of directions and best practice approach to implementation across each of the survey areas. And you should position your roadmap around “here’s what we need to do” and “here are the steps to get there”.
  • Guiding Principles (Playbook) – a external-facing playbook designed for branch HR teams, recruiters and hiring managers. Your playbook outlines the best practice approach to work for each of the survey areas. You’ll want to position your playbook around “here’s how we need to do this from now on”.

SEGMENTING YOUR SURVEY GROUPS

There are many ways you can segment your survey groups. You could set up your survey with the following groups in mind:

  • Top/board level management
  • Senior management (below board level)
  • Middle management
  • First line management/supervisor
  • Professional worker
  • Administration/support
  • Other

Or, you could set it up with the following five (5) dimensions in mind:

  • Person and Process
  • General Attraction
  • Self/Community/Social
  • Financial/Economic
  • Personal Development

Or, you could set it up with the following three (3) dimensions in mind:

  • Head (perceptions of org/leaders, contributions, role fit, etc.)
  • Heart (feelings about org, passion about org, sense of belonging, etc.)
  • Actions (willingness to work/recommend, commitment/intention to stay, etc.)

Or, you could study the employer attributes that influence reputation across a set of value areas. This might include a few questions related to how people found your company, where they found the open jobs, how they got the job, etc. With this approach, respondents would evaluate each item in the questionnaire through the following question: “How much is this aspect important to you when choosing a new job?” In this example, a five-option Likert scale would be used (1 = not important at all, 5 = very important). Values areas might include:

  • Interest Value
  • Social Value
  • Application Value
  • Economic Value
  • Development Value
  • Market Value
  • Cooperation Value

We recommend a stepwise timeline for conducting the survey, collecting and analyzing data , and delivering results. Your survey outline might look something like this:

  • 1A – Online Survey to Employees (Quantitative)
  • 1B – Unstructured Collection of Data (Parallel to 1A effort)
  • 2 – One-on-One Interviews (Qualitative)
  • 3 – Focus Groups (Qualitative)
  • 4 – Presentation Development

Because response rates and survey statistical confidence might be a concern, you might want to survey at least 15-30% respondents and use a 3% margin of error with a standard 95% confidence level.

Here’s a useful tool: https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/sample-size-calculator/

TYPES OF SURVEY QUESTIONS

You might also consider limiting your respondent burden and limit the survey to the following five types of questions:

  • Open-ended text question format – (text box for “Describe your…”; limited use)
  • Multiple choice question format – (“What is your…” Select one)
  • Ordinal scale question format – (“When considering,…please rank”; by importance)
  • Interval scale question format – (“How likely…”; equal agreement strength, likelihood, satisfaction) – Example Agreement Scale = Strongly Agree, Agree, Neither, Agree nor Disagree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree
  • Ratio scale question format – (“How many…”; full range; has true zero)

Remember to lead with a structured approach to collecting the data, including: email/web-based surveys, phone or in-person interviews, and focus groups. At the same time, deploy an unstructured approach to collecting the data, including: employee-initiated feedback, employee reviews on third-party websites (Glassdoor), unsolicited comments across social media (Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook), and so on.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christopher Mengel is the founder of TalentSum LLC, a strategic talent acquisition consultancy and best practices implementation firm. Some of the world’s most notable companies partner with TalentSum to activate a strong employer brand, attract more people who fit, improve engagement and experiences, and deliver high-performing cultures.

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