How to Conduct Organizational Surveys: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Jack E. Edwards, Marie D. Thomas, Paul Rosenfeld & Stephanie Booth-Kewley

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    Preface

    A manufacturing company is downsizing and wants to know the effect of the downsizing on employee morale. A computer corporation is considering moving its headquarters and needs to determine how many employees it would need to relocate. A multinational consulting firm has had a rash of sexual harassment complaints and seeks to determine the extent of the problem. An automobile company is planning to redesign its line of sports cars and wishes to see how its loyal customers will react to the changes.

    To answer these and many other business-related questions, organizations are increasingly turning to surveys. Developing expertise in the organizational survey process is by no means an easy task. It is a process that can reap great benefits if the steps are correctly executed, but it can cause harm if done improperly.

    Although conducting an organizational survey can be a difficult, expensive, and labor-intensive effort, it also has its rewards. Survey designers have the satisfaction of seeing a need for information turn into items; these items elicit data that, in turn, provide answers to the original questions (Rosenfeld, Edwards, & Thomas, 1993). For management, surveys can suggest ways to increase productivity, improve morale, and reduce costs. Through organizational surveys, employees can communicate their concerns and questions to management. Surveys can also provide a vehicle for employees to participate in the company's decision-making process and involve them in solving problems rather than simply griping or suffering in silence (Carney, 1994; Salemme, 1995).

    We have written this book as a resource for conducting surveys within organizational settings. It is designed to provide those who desire to conduct organizational surveys with step-by-step, how-to instructions. In the chapters that follow, we describe the issues that must be addressed at each step in the survey process, the advantages and disadvantages that result from many of the choices that must be made, and practical lessons that we have learned (often, the hard way). This book should be a useful and practical tool even for people with little or no experience with the survey process. Moreover, we have attempted to identify sound survey practices in other professions (e.g., marketing and public opinion research) that generalize to organizational surveys.

    We intend this book to be an easy-to-understand guide to the technical and practical considerations that arise when conducting surveys in real-world organizational settings. In particular, our book is written for the manager who has little experience conducting an in-house survey or contracting external survey consultants. Similarly, our book should be a useful introduction to graduate students (e.g., in business and industrial-organizational psychology) who must make the transition from theory to practice. Toward this end, we address most common survey issues with both references to the survey research literature and real-life examples. Although a book this size cannot address every issue in depth, we provide citations to survey literature that we have found helpful.

    We are indebted to a number of people for their professional and personal support. At Sage, we will always be grateful to Harry Briggs for his faith in our abilities and his patience with the pace of our productivity. Comments from two anonymous reviewers helped us focus an earlier draft of the book and identify areas of improvement. Some of the comments were so articulate that we included them with little modification.

    We also benefited greatly from the continued support of many current and former colleagues and friends. Thanks to David Alderton, Dan Landis, Nambury Raju, Larry Waters, Paul Crawford, Catherine Riordan, Bob Giacalone, Zannette Perry, Steve Knouce, Amy Culbertson, John Sheposh, Mike White, Aileen Conroy, John Kantor, Patricia Thomas, Edmund Thomas, Carol Newell, Kristin David, Sharon Le, Richard Sorenson, George Edward Seymour, Tim Elig, Anita Lancaster, and, of course, Walt Peterson. On a personal level, we would like to thank Deborah McCormick, Mary Edwards, Harold Edwards, Susie Hoke, Patti Groves, Jerry Larson, Edward Thomas, Fred Thomas, Barbara Rooney, Abraham and Judes Rosenfeld, the Shanskes, Mary Sellen, Brian Kewley, Andrew Kewley, Norman and Joyce Booth, and Donna Booth for their continued love, support, and encouragement.

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    Author Index

    About the Authors

    Jack E. Edwards is Chief of the Personnel Survey Branch at the Defense Manpower Data Center in Arlington, VA. His prior positions include Personnel Research Psychologist at the Navy Personnel Research and Development Center and Associate Professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He has examined theoretical and practical concerns in survey methods, personnel selection, performance evaluation, and utility analysis. He also coedited Improving Organizational Surveys: New Directions, Methods, and Applications (Sage, 1993). He received a Ph.D. from Ohio University.

    Marie D. Thomas is Assistant Professor of Psychology at California State University at San Marcos. Previously she was Research Psychologist with the Navy Personnel Research and Development Center and Associate Professor at the College of Mount St. Vincent in New York City. Her research interests include gender and ethnicity issues and the role of women in the military. She has authored and coauthored numerous publications and coedited Improving Organizational Surveys: New Directions, Methods, and Applications (Sage, 1993). She received a Ph.D. from Fordham University.

    Paul Rosenfeld is Personnel Research Psychologist at the Navy Personnel Research and Development Center in San Diego and an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the California School of Professional Psychology. He coauthored two books: Impression Management in Organizations (Rout-ledge, 1995) and Introduction to Social Psychology (West, 1985) and coedited four other books. He received a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Albany.

    Stephanie Booth-Kewley is Research Psychologist at the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego. Her research interests include personality, survey methodology, and health psychology. She has published articles in Psychological Bulletin, American Psychologist, and the Journal of Applied Psychology. She received a Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside.


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