This employee attitude survey case study from PGA Group Consulting Psychologists gives an insight to the construction, implementation and outcomes of an employee attitude survey.
This case study shows how factors which were impeding organizational performance, morale and development were identified and addressed to the benefit of the organization, its people and other stakeholders.
The Danish subsidiary of a UK parent company (which is itself a subsidiary of a major multinational corporation).
A computer equipment manufacturer.
Copenhagen, Denmark (the study was conducted in English and in Danish, the final report and client’s feedback were in English).
The employee attitude survey was commissioned by the UK parent company of a Danish subsidiary. The Danish subsidiary had been acquired by the UK company two years earlier.
Prior to the acquisition, the subsidiary was a privately held exclusive distributor of the parent’s products in the Danish and broader Scandinavian markets. The subsidiary’s customers were dealers, not end users.
The former owners of the subsidiary had remained in the company in the capacity of Directors for a transition period. Subsequently, the former owners had been replaced by a British Managing Director (who was not fluent in the Danish language) and his senior team.
The official operating language of the company worldwide is English. Management are required to be fluent in English, whatever their nationality and mother tongue.
It had been identified by the company previously that the Danish staff and, to a somewhat lesser extent the Danish customers perceived the senior management team to be ignorant of Danish business culture, practices, and the nature of the Danish domestic market. Reportedly, it was felt locally also that the UK parent was “remote, unsupportive, and generally unsympathetic to the needs of its subsidiary.”
Whether real or not, these perceptions had taken on a ‘life of their own’ and seemed linked to the presence of friction and lessened company performance. The Danish company was ailing financially anyway and these issues did not help the parent’s objective of turning its subsidiary around. The UK parent had reached the point of considering the closure of its Danish subsidiary company.
The UK Board of the parent company decided though to adopt a completely open mind and to fully explore its options before reaching any decision. They decided to find out what the ‘real issues’ were. Hence, the UK Board commissioned this study (together with a psychological audit of the capabilities and style of the management conducted in tandem by us, alongside an internal commercial audit of the business).
Employee Attitude Survey Aims and Objectives
The aims and objectives of the employee attitude survey were informed by the following needs:
General Needs Analysis
The general needs to be satisfied by the employee attitude survey were to:
Reveal what actually ‘happens’ in practice in the company, as opposed to theory.
Tell the company what managers and staff think of the effectiveness of existing initiatives and programmes.
Identify the changes and refinements that managers and staff would like to see introduced.
Define and qualify problem areas that absolutely need to be addressed.
Improve morale, reduced frustration, and increase loyalty and commitment.
Expose latent discontent.
Prevent wasting money being spent on irrelevant management or staff development schemes.
Help managers and staff understand their roles and their contribution within the organization.
Stimulate an awareness of management and staff development need.
Allow the company to plan ahead instead of reacting to crises.
Involve managers and staff as contributors to changes in management and staff development policy, and in company policy broadly.
Specific Needs Analysis
In addition to the general needs above, the company had a range of specific needs to be satisfied, namely the need to:
Monitor transition from a previously owned proprietorial business to a subsidiary business.
Measure the effects of company management over the previous two years.
Monitor the organization’s current state of maturity.
Monitor the effects of personnel, policy, and strategy changes.
Monitor the effects of market changes.
Open-ended interviewing of a representative sample of individuals across the subsidiary company functions was conducted to provide a base starting point.
A broad range of topics concerning company structures, systems, management, roles and morale were examined.
The data were collected during a 40 minute duration interview of company personnel.
The data were analysed and recurrent themes were identified and translated into a form suitable for further examination.
The questionnaire to be used in the employee attitude survey was constructed.
The Employee Attitude Survey
The employee attitude survey consisted of two complementary parts: the completion of the questionnaire, and a confidential personal interview.
The questionnaire was divided into ten sections, comprising 92 items in total. The items were mainly of multiple choice format (semantic scale and ‘yes/no’ responses). There were a small number of open-ended questions also. The format was designed to be completed within the 45 minutes allocated for the task. In addition to answering the questions, staff were asked also to identify the most important issues as they saw them. The staff were asked also to identify those issues which either had not been examined hitherto, or had been examined in a way which did not enable them to express adequately their opinion.
The latter two tasks formed the basis for a subsequent staff interview with a consultant. In addition, miscellaneous issues were explored and reported, where relevant in the final report document.
Data were collected across two days. Where necessary (subject to holidays, and such) several questionnaires were completed by individuals and later returned by mail. A Danish speaking consultant psychologist was available, should they be needed to assist participants.
All employees, except two in Norway were included; 26 individuals in total.
The analysis of questionnaire data was confined to simple descriptive statistics using the statistical analysis software package, IBM SPSS. The focus of the analysis was placed on companywide perceptions.
Small sample sizes precluded the subdivision of the sample into meaningful subgroups. Further, an analysis of subgroups for reporting would have been likely to have brought about a breach of respondent confidentiality by enabling the identification of specific individual respondents, thereby breaching trust.
Interview data were content-analyzed. The most important items emerged and helped identify and rank priorities. The identification of other items completed the full examination.
Format of the Employee Attitude Survey Report Results
The format of the employee attitude survey report focussed on the presentation and analysis of the questionnaire data.
The analysis had revealed that much of the interview data reflected the questionnaire data, but from a more complex and often more specific context.
Interview data were, therefore given less attention since, although adding to the substantive points raised by the questionnaire, this was not sufficient in magnitude to play an important role in detailing the report format. Generally, these data were presented toward the end of the final report.
Within the questionnaire data, the following recurrent features emerged:
Company structure and operation
Controls were satisfactory.
Controls needed to be ‘sold’ better to help induce commitment.
Controls in their present form were having a stifling effect over time.
Company policies and procedures
Seen as too bureaucratic.
Perceived as disjointed and uncoordinated.
Role definitions required clarification.
Senior company management
More delegation and involvement by senior management were wanted.
Prioritisation of focus was necessary.
Cohesiveness and coordination were missing.
Jobs and job roles
A major role definition exercise was perceived as necessary.
Roles needed to be identified, agreed, and co-ordinated.
Quality of working life was identified as more important than monetary rewards.
Nationality, culture and language
Management style was perceived to be more important than nationality as such.
A mutual awareness of UK and parent company styles should be developed.
A strong commitment to the Danish subsidiary should be signalled by its UK parent company.
Style, climate and morale
UK parent company
Much greater clarification about all relationship and communication aspects was perceived as necessary.
Meaningful contact and ties needed to be drawn.
The Danish subsidiary needed an identity of its own, within the context of its parent’s identity.
The Danish subsidiary had priorities which could be capitalized upon.
The company and image needed to be ‘sold’ better.
A public relations exercise seemed necessary.
An opportunity to contribute as a ‘valued partner’ and in a meaningful way was wanted.
Clarity of intention was missing.
There existed positives which could be capitalized upon.
Within the interview data the following emerged as recurrent features:
The data augmented substantive points already raised from the questionnaire.
Priority topics were confirmed as: Communication; Style, Culture and Morale; Company Senior Management, and Policies and Procedures.
Issues not previously raised or examined were: Policy; Jobs and Job Satisfaction, and the question of survival.
Solutions advocated throughout the report were further supplemented.
Very few ‘positives’ had emerged.
The relationship between the pilot work and the study itself showed the pilot work to be highly effective. Approximately 50% of the individuals employed by the company were involved in the pilot work. The questionnaire data reflected the data obtained from the pilot work.
Every single member of staff was enthusiastic about the survey and about being given the opportunity to contribute and be heard.
Everyone expected feedback about the results and that something ‘meaningful’ should happen and be seen to happen. The UK parent company Board had successfully won the hearts and minds of all within the subsidiary company.
The Board of the UK parent company kept its promise of maintaining an open mind. The results were well received by all parties.
Initiatives were put in place to address all the issues raised.
Subsequently, the entire senior management team of the subsidiary company were replaced by Danes following a transition period. Some vacancies were filled internally, the remainder externally. Recruits were assessed psychometrically by us to ensure that: they could do the job, would do the job, and would fit in with the present and planned future company culture and values.
A more cohesive organization evolved. The subsidiary, and everyone within it became more clear about their role and objectives. Ties with the UK parent, and between same function and cross function personnel became stronger; communications and relationships were perceived as more open and ‘honest.’ Mutual respect developed and grew.
The subsidiary company ultimately was successfully turned around to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
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