Be the HR Survey!

I’m not a huge fan of surveys – particularly when they involve taking our employees away from what they are much more interested in doing. I’ve always said you can learn more about what revs your employees’ engines by just sitting down with a few here and there and having a good old heart to heart (listening more than anything). To say the least, I am wary of death by surveys.

Surveys were once just a cottage industry. They have unfortunately become, however, the easy play for consulting organizations far and wide. “Hey, I have an idea…let’s do a survey…and we’ll charge you a couple G’s for it.” Blah blah blah. A hot ticket on the survey circuit these days is the industry survey – what’s hot, what’s not. They are a dime a dozen. And often they produce results and insights that float right up there in the mesosphere. Interesting? Sure. Useful? Sometimes. But they always leave me feeling a bit undernourished. I’d love to see an HR Industry Survey that puts some serious meat on the bones – gives us HR professionals something we can actually relate to. What do you say we build one?

I’m becoming a bigger and bigger fan of Focus (, an on-line community of experts devoted to knowledge sharing, problem solving, and thought leadership on hundreds of different topics and markets. I was recently asked to help grow their Human Resource Community and I accepted the invitation with relish. There are a number of reasons I think it’s a good place to talk shop: There’s at least some control over who can participate in the discussion; ‘experts’ are carefully selected and designated; given its design, there is a natural cross-pollination between subject matter and interest groups (e.g. HR and Marketing); and their membership is growing by leaps and bounds…it’s something like 20-gazillion now. I know, it’s a lot. Any way…they want to do a survey on the HR industry. They sent me their first draft and my reaction was, “this looks like every other survey about the HR industry I’ve ever participated in.” They responded, “fine, Chump, what do you think it should look like then?” I replied, “I don’t know, I’m not that smart. But my network is and I’ll ask them.” So…

If you could hit up an extensive audience on all things HR, what would you ask them? What insights into other organizations’ HR practices or programs or structures or challenges would you like to have? What’s never been surveyed before, but needs to be? What kinds of HR benchmarks, or competitive data, or business intelligence are you having trouble finding elsewhere? Give me your ideas in the Comments Section or email me at or call me on 312.583.2103. I’ll consolidate all of your input and strongly recommend Focus give the power to the people on this one. And if all goes as planned, you’ll see a pretty freakin’ cool HR Industry survey – one that matters – come out in the near future.

Image Credit: Nevada State SHRM Council

  • Steve Browne

    Charlie – I’m choosing the comment route for your survey input gathering:

    1) How does HR transfer “training” to “development?” What are HR depts. doing and are they making this switch?

    2) Where do HR people go to get resources? Do they use SHRM (or not), chapters (or not), Twitter, blogs, etc.

    3) What is HR’s role in Social Media? How are HR people using social media – internally, externally, personally?

    4) What steps does HR take to manage other’s careers? Manage their own career?

    5) What five things would HR change about itself?

    Thanks for gathering this !! Peace – Steve
    Steve Browne´s last [type] ..Why it matters

  • Tom Bolt

    If such a survey could happen, I would love to see it, but I’m not optimistic that it can happen. The field is too dynamic and more can be learned in an un-conference setting where the issues are debated. It is not as important to find THE answer as it is to raise awareness, stimulate thinking and create a dialog. Maybe that’s why surveys fail: we get lazy and like things that add up and cross-foot to isolate a single best solution rather than go to the trouble of actually working through it.

    If I were to make a contribution to the survey, it would probably be something regarding the identification of realistic, actionable metrics that do not result in treating people like numbers. I wish I were smart enough to figure that out.
    Tom Bolt´s last [type] ..What You Don’t Know About Networking

  • Charlie

    @Steve – great questions…these will make the final cut i’m sure. thanks!

    @Tom – you took the easy way out, buddy. of course it’s hard…that’s the whole point. but if it were possible (and we intend to make it so) what would go in there?

  • Jay Kuhns

    Here are a few Charlie…

    1. Does HR drive employee communication across the organization? How frequently??

    2. Have you seen an HR rep in your department doing rounds in the last 60 days?

    3. Does HR provide concrete data/analytics to the employee population? To leadership?

    4. Are HR practices consistent across the organization?

    5. Do you feel you have a voice?

    6. Do you trust HR?

    Great idea!

    Jay Kuhns´s last [type] ..Do the Right Thing

  • John Jorgensen

    Great idea and I am putting my thinking cap on for real survey ideas. Just don’t ask anything about a seat at the table….

  • Lisa Rosendahl

    Wow, this is difficult . . . Steve has some great questions and I really like where Jay is going.

    Conside this, if a question has “HR” in it, the HR department and staff will immediately come to mind when the employee reads the question. What if there were a few questions that did not make that HR connection for the employees and we see where they take it?

    For example, when I want to speak with someone credible, I go to

    When change/innovation/???? occurs, it is department supporting it.

    If I have a question about pay/benefits/career options/xxxx, I know I can count on to assist me.

    I don’t think these are the best questions but it’s an approach to consider. The answers could leave us scratching our heads in wonder.
    Lisa Rosendahl´s last [type] ..Battles Waged

  • Richard Sherman

    Some great questions already posed, and these are just the ones in the comments so I imagine you are getting some fab input. Here is where my head went:

    1. The primary function of the HR department in my organization is to: (a) coach and guide (b) monitor compliance (c) answer questions about policies and benefits

    2. In my organization, HR professionals, particularly those that are involved with recruiting, are included in department team meetings (a) on a regular basis (b) only when there is a problem (c) only when they ask to be included (d) never

    3. The first word that comes to mind when I think about HR is __________.

    4. We would not need an HR department in our organization if ___________.

    **I love Lisa’s comment that if “HR” is included in the question, it will cause some perceptions to shift automatically. While we want some of that, it would be great to get some input as she notes above. I’ve tried to come up with a couple in that vein as well.**

    5. I witness another employee behaving in a highly unprofessional manner towards a peer/customer/vendor. The first person I would talk to about this is _____________. And I picked them because _________________.

    6. My co-workers are gossiping about a major development in our organization. If what they are saying is true, then I am concerned for the business. I would like to get more information from someone who I know will give me a straightforward answer. The person I would most likely ask is __________________.

    Thanks for doing this, Charlie – it is an interesting problem to think about what do we REALLY want to know, and how to get at those answers.

    Good on you!

  • Dwane Lay

    The analytic side of me want to see some data questions, along the lines of:

    What percentage of your time is taken up by [add workstream here]? (Workstreams might include talent management, acquisition, coaching, workforce planning, etc.)

    What percentage of your time is spent on “push” activities (asking managers or employees to be part of an activity) as opposed to “pull” activities (responding to customer requests)?

    Highest level of education/certifications held? Experience in HR and outside of HR? (Would be interesting to cross reference with position and performance and such to see if there is a correlation.)

    Those are my initial thoughts on it. Will share anything that comes out of continues noodling.
    Dwane Lay´s last [type] ..Is LinkedIn Finally Getting In The Game

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