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Running the survey internally vs using an external provider

Running the survey internally vs using an external provider

“Yes you can run it yourself – but should you?”

In my previous post “How are people going to hear about and access the survey” I discussed all of the ways in which you can provide employee access to the survey – but what about where the survey is run and who is running it?

As I mentioned then, you’ve got three primary choices:

  1. Run everything internally though some form of “Survey Monkey” or survey software
  2. Internal administration of an external “pre-made” survey (think “Pulse Survey” platforms or “Best Employer” surveys)
  3. Running everything externally through a third-party provider (from survey development to reporting out)

Your choice of which you chose then primarily depends on:

  • Perceptions of anonymity, security and privacy amongst staff
  • Costs
  • Whether you want the survey customized or want a comparison to a database in the way of “Best Employers
  • Whether you have the time and/or expertise to run it yourself, including:
    • creating and hosting the survey
    • sending reminders and response updates
    • responding to employee’s questions and technical issues
    • analysing and reporting on the results

The “Survey Monkey” Route

Clearly this is the cheapest in dollars but most expensive in time.

There will also be concerns over anonymity and privacy, as anyone with access to the survey platform can see the individual responses. Because of this:

  • You should not use personalized invitation emails and links – with all the goodness that comes from that re preventing multiple submissions, etc. (Again see the previous post for more on that.)
  • You’ll likely get lower response rates
  • The validity of the responses, (particularly in the lack of negative responses), will be questionable

If you are running a survey that is not sensitive in nature, however, this route is fine if you have the time and expertise.

Internal Administration of an External Provider

This method is sometimes (though not always) cheaper than a full-service external provider, and is a bit easier to run than the above – however concerns about anonymity amongst staff whether you have access to the individual responses or not may remain.

If you have the time and expertise though, need instant reporting (these are commonly set, non-customized surveys or platforms and so often have the reporting built in), or want to compare to an industry database – this might very well be the way to go for you.

Using an External, Third-Party Provider

Now you’re thinking, “You’re going to recommend this route as best aren’t you? I mean … this is what you DO.”

Yes and no.  I’ve recommended Survey Monkey and the like many, MANY times over the years where the situation suits it; and I’ve recommended “pulse” platforms and “Best Employer” surveys where appropriate.  (If you want to compare to an industry database you HAVE to use someone else.)

But here are a few of the areas where a third party, arm’s-length survey provider shines:

  • Everything is absolutely confidential and anonymous from one end to the other
  • It’s easier and less time-consuming
  • They can provide external support for staff questions and IT issues
  • They can provide additional expertise; not just in the survey creation, but in analysis and advice moving forward
  • They can be inexpensive as compared to large, industry-wide providers (more than Survey Monkey, less than Aon)
  • It allows for the use of individualized invitations and respondent management (adding/removing respondents)

That last point on individualized invitations? That’s the subject of my next post, “Getting it out there (Part 1): Setting up the environment.

We love to engage in curious conversation! Grab a time on my calendar if you’d like to elaborate more on this topic or anything else
Maureen Simons

Maureen Simons is a senior human resources and communication consultant with over 25 years of experience helping clients achieve their business and organizational objectives through their people. (Linkedin)

Picture of Adam Hunter

Adam Hunter has a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering, an MBA, and 35+ years of technical and programming experience, resulting in a broad mix of analytical, statistical, project-related and business skills. (Linkedin)