The Power of the Straw Poll

October 30, 2012 Darcy Jacobsen

Hiring consultants can be one great way to take a deep dive into your organization’s engagement–and that approach usually comes with expert advice into how to analyze the exhaustive data. But there’s also a lot to be said for the power of the simple straw poll.

While a simple one-to-five question poll may not yield big data, it is a quick, cheap and minimally invasive way to get a quick check on your organization. Think of it as a fingerprick self-blood test, as opposed to hiring a phlebotomist and running a full panel workup. Quick polls give an instant snapshot of information, and when applied with regular frequency, can provide a running baseline for your organizational health.

In fact, I recently heard of one Canadian company that asks employees to answer five questions every morning as they log into their computers for the day. They use that data to get a sense of the company’s mood and engagement levels on a year-round basis, instead of waiting for an annual or bi-annual engagement survey.

There’s also a great deal to be learned from reaching beyond your company with straw polls, to discover or confirm what is going on in the bigger picture. Recently we ran a poll through LinkedIn to determine people’s thoughts on talent management and spotting great performers. We were gratified to see that, as we suspected, people overwhelmingly favored “Recognition feedback by peers” as the most effective method for finding top performers.

Chart of the most effective method for finding top performers

But you can also learn a lot from the polls of others. My favorite LinkedIn poll, which just closed last week, after responses from nearly 4,000 people, was this one, which asked, “What keeps an employee motivated?” The resounding answer was “Recognition at Work”.

Chart of What keeps an employee motivated

And even when the question is more specialized, it can yield great information for you. Consider this LinkedIn poll on process engagement. The question asked was “What’s the biggest barrier to process engagement at your company?” Even though it is specifically about processes, it nonetheless provides many clues into how people see challenges in their organizations. In this case the top reply, “Failure to support collaboration” tells a lot about the challenges organizations face in creating collaborative teams, encouraging working relationships and breaking down internal barriers within their workplaces.

Chart of the biggest barrier to process engagement at your company

Straw polls, whether internal or external, can yield high-level information to help you create or support your ideas, or to establish trend lines. Consider how they might help you!

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