Qualitative data can help unlock valuable insights into all aspects of business. It produces data that is built on behaviour, emotion, character, personality, and other traits that can help understand the “why” behind an issue.

But what exactly is qualitative data, and why is it so valuable for businesses?

When looking to embark on any type of research project, businesses are likely to be presented with two sorts of data: quantitative and qualitative. Both sets of data are valuable to draw meaningful interpretations and to help draw valid conclusions.

Quantitative data is predominantly focused on numbers and providing statistics to quantify what the research has revealed. This creates powerful and vital indicators which help businesses to make smart decisions. By having data that can easily be measured, businesses can track performance easily. From market research to engagement surveys, quantitative research and data helps create measurable results.

Qualitative data helps businesses understand intent and gain insights into underlying reasons, feelings and opinions related to an issue. Qualitative research can be a key component to help uncover the root causes of challenges or opportunities. This can provide huge benefits for businesses that invest in such research and data. The data collection methods may be less structured than quantitative, but this allows more thorough and usable data to be gathered.

Why use qualitative research?

Whilst numerical data and quantitative research is useful for decision-makers, it often doesn’t tell the whole story. In these instances, qualitative data can help further a cause, or similarly, offer potential counter-arguments and pose new questions for the board.

So long as you are well positioned to collect, analyse and interpret qualitative data, a business can thrive under this approach to understanding data. Many organisations are put off using qualitative data due to the amount of work involved in analysing and drawing insights from what is often a very large data set. Using a specialist consultancy firm can provide real value to by taking this work off your hands and ensuring that the insights and actions taken from qualitative data are valid and actionable. Our Engagement Surveys, can provide external benchmarks and help interpret your results into actionable insights.

Qualitative data for staff surveys and employee engagement

Although research and gathering opinions and thoughts are most often associated with the consumer facing side of businesses, such as market fit, or customer feedback, it can also be a vital component in engaging and involving your employees.

The concept of businesses becoming more “employee centric” and truly valuing the experience and well-being of their workforce is something that can’t be ignored. The benefits of having a happy and engaged team are substantial.

Qualitative data is a great asset to any employee engagement survey in order to provide more rich insights about employees’ experience and also provide employees with an opportunity to say the things that are most important to them. This type of research can help empower employees by giving them the platform to offer truly personal and truthful insights. When trying to build a successful team, understanding people’s feelings and attitudes to company changes, leadership and other pillars of operations, businesses can be equipped with the information they need.

Qualitative data collection for employee engagement

Qualitative research is perfectly positioned to be used as part of an employee engagement initiative and can occur before, during or after organisational surveys.

Before you spend time designing an employee survey, leveraging a focus group can help define commonalities and issues that should be addressed in the surveys. This can also help raise commitment in survey participation as staff feel more engaged and part of the process from the start.

Qualitative data can also be collected during employee engagement surveys by allowing free-text questions where employees can offer more detailed feedback. These types of questions encourage participants to provide more than one-word answers. Using these comments, we can run thematic analysis and produce reports which summarise the key themes emerging from free-text data.

Finally, qualitative data can be used once the initial surveys are in to help dive into certain areas in more detail. Follow up one-to-one interviews can be used to more robustly look into the detail around sensitive issues such as bullying or stress in the workplace. Focus groups can also be used for less sensitive issues.

Benefits of qualitative research

Some benefits of leveraging qualitative research within employee surveys and questionnaires, include:

  • Full answers – By not being focused on quantifying numbers and statistics, the data collection can often give participants much more freedom in their answers. This can give richer and more honest information which may help get to the bottom of staff issues sooner.
  • Fosters creativity – With freedom, comes creativity. This means results can be much less structured, but the creativity in the answers often leads to innovative ideas for improvement.
  • Emotion – Qualitative data often makes it easier to understand emotion and desires towards specific issues. In terms of employee engagement, this is very useful to ensure we really understand the sentiment and strength of feeling about an issue.
  • Unique data – The open-ended nature of qualitative questions can mean they often throw up unexpected or unusual answers. This is vital if you want answers that truly reflect how people feel, not just our perceptions or what we hear through the grapevine.
  • Flexible – Questions can be designed to relate to a specific industry, or problem, or perhaps something more general – the way they are incorporated into surveys can be flexible and dependent on what the business wants to achieve.
  • Raise new questions and challenges – Due to the long-form answers, this data can often ask further questions that the business may need to address.

Most of the benefits of using qualitative data come from designing the right kind of questions, deploying them in a way that means high participation, and understanding how to interpret the answers to see real improvements within the business.

Qualitative research and Edgecumbe engagement surveys

Qualitative research isn’t without limitations. Like quantitative research, qualitative research should be used for the right purposes, at the right time. Otherwise, businesses can end up with inefficient processes that gather unusable results.

For the best results, it’s always worth understanding the purpose of what you’re trying to achieve and knowing how best to achieve this.

As a specialist in research methods and employee engagement, for businesses looking to launch any type of staff surveys or research, we can help ensure you get the best results. Our team are highly experienced at helping our clients gain actionable and practical insights from engagement and staff surveys.

Get in touch today and learn about how we can add value to your employee engagement strategy and staff survey.