Why HR Should Care about Qualitative Research

We are a data driven company. We use data to help our clients with their HR decisions and strategies when it comes to culture and brand. A big part of the data gathering process is through qualitative research. Without this research, companies often make a lot of assumptions about what they *think* their company’s culture is like or what their brand means.

It comes down to the “why”

We’ve seen companies rely on survey data alone to make decisions. While surveys do provide informative data – and we use those in our research too – they don’t answer “why.” Why did an employee rate his manager at a three out of five? Why did your employee say they don’t see opportunities for growth in the engagement survey? Perception is reality to your employees, and perceptions vary widely. Qualitative research allows you to dig into the “why” and understand where the perception might be coming from.

Qualitative Research in Consumer Marketing

Qualitative research is widely used in consumer marketing to gain insights into behavior. A lot of the marketing messages and product features you see as a consumer derived from consumer insights found during focus groups. For example, you know that burning sensation you get when you use Listerine mouthwash? It’s not exactly necessary to make the product effective. But through consumer research, the company discovered that the tingly feeling that happens when you use their mouthwash makes consumers feel like their mouths are clean. Without the feeling, people don’t feel like it’s working (here’s an interesting Reddit thread on the topic).

Why You Should Care 

So why does the “why” matter? By digging deeper into what your employees and candidates are thinking, you can more efficiently allocate resources. Here’s a simplified example: a candidate checks a box indicating how he heard about your company. Let’s say he checked Indeed because he linked to your site directly from there to apply for a position. At face value, you might think, “let’s invest in Indeed!” But that may not be where the brand relationship began for this employee. Often times in the focus groups we conduct, it started much earlier than that – a parent worked at the company, a candidate was a consumer, or your company was mentioned on TV. (How many times have you gone down the endless Wikipedia trail and wondered, “How the heck did I end up finding out Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ father is a billionaire? Oh ya, I googled Saturday Night Live while streaming it on Hulu, and somehow ended up looking at former cast members…but I digress). Those are channels you may not be thinking about that could have more influence on your candidates’ impression of your company. By the way, we call this example, Source of Brand – one of the outcomes of the qualitative research we do.

Qualitative data will never replace quantitative data – the two complement each other very nicely. And, the human element used in qualitative data could be the difference in developing a lasting strategy to better understand and connect with your employees and candidates.

Lexi Gordon is a Lead Consultant for exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps organizations build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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