As a People Ops user you should have access to comments but there is a maximum of only one demographic filter (for confidentiality reasons discussed here).
Comments can provide some interesting color and some further insight into specific issues that may be raised by your survey. However, comments should be viewed as secondary to the quantitative results for a number of reasons.
- Comments are often from a smaller number of respondents so they may not be representative of everyone. Oftentimes, the point of a survey is to allow each employee an equal say or vote so focusing on comments from a few individuals can defeat this purpose.
- Individuals that are unfavorable are more likely to leave a comment (according to our research 7 times more likely to be exact). They also leave longer comments than their favorable counterparts.
- People are by their nature sensitive to negative feedback so we will often focus on negative comments and ignore both the survey results and other comments (that may be positive).
- Some individuals are by their nature more likely to write comments. For example, in our 2017 New Tech Benchmark Report we found individuals in sales are 20% more likely to comment than engineers. This can result in the same person writing most of the comments across multiple questions.
The best thing to do with comments is leave them until you’ve absorbed your results and then to use comments to understand some more detail. If you have a low score on something check the comments for those that might help you understand and take a good look through the comments provided on impact questions where your scores might be lower.
Comments can also form part of your results conversations where you ask employees about their thoughts but remember they are often personalized so it is best to paraphrase a few that are constructive and in line with the overall results. This can emphasize that it is the overall results that will shape the ongoing conversation and action and that constructive comments are going to get the most voice.
How to prioritize your time when looking at comments:
Reflect on the areas that you have identified as standing out, which comments can help provide the most context for these results? You may choose to align questions with the drivers of most interest or that provide some explanation for the survey results.
Which questions are of most interest to your company?
Within those sections, identify 2-3 comments for each that provide context for the results.
If you're aiming for an overview of the themes being talked about in your comments, never underestimate the power of a simple word cloud.