Slicing and Dicing Survey Results with Demographics

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By Gerry Riskin | Apr 24, 2018

In the course of our work with law firms, we have occasion to do many kinds of surveys. Here are two simple examples:

  1. In the context of strategy assignments, we may survey partners as to their aspirations and their views about their marketplace(s).
  2. In the context of conducting a cultural assessment, we may survey all of the personnel of a firm irrespective of role in the firm as to their views about collegiality, strategic focus, governance, and values – all related to the firm culture.

Survey results will paint a detailed landscape of opinions and views – including the intensity with which they are held – as well as contrasts that will offer a texture to the feedback.

Here’s the demographic rub. If there are statistically significant different views in the firm – about itself or its marketplace – based on demographic differences, then senior leadership should know so they can adjust strategy as well as action plans accordingly.

The demographic groups can be as broad or specific as the firm may wish; however, typical demographics might include:

  • Roles (the job they perform)
  • Offices (location, for multi-office firms)
  • Years with firm
  • Recruitment to firm (merger, lateral, internal)
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Such other demographic attributes as the firm may select.

To give you an illustration of the relevance of a demographic analysis, imagine that the belief that the firm has a strong strategy is very different based on gender. Senior leadership within the firm may want to know why that difference exists and whether it is desirable. In most cases, leaders would not find such a gender gap desirable. We would then invite the firm to work with us to create action plans that might investigate those differences and then, over time, reduce them.

The simple point of this article is that doing a survey without the benefit of having the demographic distinctions creates only a fraction of the value of a survey that includes appropriate demographic slicing and dicing.