Head Count and FTE Survey Data Validation Lament

Anyone who has taken the CedarCrestone HR Systems Survey likely curses me for this very long survey. But many people tell me they use our comprehensive research as it provides them important data to plan, justify, benchmark, and execute their HR technologies. We honestly strive to cut extraneous questions and then someone will ask….but “what are the most common combinations of talent management applications,” or “what’s the average size of HRIT and IT staff to provide application and technical services for HR technologies?” And, the result is our 600+ survey questions. Please tell me what we can drop? After all, we have to analyze it and fewer questions would make our lives easier!

Our lives would definitely be easier when it comes to validating responses. We have a pretty comprehensive process already to ensure we keep only the complete and validated responses. I wrote about this process last year: Scrub-a-dub Dub – CedarCrestone HR Systems Survey Data Cleansing.

Nowhere do we question survey responses more than in the Employee Counts section. Here, we first ask for total employees and contingents served by HR. We have a careful definition for contingent workers. And then the fun begins as we ask for Human Resources FTE (full-time equivalents) in administration, talent management, and HR technologies. We eventually calculate a ratio of number of employees and contingents served by these HR FTE to show metrics associated with the value of service delivery technologies. For the HR FTE question, our thinking is that HR FTE serve people (heads).  We use a definition from SHRM. We ask for total HR FTE, then for the detail FTE for talent management and more and tally the detail and calculate a variance from the total HR FTE. If the two don’t match, we ask the respondent to explain. For large organizations with over 10,000 employees, they sometimes miss HR FTE in other countries and can explain where to put the variance. But for the small and mid-size organizations, they say something like “our six people do multiple tasks.” But in the meantime, they answered 6 for all the HR FTE questions which means the variation is huge! It’s very clear that despite our clear request for FTE that they are using HR head count and not FTE. So, we get back to respondents and ask for clarification, or, in some cases, we throw up our hands and eliminate their responses.

I asked China Gorman, one of the most knowledgeable HR consultants I know and previously the Chief Operating Officer at SHRM, what’s going on. She too pleads with HR to take the time to determine and respond with FTE and not just head count: http://chinagorman.com/2012/07/26/survey-says/.   And, she provides what is for us the definitive definition. I love our survey respondents – please take a look, and next year, please respond with FTE so I don’t have to be a nag.

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