What Outcomes are You Looking to Measure in Your Organization?
Determining the Right Tool to Use
Often times, clients use the terms: study, culture assessment and evaluation interchangeably. It’s accurate that there is overlap between some or all of them, but there are important distinctions which should be highlighted to communicate clearly, avoid confusion and manage expectations.
To begin, the goal of a research study is to create new, generalizable knowledge that is reproducible and applicable elsewhere in similar contexts. Studies are typically conducted within the realm of higher education or specialized fields. Some studies involve the use of the scientific method, namely, testing a hypothesis by manipulation of variables called an intervention, and others are focused on developing a theory supported by scientific evidence.
One simple example would be if a research team at a university would like to identify the top five indicators for employee burnout in the tech industry. The research team would have to collect data from numerous tech companies and have a sample size that is large enough and representative of the general population of the location they are targeting (city, county, state, region, country). This enables their findings to be applicable to and reproducible within other companies in the tech field (not included in their sample) with probable similar findings.
Research studies are meant to be peer reviewed by other academics and then published. This type of review holds the study, particularly the methodology, to a very high degree of scrutiny. In this context, reliability, validity and statistical significance is very important. If the study involves human subjects, even though low-risk activities like interviews or observations, then there are strict rules which need to be adhered to and usually require Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. This is different from an assessment or evaluation.
The goal of a culture assessment is to gather information from one particular group, organization or company to better understand the collective opinions, beliefs, views, feelings and behaviors regarding the norms, rules, regulations, policies and processes of the group. The collected aggregation of this information is utilized to identify gaps, better understand workforce perceptions and ultimately identify ways to optimize culture.
Culture assessments and research studies are both learning processes, but they are not held to the same academic level of scrutiny and serve distinct purposes. In a culture assessment the focus is not only statistical significance but also the practical significance of the findings.
Another important consideration is that culture assessments, even when they follow the exact same methodology rarely yield the same results from one organization to the next, even if they are in the same industry. This is due to variations such as demographic distribution, geographic location and different customs. The findings from a cultural assessment are designed to identify areas the need for course correction and to gather additional information to optimize culture. Culture assessments are diagnostic in nature and can lead to further formulation or refinement of research study questions or areas of improvement for later evaluation.
In addition, some organizations conduct evaluations. Evaluations are judgmental in nature. They involve the comparison of data against a standard for the purpose of determining the value, utility or extent to which objectives are met. Evaluations are summative conclusions of a product, project or program based on evidence collected. Whereas cultural assessments are diagnostic, evaluations are prescriptive. Evaluations will determine how well, or if, certain criteria meet standards and what improvements need to be made. Evaluations are done so that the person or organization being evaluated can understand how they measure up.
In our tech example, an evaluation would be the comparison of the percentage of employees who are burned out in one company to other companies in the same industry. This gives the evaluated company the metrics of whether they are performing better, worse or about the same as others. Evaluations can also be used to formulate or refine research study questions and conduct further assessments.
TIVC provides expertise in conducting cultural assessments, which aim to determine what’s working, what’s not working and what’s missing in an organizational environment. The tools used to collect data for research studies, assessments and evaluations can have considerable overlap, but it’s important to remember that it is the purpose for which the data is collected that is a primary distinction.
At TIVC, surveys, focus groups and interviews are some of the strategies used to collect insights into the inner nature of an organization. These methodologies provide a window into the attitudes and behavior of an organization, which can then be evaluated against existing organizational policies to determine if there is alignment between policies and practice.
TIVC’s mission is to help people work better together, and we are a proven leader in Human Enterprise Optimization recognizing that people are an organization’s greatest assets. TIVC was founded by Jean Payne in 2014. It is a CVE-certified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business headquartered in Charles Town, W.Va. We have current and former contracts with government and commercial customers across the nation.
Huitt, W., Hummel, J., & Kaeck, D. (2001). Assessment, measurement, evaluation, and research. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved from http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/topics/intro/sciknow.html
Levy, J. (2017). How to Differentiate Assessment, Evaluation, and Research. Presence: A Modern Campus Company. Retrieved from: https://www.presence.io/blog/how-to-differentiate-assessment-evaluation-research/
McGillin, V. (2003). Research versus assessment: What’s the difference? Academic Advising Today, 26(4). Retrieved from: https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Research-versus-Assessment-Whats-the-Difference.aspx#:~:text=While%20research%20focuses%20on%20the,or%20decision%2Dmaking%20and%20budgeting
Surbhi, S. (2017). Difference Between Assessment and Evaluation. Key Differences. Retrieved from: https://keydifferences.com/difference-between-assessment-and-evaluation.html
Related insights & research