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Sliders in Employee Surveys: Measurement Theatre

There’s no doubt that sliders look good. Because of this, they have been introduced into employee feedback technology to add a wow factor, sizzle rather than sausage… … pure theatre, you might say. But does that matter?

Sliders in Employee Survey: Measurement Theatre

At a recent conference, I was interested to hear one of the speakers, previously a senior HR person in a large organisation and now a respected HR voice, talking about how technology is changing employee feedback technology.

The theatre

She talked about moving away from the “old-fashioned” scale (typically using radio buttons) to the modern approach of sliders. Even better, she suggested, are sliders with graphics that change as you slide up or down the scale.

The example on the screen was a wilted flower that became less wilted the more you moved the slider to the right.

 Plant Slider

I’ll be honest: At the time I was completely taken in by the theatre of the moment. I was excited by the thought of this slider slash graphical solution to employee feedback that was being praised so highly on stage. I even made loads of notes on how we could do something like it in The People Experience Hub.

The reality

As soon as the presentation was over I got in touch with our Chief Product Officer (Ben) and asked him whether we should put this on our product roadmap.

I suspect that his sigh could be heard across much of the UK...

And his answer: a resounding “No” (or possibly something less polite).

Why? Sliders sound cool!

With his next breath, Ben reminded me of all the reasons we didn't build sliders into the platform in the first place, and all the time we spent discussing and debating them in the early days.

Our Product Development and People Science teams are data enthusiasts and this includes not just the data we hold but how we capture it.

We must capture feedback data in a manner that is; meaningful, repeatable, relatable, accessible and because User Experience (Ux) is essential, it has to be easy to use.

The immediate questions asked to me were:

  1. Will everyone share the same meaning of a flower as it passes through its stages of wiltedness?
  2. Could we repeat the results using a different scale?
  3. What is the scale that we are trying to represent?

Fully wilted, A bit wilted, neither wilted/non-wilted, Not that wilted, Not wilted at all

Today I am a rampant sunflower!

I conceded that a scale with a flower going from wilted to Non-wilted was probably a bit rubbish when considered rationally through a data collection lens.

What does the evidence say?

There’s no doubt that sliders look good. Because of this, they have been introduced into employee feedback technology to add a wow factor, sizzle rather than sausage… … pure theatre, you might say.

But does that matter?

Let's look at what the evidence tells us:

  1. While sliders look great on a desktop, they are not always mobile-friendly. Sliders used on mobile phones result in more non-responses than sliders used on desktop computers (Toepoel and Funke 2018).
  1. Sliders may reduce accessibility, which doesn't fit with our view that technology should be inclusive – Some respondents find it difficult to move the sliding bar on a cell phone (Antoun, Couper, and Conrad 2017).
  1. Finally, and worryingly, sliders register a ‘response’ even if you do nothing, so a null answer will always return a value - Sliders produce more incomplete data compared with clickable radio buttons (Funke 2016).

So, it would appear that we can conclude that Sliders are better for marketing a product than they are for capturing quality data.

So what is the best way to collect employee survey data?

It’s perhaps not exciting, but we’ve found that clickable five-point scales tend to be the most effective way of gathering employee attitudes and opinions.

That’s the short answer, however.

The longer story is that there are pros and cons to different types of scale, and we explore those further in our guide to good employee survey measures.

You may also want to check out our blog that tackles another flawed piece of ‘survey theatre’ eNPS (Employee Net Promoter Score) and what you can do to deliver a better result from your employee surveys.

At The People Experience Hub, we are always happy to connect with new people and talk about employee feedback, what you are up to and how we might be able to help you.


(Check out our guide to running employee surveys](https://pxhub.io/blog/guide-to-employee-surveys-1-design))

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