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How does it Feel to be a Market Researcher?

How does it really feel to be a market researcher in Asia? Is market research all about feeling smart, intelligent and insightful or do the goals of researchers go beyond the rhetoric of most agencies?

As part of the Asia Research magazine Staff Satisfaction Survey, TapestryWorks used the StoryWorks® Emotional Profiling tool to capture the feelings of staff through a simple visual card sort. Emotional Profiling is based on 12 motivational segments that capture the most fundamental human goals: courage, creativity, discovery, freedom, fun, love, belonging, nurture, innocence, control, knowledge and mastery.

In the survey, staff selected as many cards as they wanted from a set of 24 images, based on two separate questions. Firstly, participants were asked to choose those cards that best expressed their current feelings about their employer. Secondly, they were asked to choose those cards that they associated with the ideal employer. The choices of cards are mapped back onto 12 motivational segments to create an Emotional Profile of the goals of staff and the feelings associated with those goals (both positive and negative) and a measure of overall sentiment. Current and ideal profiles are compared to understand the gap between aspirations and current reality.

How do staff feel today? Overall, the strongest feelings are motivated by the thirst for knowledge and the need for control (both equally important). In both cases around 60% of staff reported positive feelings (‘in control’ and ‘intelligent’) and around 40% of staff reported negative feelings (‘chaotic’ and ‘ignorant’).  This balance of positive and negative feelings matched the overall sentiment levels across the sample (with positive sentiment 20% higher than negative sentiment).

The next most important feelings are that of belonging, although most sentiment around this goal was positive, and discovery (individualism).  The need to feel individual is something that is more strongly reflected in future aspirations for many staff, along with the need to feel creative. These are the two areas that show the biggest gap between current feelings and future aspirations.

The results show a very consistent priority of feelings across different types of market research agency (including global and Asian based companies), although some differences were also apparent.

Staff in Greater China had the highest levels of negative sentiment and also the strongest associations with control and knowledge. Indian staff feel more courageous, while Indonesian staff choose images relating to rebelliousness more often than other countries. Indonesian and Singaporean staff are more likely to associate their employer with freedom.

The differences across job levels are particularly interesting, as those at the top of the research ladder have a lot in common with those starting on their climb up. Research Executives (and Senior Research Executives) along with Managing Directors (and CEOs) show the strongest associations with feelings of creativity and rebelliousness (i.e., feeling different).

The need to belong is stronger at middle levels of seniority (from Project Manager to Research Director level) but is lower for those less senior and more senior. The need for knowledge is also stronger at middle levels (particularly for Associate Directors and Research Directors, whereas the need for mastery only appears at Director level and is strongest for Managing Directors.

Overall, the aspirations of staff (the second profiling question) are quite consistent in showing the desire to move a little away from feelings associated with control and knowledge and towards more feeling of creativity and discovery (associated with exploring the world and exploring the mind).

However, there are some differences. The most striking is the strong desire of those who have just started their career to be creative and innovative (twice as important as any other goal and much higher than for any other job level). Perhaps this is something for companies to consider in recruiting graduates and entry-level employees?

There are also some differences between countries in terms of aspirations from an ideal employer. Singaporeans show the strongest urge for more creativity and discovery. Indonesian researchers have a greater need for belonging and love (appreciation) of any country and researchers in Greater China want a little more freedom (perhaps to break away from the tyranny of their current feelings of control?). Indian researchers express the greatest need for courage and independence.

The aspirations of researchers are also helpful in understanding the gap between what they feel now and how they would like to feel. The simplest way to measure this is to look at the correlation between the cards chosen across the two questions, representing a measure of the similarity or alternatively the difference between current reality and future aspirations.

Using this measure of similarity, TapestryWorks looked at the relationship between the “gap” in feelings and the results based on the more conventional metrics used in the survey. These findings show that the Emotional Profiling provides highly predictive feedback on staff sentiment as well as a highly granular break down of staff feelings and employer challenges.

We first we looked at staff satisfaction (measured on a 10 point scale), breaking ratings down into four categories: Not satisfied, Neutral, Satisfied and Very satisfied. For those “not satisfied” with their current employer the similarity between their current employer and ideal employer was -46% (a correlation of -0.46). For those “neutral” the similarity is 26%, for “satisfied” 78% and for “very satisfied” 90%.

We then looked at a question about intention to stay or leave employer in the next 12 months. Again the relationship was very strong, with those who “will not stay” having a similarity score of -30%, those “not sure” at 2%, “quite likely to stay” at 65% and “very likely to stay” at 92%.

Intention to stay Similarity between feelings of current employer and ideal employer
Will not stay -30%
Not sure 2%
Quite likely to stay 65%
Very likely to stay 92%

Emotional profiling in the Asia Research staff satisfaction survey shows that the gap between feelings about current employer and those of an ideal employer are very revealing of levels of satisfaction and intention to stay, without the need to ask these questions directly.

More importantly, Emotional Profiling breaks down these feelings in a highly granular way. The key finding of the Asia Research staff survey is that employers looking for higher levels of staff satisfaction and retention should communicate more about the opportunities to be creative and individual and less about the importance of knowledge and control. The results show that this might be particularly important for recruiting new talent, perhaps the greatest challenge currently facing the industry in Asia.

[This article was originally written for Asia Research magazine]

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