Do You Believe This Data?

Who takes phone calls from survey takers? Do you take calls from survey takers? Do you know anybody who does?

Consider the following, straight from PR Newswire:

MENLO PARK, Calif., Sept. 11 /PRNewswire/ — Fourteen percent of chief information officers (CIOs) polled for the Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report expect to add information technology (IT) staff in the fourth quarter of 2007, and 2 percent anticipate cutbacks.

So some people, when asked by somebody on the phone, said they were planning to hire people. Hmmmm …

To be fair to Robert Half, which generates this poll, at least it’s an index survey that’s done on a regular basis so you can compare results over time.

On the side of healthy skepticism, I hate research that asks people what they will do in the future. Isn’t it obvious that we have to filter that research according to what makes the person feel better about themselves as they ask the question.

Survey questioner: And how much do you expect to spend on IT purchases in the next six months?
Me: Lots and lots of money because I’m really important and I want to impress you.

Do you see what I mean? People don’t tell random phone survey questioners the truth, they tell them what feels best to say.

Now, following on that “what will people say” theme, do you know what’s the most likely conversation ice breaker between two strangers stuck together on a commercial airplane? More often than anything else, the conversation will start with a complaint. “Late again,” or “these seats get smaller all the time,” or something like that. It’s human nature.

What does that means for customer satisfaction surveys? Political satisfaction surveys? What does that mean for companies that take research straight into their planning process without a few grains of salt?

Here’s more on that Robert Half survey:

The net 12 percent hiring increase compares with net increases of 15 percent projected last quarter and 10 percent projected one year ago. The majority of respondents, 83 percent, foresee no change in fourth-quarter hiring. The Hiring Index and Skills Report is based on interviews with more than 1,400 CIOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. The company has been tracking IT hiring activity in the United States since 1995.

I would have felt slightly better about it if they were polling the same companies over time, particularly the same executives over time, rather than a stratified random sample.

Here’s the link to the full report: CIOs Forecast Active Technology Hiring in Fourth Quarter: Western States Lead the Nation in Hiring, Survey Finds.


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