How Does it Feel to Be a Market Researcher in Asia?

As part of the Asia Research magazine’s Staff Satisfaction Survey, TapestryWorks used the StoryWorks® Emotional Profiling tool to capture the feelings of staff through a simple card selection test. Emotional Profiling is based on 12 motivational categories that encapsulate 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 in order to answer two separate questions. First, participants were asked to choose the cards that best expressed their current feelings about their employer. Second, they were asked to choose the cards that they associated with their ideal employer. Their choices were mapped onto 12 motivational categories, which generated an Emotional Profile highlighting staff goals, the feelings (both positive and negative) associated with achieving those goals, and a measure of overall sentiment. ‘Current’ and ‘ideal’ profiles were compared, to understand the gap between staff aspirations and reality.

So 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 (for ‘control’ and ‘knowledge’) and around 40% of staff reported negative feelings (‘chaos’ and ‘ignorance’). This balance of positive and negative feelings matched the overall sentiment levels across the sample (with positive sentiment being 20% higher than negative sentiment).

The next most important feelings are that of ‘belonging’–most sentiment around this goal is positive–and ‘discovery’. The need to feel individual is something that is 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 mostly consistent priority of feelings across various market research agencies (both global and Asian-based companies), although some differences were apparent.

Staff in Greater China had the highest levels of negative sentiment across the 12 categories, and also the strongest associations with ‘control’ and ‘knowledge’. Indian staff tended to feel more courageous, while Indonesian staff chose images relating to rebelliousness more often than staff in other countries. Indonesian and Singaporean staff members were more likely to associate their  employer with ‘freedom’.

The differences across job levels are particularly interesting, as those at the top of the career ladder have a lot in common with those beginning their climb. 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 felt more strongly at the middle levels of seniority (from Project Manager to Research Director  level) but is less the case for those on either side of this level. The need for knowledge is also felt more strongly at middle levels (particularly for Associate Directors and Research Directors), whereas the need for mastery only appears at Director level and is the strongest for Managing Directors.

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

However, there are some differences. The most striking among them is the strong desire of those who have just  started their career to be creative and innovative (this is twice as important as any other goal and much higher for entry-level employees than for any other job level). Perhaps this result will give something for companies to consider when they recruit 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) than any other country, and researchers in Greater China want a little more freedom. 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 for the two questions, to see how similar, or different, the feelings are between current reality and future aspirations.

TapestryWorks examined this gap between feelings. Our findings show that 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 assessed staff satisfaction (measured on a 10-point scale) by dividing the responses 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 who were “Neutral” the similarity was 26%, and finally 78% were “Satisfied” and 90% were “Very satisfied”.

We then asked whether or not the participant intended to stay or leave his/her employer in the next 12 months and divided the responses into four categories: “Will not stay”, “Not sure”, “Quite likely to stay” and “Very likely to stay”. Again the relationship was very strong, with those who “Will not stay” having a similarity score of -30%, “Not sure” at 2%, “Quite likely to stay” at 65% and “Very likely to stay” at 92%.

Emotional Profiling in the Asia Research Staff Satisfaction Survey shows that the gap between feelings about a staff member’s current employer and an ideal employer is very revealing of levels of satisfaction and intention to stay, without there being a need for asking these questions directly.

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