employee survey cost right

How Much Will My Survey Project Cost?

When asked to help produce a "ballpark estimate" for budgeting a survey project, most survey vendors will defer and ask for more information. Rather than running the risk of providing a number that might turn out to be too low or too high, employee survey providers (i4cp included) prefer to discuss a series of project scoping questions with the organization's survey project planners.

Taking the time to think through these questions is your first good investment. As your organization's survey planner, considering these topics can help you to clarify important aspects of the project and communicate your requirements. For survey vendors, the answers to these questions serve as the platform for understanding the desired project scope and developing a project plan, both of which are required to create a realistic project budget.

While every survey project is unique, these questions can help to clarify the requirements of your project:

Purpose and goals:

  • Why are you thinking about conducting a survey? (e.g.; engagement, alignment, HR plan development, employee satisfaction/motivation, interest in learning what factors drive business outcomes, etc.)
  • What do you want to know? Are you testing a hypothesis?
  • How will the survey results be used? (e.g.; full survey guided development, “scan” survey with little or no feedback or planned follow-up, partial feedback, part of a linkage research project. )


  • Which employees would be invited to participate - Managers? Employees? Temps?
  • Will the survey involve all employees (full census) or targeted (ping or pulse survey)?
  • How many participants?

Survey design approach:

  • Do you have survey questions you know you want (perhaps from a past survey)?
  • Do you want to use specific questions from expert sources or research?
  • Do you have people in your organization that you want to participate in the survey design process?
  • Do you plan to have narrative, "write-in questions"?

History with surveys:

  • Has your organization done employee surveys before?
  • What was your experience – what lessons did you learn? What went well/not well?
  • Was there active follow-up? Communication of results?
  • Is there content (questions, norms) from your past survey you want to bring into a new project?


  • What languages will be required for the project?
  • Will survey questions need to be translated?
  • Will narrative responses need to be translated?


  • Have you decided on the demographics you want to use in the survey? (e.g.; position type and/or level, organization location, age, tenure, gender, etc.)
  • Do you have an idea of the kinds of reports you want?
  • What number of reports will be needed?
  • Will reports need to show trend from a prior survey?
  • Can demographics be "pre-populated" or will they need to be incorporated into the survey instrument?

Survey administration:

  • Does the organization have an experienced project manager for the survey project or will this be a new assignment for that person?
  • Has the organization used a portal for survey access, reporting and tracking follow-up action plans?
  • Will administration be online, paper, phone, kiosk, or mixed?
  • Are there employees who will need assistance to complete the survey?

Presentation of results & recommendations:

  • What role would you like your survey partner to play in this phase of the project – providing reports, analyzing report findings, making recommendations?
  • Written report, in-person presentation(s), both?
  • How important is statistical analysis of the data?

Survey project communication:

  • How will pre-and post-survey communication be handled? Is there a communication person on the survey project team or an internal employee communications function?
  • Do you want your survey vendor to provides suggested pre- and post-survey scripts, text, materials, etc.?

Post-survey analysis and action planning:

  • If post-survey analysis and action-planning is a feature of the project, what role do you want the survey vendor to play?
  • What resources do you expect the survey vendor to provide, for example, manager training, workshop agendas, manager coaching, etc.?

Project timing:

  • What is best time for the organization to administer the survey?
  • When will it be best to provide reports to the project team?
  • When will it be best to present report of analysis and recommendations (if appropriate)?


  • Has a budget already been set for the project?
  • What information does your organization need from the survey vendor to budget for the project? Is there a need for preliminary budget and a detailed "final" budget?

Reviewing these questions inevitably produces follow-on questions that serve to develop a deeper understanding of the organization's survey project requirements, all of which will help your vendor to provide a complete and realistic project pricing estimate.

Patrick Murray is the vice president of Employee Surveys for i4cp. He works with members and other organizations to design and implement organizational effectiveness surveys and strategic organizational assessments.