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Article | EX Insights

Survey best practice: Inside the Willis Towers Watson Key Strengths and Key Opportunities algorithm

Talent|Employee Engagement

By Adam Zuckerman | September 23, 2019

We invite you to explore the inner workings of our KSKO algorithm and how it helps prioritize survey results to improve your outcomes.

Most employee surveys provide a lot of survey information. Even with the trend toward more frequent surveying, which creates shorter and more focused surveys, it is still easy to find yourself overwhelmed in a sea of data. How do you make sense of it all? It is for this reason prioritizing results for leaders and managers to focus on what is most critical and deserving of their time and energy is so valuable.

Benchmarking provides context

One of the most common ways of prioritizing results is benchmarking your results by comparing survey scores to some standard and focusing on those which stand out the most. Benchmarks can be:

  1. Internal, i.e., other groups within one’s company
  2. External, e.g., industry normative data
  3. Historical, i.e., scores from a prior survey

Today, most companies use all three types of benchmarks to prioritize findings.

Predicting business outcomes

Another way to prioritize is to use predictive analytics to determine which survey question most strongly predict desired outcomes. Willis Towers Watson has identified four classes of outcomes most relevant to employee surveys:

  1. HR (e.g., engagement, attrition)
  2. Operational (e.g., safety incidents, on-time deliveries)
  3. Financial (e.g., profit, revenue)
  4. Market (e.g., customer satisfaction)

Over the years, we have helped clients identify the strongest predictors of a number of different types of relevant outcomes, which can get pretty specific and downright technical, e.g. using levels of nurse engagement to predict bloodstream infection rates among patients. Drop us a line if you’d like to discuss how to best predict outcomes for your industry. We love a challenge.

Let the algorithm do the hard work

If done manually, incorporating all those different methods of prioritization can take a lot of time and effort. That’s where our Key Strengths/Key Opportunities (KSKO) algorithm can be a life saver. The algorithm’s results, applied uniquely to the data in each report, display on each manager’s survey dashboard. The algorithm identifies three survey questions that should be celebrated and built upon (i.e., strengths) and three questions that deserve attention and action (i.e., opportunities). It combines multiple methods of prioritization simultaneously to triangulate on the key issues.

So, for example, the algorithm might highlight a question as an opportunity by evaluating how it performs against an external norm and a parent group and an historical score, as well as how strongly it predicts engagement. By incorporating multiple criteria, the opportunities identified (and conversely the strengths) are those which perform worst (or best) across all criteria considered collectively.

A library of insights

Further, what makes our KSKO algorithm so uniquely valuable is the inclusion of our Linkage Library. We have worked with hundreds of companies over several decades to identify the top statistical predictors of the business outcomes and aggregated the results of these many linkage analyses into a library, organized by business outcome.

Our Linkage Library, continually growing, now serves as a reference point for new projects and helps identify the kinds of survey questions most strongly predictive of relevant KPIs. In practice, this means if you are focused on, say Customer Satisfaction, the library indicates which survey questions are most likely to predict Customer Satisfaction.

In this example, questions on local collaboration and teamwork most consistently predict customer satisfaction outcomes. Knowing this, we then configure the algorithm to increase the likelihood these questions will be selected as strengths or opportunities, should it be warranted by the other prioritization criteria.

In other words, if two questions score identically versus prior scores, external benchmarks and company parent groups, the one more likely to predict customer satisfaction will be selected as an opportunity or strength. In this way, our KSKO algorithm ensures your managers are focused on issues aligned with the company’s strategic goals and KPIs.

Modern tools have made deploying a survey relatively easy and quick. Our KSKO algorithm is now helping to do the same with issue prioritization.

Sign in to your Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software account today to see KSKO in your results dashboard or contact us for a demo.


Product Leader
Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software

Adam is responsible for the overall development and direction of Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software. His goal is to create the world’s greatest software for delivering insight and enabling actions that enhance employee experience, company culture, and business performance. Outside of work, Adam enjoys off-roading in his Jeep and spending time with his family. Follow Adam on Twitter.

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