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Better research, better rewards!

Brittany Brathwaite

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Greater emphasis must be placed on research as a guiding force behind business decisions. Gathering pertinent information or data about potential strategic business decisions is crucial, and it can be utilized for many objectives from establishing salary bands for different categories of employees to implementing flexible work arrangements and establishing disciplinary procedures.
Apt information gathering enables a business to make informed, intelligent decisions that can translate to competitive advantage, business success, as well as sustain or increase its demand in the labour market.
Ascertaining your internal (employees) and external customer needs and wants and aptly conceptualizing your product and/or service to cater to them is crucial to any business, whether big or small.
Gathering information or carrying out research does not have to be extremely costly or tedious; the extent of such is heavily dependent on one’s specific industry, the size of the business and most importantly, what information is crucial and intricately linked to the potential decision or policy.
For example, some large organizations in the manufacturing industry continuously invest in research and development in order to maximize profitability; where one’s budget can accommodate such it can be an advantageous investment.
Conversely, with small businesses where cost is often an obstacle, utilizing as many lost cost information sources may be key to getting the required data.
This is where it is important to highlight and understand the two different types of research: primary and secondary.
Primary research is first-hand knowledge you gain directly from the marketplace and often uses techniques such as focus groups and surveys.
This type of research is usually more costly – however, it allows a business to better target their efforts and understand customers in real time.
Secondary research is usually in the form of published studies or statistics available online or from your library, providing broad knowledge about your markets. Learning about your business and industry from secondary research can be a good solid start and any company, large or small, can afford to utilize secondary information.
The Internet serves as a source for a flood of business information. There is no doubt that market research via the Web saves time and money but accuracy is equally important, thus obtaining information from paid and secure search engines may be a better option.
Pay attention to jurisdictions as well. While it may be tempting to refer to the United States for data and information, if you can find a jurisdiction with similar frameworks or industry standards, the information you gather will be more useful.
With specific reference to the area of human resources, a company should be constantly mindful of the importance of gaining and maintaining information and data on employment and labour market trends, as well as internal human resource trends.
Maintaining accurate records of things such as absenteeism and sick leave is intricately linked to determining the operating costs of a company at the end of its financial year, dependent on one’s business context internal trends should be identified and ably tracked.
External employment and labour market trends range from the increase or decrease in salary bands across the labour market, whether in a particular industry or role, to the demand and supply of the existing human resources with particular skills. This type of information has the propensity to ably guide people now starting businesses and those currently operating and looking to diversify.
Changing trends in various areas, whether on a macro or micro level, can directly impact companies’ profit margin as well as their competitive advantage, thus companies should emphasize the importance of carrying out research and/or maintaining accurate data on specified impactful areas.
Many companies fall into the trap where they focus only on their external customers and neglect the very important internal customers, its employees. It is essential to continuously gauge and ascertain what motivates your employees and what you can do to improve your employees’ work experience.
Additionally, they are the ones who interact with your customers most often and therefore are a wealth of information. Employees are pivotal in the everyday function of one’s organization, and maintaining their satisfaction is intrinsically linked to ensuring the productivity of your business.
Whether expanding a new line or starting a new business, market research for a small or large business is a necessary component for success. As any business owner learns soon enough, risks are part of business and market research helps businesses to assess these risks. Benefits range from finding hidden niches and preserving capital to building customer loyalty and identifying more business opportunities with existing customers.
All too often business owners will utilize anecdotal information to make decisions and downplay the importance of targeted research.
You have spent many years in your industry – who needs market research, right? Wrong. You carry plenty of baggage and preconceived notions of needs and wants. It is unbelievable how many businesses are launched without ever talking to a single potential customer, and how many policies are imposed without discussion with those they will impact.
Avoid these common errors and use research wisely to position your business for success.
• Brittany Brathwaite is a research officer at the Barbados Employers’ Confederation.