Telling a Story through Your Survey Data Visualizations

One the greatest benefits of survey data visualization is its ability to tell a story. But the story may not appear magically on its own. Sometimes you need to pore over mounds of numbers and sift through piles of survey comments before you’re able to tease out the story the data tells.

Perhaps the best way to outline this point is to provide an example. Let’s say you’re looking over employee satisfaction survey data collected using the Likert scale, with responses falling into one of three categories:

  • Satisfied
  • Neutral
  • Dissatisfied

You chose to focus on the marketing and sales departments for your survey data visualization. Your results may look something like this:

Employee Satisfaction Levels: Percent Satisfied

While the data gets you off to a good start, it doesn’t necessarily tell a story. Bringing context to the data as you analyze it and pull in related information is where the story begins to take shape. Data without any context can be tough to interpret. Context helps bring it to life while helping your audience gain a better understanding of what it all means.

You can begin to tease out the story from the data by considering a number of key points, such as:

  • Do departments within your organization share the same satisfaction levels in the same areas? Are there any anomalies that catch your attention and are worth a mention?
  • Do you see any interesting comparisons with other departments that could be helpful for interpreting the results?
  • Do you have any qualitative data, such as survey comments, you can use to gain an even better understanding of the results?
  • Has your company performed any specific actions that are having an impact on the results? If yes, explain what they are and their impact based on what the data reveals.

Final Story

Once you analyze the data more deeply while going through the key points, you can see a story start to emerge. Not only can you rearrange the data to showcase the point you’re trying to make, but you can pull in other information to provide a clearer picture.

Employee Satisfaction Levels: Percent Satisfied

Your story began to take shape by:

  • Adding data from the customer service department to the mix
  • Calculating the average satisfaction level based on data from the three departments
  • Arranging categories from least satisfied to most satisfied, based on the average
  • Taking note of categories that provided the highest and lowest levels of employee satisfaction
  • Pinpointing anomalies, along with explanations for those anomalies if relevant and available

What’s the Story?

Your survey data visualization indicates your company is not perceived as a place that provides opportunities for advancement and growth across at least three different departments. The lack of room for advancement can be traced back to the company’s practice of always hiring senior positions from outside sources instead of promoting from within. This may be something to explore at the next board meeting.

Another piece of the story that stands out is the customer service department members’ dissatisfaction about not being able to use their talent and skills.

Here you may have reviewed employee survey comments to discover customer service reps are reprimanded if they come up with creative solutions for solving customer issues, even if those solutions work more effectively than standard protocol. This is another topic that can be discussed at the next company meeting.

You can highlight the points of your story through additional survey visualization techniques, summary points that accompany your survey data visualization, or a combination of both. Just make sure to keep the information concise and relevant, without cluttering up your chart or bogging down readers with extraneous information.

You’ve successfully told a story through your survey data visualization if your audience is quickly able to assess the main points you’re highlighting, any relevant reasoning behind those points, and, in the best case scenario, action that can be taken to remedy a situation or otherwise give the story a happy ending.