Custom Items or Standard Items?

Posted on January 13, 2014 by David Kovalsky

Answers Marked on a TestMost, if not all, survey companies normally have a list of questions that clients can pick items from.  Also, survey companies allow clients to create their own items that are more specific to their organization.  Which questions should organizations try to use more of, standard items or custom ones?

There is an initial draw to use custom items because it allows organizations to get as specific as they want.  Every business is unique in some way, so custom items can be catered to these differences.  One drawback to custom items is there is no standard to measure the scores against (unless an organization surveys numerous times and continues to use the same custom items, but even then they only can measure a company standard not an industry standard).  Another drawback is that custom items have not been tested for clarity as much as standard items.  The standard items are used time and time again, and have normally eliminated any ambiguity in the questions.

Standard items, on the other hand, allow organizations to see how they stack up with other companies on items/competencies.  The only problems with these items is that there may not be items tapping exactly what the organizations want, or if the items are modified too much it might alter the meaning of the question.

So which is right to use? As much as I hate to say it… It depends.  They each have pro’s and con’s so depending on the goal of the survey and the needs of the organization standard item, custom items, or a combination of the two might be best.

About David Kovalsky

David Kovalsky has been an Intern at TNS Employee Insights since July 2013. Since joining, he has assisted project managers with survey preparation, quality checking, and project design. David earning his Bachelor’s in Psychology from Aurora University, and is currently attending Elmhurst College to receive his Master’s in Industrial and Organizational Psychology in May 2014.

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