Where Research Skills Fit into the Workplace
Sometimes when I talk about the importance of qualitative or quantitative research, students’ eyes begin to glaze over. Yet, the importance of understanding this research should not be underestimated.
In the past, industrial research was relegated to offices of R&D – where engineers were responsible for researching and developing new products, especially those involving technical specifications. Today, we find research in every area of a business. Starting from those who create the business plan, who have to include research about competitors, to those planning to market and sell products or services who need to know all there is to know about potential customers, their preferences, likes/dislikes and spending habits, to those who create the products and services to find out how they will be used, including the hindrances to use that will result in customer service requests. For their part, the customer service team needs to learn about the pattern of contacts received (calls or emails) and seeks to streamline their own processes. Those in finance need to learn about the pattern of money flowing into and out of the business to make predictive models to ensure sustained viability and optimally, growth over time.
Therefore, whichever area of an organization one seeks to work, one will encounter and will be asked to produce “research.”
Knowing if research refers to the collection or analysis of data is one area where one can distinguish oneself in these conversations, as it may be the case that even though you might be asked to gather research, managers making this request might not be familiar enough with research methods themselves to specify how it should be done.
Taking courses in research methods, including those that help one learn how to gather data through surveys, interviews, ethnographic observations, as well as courses that help to analyze data, including statistical interpretations of frequencies and correlations, or patterns of behavior that can be categorized and sorted into sensible narratives, all serve to make each prospective employee or entrepreneur more knowledgeable and marketable.