Prioritizing People in a New Labor Paradigm

by Kayla Cousineau, SVP Operations

Kayla Joined the MRX industry and OpinionRoute in June 2022. Since then, she has written periodic reflections on her transition into our space, and the parallels with her past industry, Healthcare.

Market research is not immune to the labor disruption that we have faced since 2020. Significant amounts of knowledge work shifted as talent began working remotely. For us high Ds (in the DISC profile), the GSD (“Get Shit Done”) mentality is ingrained in our DNA. I don’t care where you do it, just do it.

I was doing hybrid remote work in healthcare before the pandemic, so this shift rocked my world less. Before Covid, you had to earn that flexibility, if you were lucky enough to have it as an option at all. Suddenly, the remote/hybrid dynamic forced a high trust factor into every manager’s lap. 

Measuring What Matters in MRX

When I jumped into MRX, one pleasant difference showed itself early. We have real ways to measure the success of our operations. Healthcare has LOTS of data, but it revolves mostly around clinical care and finances. It’s difficult to measure operational project initiatives, especially ones that span multiple locations or an entire health system. When I entered the world of market research in June 2022, I was greeted with a surprise: Projects have an end. Can you believe it? Yes, to my past healthcare colleagues, read that again.  Projects have defined endings. 

Market research is an industry of data and insights, so it is only appropriate to use metrics to help manage an operational workforce. OpinionRoute’s workflow platform easily shows active project progress, past project performance, talent workloads, project tasks and stages, quality information by vendor, etc. Everyone has access to performance at any time, which is key to managing a hybrid workforce and maintaining high levels of trust. When my intellectual curiosity bubbles up to a question I do not have the answer to, I’m in our system noodling around. This saves my team from countless random Slack messages from me.

Connecting with a workforce that is half remote and half hybrid in our Cleveland HQ office is always something we strive to do better. We were lucky to welcome our entire operations team to Cleveland in January to kick off 2023. As I facilitated a roundtable during the closing of our three days together, one common theme emerged— how special and advantageous it was to all be in the same room.

Move with a Collective Purpose

“That’s how we have always done it.” My favorite response. When I hear this, I take it as a challenge to seek a better way, if one exists.

Years ago in healthcare, most clinicians were forced to migrate to electronic medical record (EMR) systems. Many physicians talk about the inefficiency that tech creates in their workflows, not to mention the ongoing learning curve that it requires. But oh, the data we could glean from the EMR! It is one of the best ways that common ground is found between administrators and clinicians because, as we all know, the data does not lie.

MRX professionals are in a similar position as some physicians were before Epic became mainstream. Doctors did not all want change, and many still kick and scream about extra work.  But the downstream impact was enormous. Data aggregation directly impacts the ease at which an emergency caregiver can access your medical history when they most need it. With adoption so widespread now, the back-end efficiencies are often taken for granted.  But this never could’ve happened without a shift to technology.

Now translate that to MRX, where professionals spend hours each day due to things like:

  • Researchers manually review raw data for fraud,
  • Project managers juggle their priorities of the day with folders created in Outlook,
  • Entire teams react to client requests around the clock without any breathing room to consider efficiencies,
  • Full research companies plodding through inefficiencies connected to work siloes or inconsistent SOPs.

MRX is at a crossroads—right at ‘Less Time Ave.’ and ‘Do More Blvd’. The best news of all is that technology exists to create efficiencies to retain talent by freeing talent to play at the top of their game and to find resources to grow their customer base.  Resources that can be spent on events like our January summit. 

Regularly, I challenge my team to define or redefine steps in a process.  I caveat that with “What should happen 80% of the time?” Just like building a surgeon’s preference cards, we can’t get bogged down on that one outlier instance where needed equipment was missing from the operating room.

The opportunity is now for MRX firms to start rethinking it all.  Prioritize your people by measuring what matters most- how they use their precious time.  Then, use those insights to free them to lift the entire company to greater heights.

Click here for previous reflections from Kayla!

Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

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