A Career in Social Research

Social research is carried out by social scientists predominantly in the fields of social psychology and sociology along with the branches of political science, human geography, education, social anthropology, and social policy. Social scientists understand social life through research methods that are either quantitative, collecting and studying numerical data, or qualitative, examining personal experiences and interpreting them as they relate to social phenomena. Quantitative researchers often use questionnaires, statistical data, and surveys, while qualitative researchers rely on such methods as participant observation, interviews, and focus groups.

According to the Social Research Association, the principal areas of employment for social researchers are in the academic community, government, independent research institutes, and commercial market research organizations.

Many market research organizations have specialist social research divisions and employ graduate trainees along with more experienced social researchers. The Market Research Society, the world’s largest association dealing with market, opinion, and social research, along with market analysis, business intelligence, consultancy, and customer insight, offers much information concerning research news and jobs in research.

”There are various entry points to the industry; however, it is primarily a graduate-led industry, and the majority of applicants for research executive positions will be expected to hold a degree, although the particular degree subject is of less importance. In addition to an educational qualification, a number of personal qualities are essential, e.g. strong interpersonal skills, interest in people and their behavior, analytical ability, and organizational skills,” according to MRS’s website.

Though the majority of social scientists are anthropologists, political scientists, sociologists, geographers, and historians, there are opportunities within research for non-graduates, such as a career as a field manager or research assistant.

One can start out in market research by joining an agency (agencies range from smaller consultancies to large international companies) or ”by working client-side, as a market research specialist within a client organization, where you are likely to be one of a small number of in-house specialists, responsible for conducting a certain amount of your own research and for commissioning external agencies to conduct larger projects,” according to MRS.

See MRS’s webpage on becoming a market researcher for more information on starting out, training, important personal attributes, and the everyday work associated with being a market researcher.

In terms of conducting social research for academic organizations, researchers often work for large, well-recognized research facilities that have charitable funding or endowment funding. Such research centers typically conduct research for local authorities or the government.

Many trade unions, charities, independent organizations, and lobby groups employ their own researchers for short periods of time to conduct single studies.

According to the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, ”social scientists need excellent written and oral communication skills to report research findings and to collaborate on research. Successful social scientists also need intellectual curiosity and creativity because they constantly seek new information about people, things, and ideas. The ability to think logically and methodically is also essential to analyze complicated issues, such as the relative merits of various forms of government.” Social researchers also need objectivity, systematic work habits, open minds, patience, and perseverance.

The demand for political science research is increasing due to growing interest in foreign affairs and politics, particularly immigration and environmental and social policy issues. Social researchers may also find work carrying out policy research for nonprofit organizations and consulting firms, and expertise in society and social behavior is also valuable to companies in marketing, advertising, and product development.

Advertisements

Taking a Break from Work

Determining whether to take a break from work is never an easy decision, and sometimes it is a decision that is totally unplanned. Taking a break from one’s career also is never simple. Whether you are in a financial situation that will allow you to take a break from work might be the single biggest influencing factor in this decision.

For the purposes of this article, we will not consider medical reasons for taking a break. This is not to say that such reasons do not fall under the concerns of human resources management. But when health issues occur, they do not leave much room for consideration; if your health or that of a family member demands it, you will probably have to take a break from work.

Of course, you do need to consider different factors carefully if you are looking at a sabbatical from professional work. You have spent a considerable amount of time and money on acquiring the education that you have. In all probability you have also spent time on additional training. Apart from your personal talents, your employer too has invested in on-the-job training for you as a valuable human resource.

An entirely separate consideration is the satisfaction that you are deriving from your work. Whether or not you are happy to go to work daily and whether the environment around you is conducive to your well-being are questions that will influence your decision.

Further, a break from work need not mean that you will stop working altogether. A break is not driven by the sheer necessity to stop working but by a need to restore strength and resources, whether mental or physical.

Making the Decision

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of a break is probably how it will affect your market value. Talking about your decision within your peer group may help, particularly if there are others who have made similar decisions in the past. Discussions within a peer group can help in more ways than one. They can bring diverse matters to your notice — for example, potential issues surrounding the division of household chores.

The decision to take a break need not be a solitary one. You can talk out matters with the human resources department. This is especially useful when chalking out your strengths and professional capabilities. An open and clear talk can help you assess your professional strengths and weaknesses. It can also help you decide whether you need to add value to your resume by taking courses or completing other training.

Conclusion

It is easy to think of leaving one’s job in times of stress. However, this is a decision that needs careful thinking over; it also calls for an assessment of one’s financial and professional standing. Talking to one’s peer group as well as other professionals within the workplace — such as human resources personnel — can help you decide whether the decision and its timing can be viable for you.

Smooth and Effective Operations:

I would like to present some ideas which might prove helpful to operations managers and directors tasked with handling company operations smoothly and effectively:

  • Identifying oneself as an authority is very important to a top operations executive. The ideas put forth by you may not always be the best ones, but your contributions and opinions play an important role in reaching the best solution. Dozens and dozens of potential solutions must be considered before arriving at a plan. Being creative and outgoing is more important than supplying the best idea every time.
  • To think of better strategies, allocate some time to think about operational problems amidst your busy schedule. Allocating time to think about certain topics results in innovative strategies and inventive tactics.
  • Persuasion drives leadership. Successful operations managers and COOs have to convince their staffs of the benefits of their points of view in order to get things done.
  • Make your operations staff feel important by asking for their support and delegating important tasks to relevant professionals in the group.
  • Most of the time, “fear-of-failure syndrome” is vastly exaggerated. Operations managers sometimes feel that the risk involved in a particular project is too great given the potential rewards. A “risk-versus-reward” mindset can prove to be detrimental to company ambitions. Instead, focus should be diverted to the process rather than the result for smooth functioning of a venture.
  • Risks usually are imaginable, and they can be managed by using the “untying-the-rope” approach: loosening the strands by diving right in and observing how the problem will permeate the company. By getting to the crux of a risk, one can solve any problem effectively. Rather than worrying about the worst, start expecting the worst, and then plan steps to nullify the potential impact.
  • Always be enthusiastic. As a leader, take the initiative to pep things up if the work is bogging everyone down.
  • If certain company operations are preventing the company from focusing on its objectives, it may be wise to outsource the non-core sections of the company to independent companies that specialize in outsourcing activities. It is cost-effective and saves substantial money to divert to fulfilling more useful tasks.
  • It has rightly been said that when cooperation is at work, communities prosper. Patricia Cumbie, a writer and consultant for Cooperative Development Services (CDS), claims that for 90% of the problems in today’s businesses, poor operations are responsible. The best indicator of successful operational tactics is employee and customer satisfaction. Cumbie also quotes Mel Braverman, another consultant and team leader at CDS, who says “operations are like a jigsaw puzzle for your organization. You don’t put it together all at once, and there are logical steps to follow by looking at labor, margin, and expenses.”
  • Promote a culture of accountability in the company, with you as an operations manager setting an example by taking the blame for anything that goes wrong. This will help others to be more proactive and responsible.

Conclusion

According to experts, company operations should be managed like a ship — always balance the cargo on board equally on all sides so that the ship does not tilt on one side. Operations managers can handle company operations effectively and smoothly if they are willing to cooperate, be receptive to suggestions, and put the company’s interests above their own interests.

Call Center Operations – Challenges

Be it for research, making sales, or providing after-sales service, companies heavily rely on their call centers. Call center managers face daily challenges in balancing targets provided by management with the basic operations involved in running their call centers. A few of these challenges are described below.

1. Agent Attrition Rates

A number of surveys have revealed that call centers have the worst attrition rates. An annual agent turnover rate of more than 25% is witnessed across the industry. The primary reasons that employees decide to quit are:

  • More attractive opportunities elsewhere
  • Low salaries
  • Inconvenient work hours
  • Redundant work
  • Fewer career advancement opportunities

Call center operations suffer due to high agent turnover. Managers have to constantly train new staff only to find them gone in a year.

2. High Cost of Operations

Call centers are full of computers and technological gadgets that need proper maintenance. Furthermore, a call center that decides to purchase a workforce management system (WFM) must pay more than $50,000.

3. Cultural Complexities

When call centers are outsourced, managers face cultural complexities in their operations. Calls to and from foreign countries often meet cultural barriers that pose significant challenges in call center operations.

Solutions for Effective Call Center Operations

Since a single challenge may have multiple solutions, the implementation of the best solutions for operational problems is essential. Four specific call center operations solutions are discussed below.

1. Creating an Intranet

Call center operations can be more effective if an intranet is put to use. Agents should be encouraged to use the intranet, which may offer a help desk, recreational activities information, messages from management, company newsletters, and details on the company’s latest developments. This can help staff members remain connected with management.

2. Conducting Research

Every call center has its unique problems. Though time consuming, research on the requirements of your staff and customers will ensure optimal performance. A survey of staff and customers can be conducted, or you can analyze call logs or statistics to gather information on problems customers are running into.

3. Staff Training

A vital part of call center operations is training staff members. Agents should be aware of the full range of information available to them. Proper trainers provide the instructions needed to prepare an agent for success.

4. Examining Key Statistics

There are certain indicators that show the level of performance in a call center. Call center operations can be run more smoothly if the manager leverages on statistics pertaining to factors such as call volume, cost per call, percentage of successful calls, average time per call, and customer satisfaction.

Conclusion

Managing call center operations requires high-level troubleshooting and management skills as well as patience and the capacity to work under pressure. By studying the challenges faced by their call centers and applying the right solutions, managers can run call center operations more effectively.