ECS 2009 - Financial performance

The fieldwork, conducted by telephone, for the European Company Survey 2009 (ECS) was completed in 2009. Eurofound and its key stakeholders decided that it would be helpful to have some indications of the financial performance of the establishments that took part in the survey. Financial performance can be an interesting background variable to help evaluate the polices and practices that companies use in such areas as flexibility, human resources management and social dialogue.

The main ECS questionnaire included some questions on the company’s financial performance and labour productivity. As it was a telephone interview the answers were the subjective opinions of the managers (without referring to files or other data for validation). In the second module on financial performance, a postal questionnaire was used, giving respondents the opportunity to research and check the facts before answering. The aim was to validate the original subjective measures and to extend the analytical potential of the gathered data. The exercise collected additional information on the performance of private-sector establishments in five countries – Finland, Germany, Poland. Spain and the UK – that represent different ‘welfare regimes’.

There were a number of practical problems that affected the response rates and the quality of the collected data. Nevertheless, some significant statistical relations between the subjective and the objective indicators were found and lessons have been learnt from the exercise.

Some of the subjective performance indicators seem to be fairly good indicators for hard economic facts. Specifically, there is a good correlation between the subjective estimates and the actual situation for:

  • developments in the number of people employed
  • the development of added value
  • the economic situation of the company

The pilot study concludes that some of the simpler questions about hard financial figures could be integrated in the telephone interview in future surveys. These questions should refer to the last fiscal year only. The risks of higher non-response rates to those questions and/or inexact figures can be managed and are less challenging than the two-step procedure (telephone and subsequent mail survey) which was applied in this case.

The module is documented in a technical report, Collection of financial performance information for validation of the subjective indicators from the main European Company Survey questionnaire: Methodology, Fieldwork and Results by Miriam Gensicke, Kristin Hajek and Nikolai Tschersich of TNS Infratest Sozialforschung. The report is available on request from