Employee, Organization and Nonprofit Research

Thornhill Associates has extensive experience listening to “internal customers” with employee and member organization research along with an understanding of nonprofits from the inside out.

EMPLOYEE RESEARCH: Providing employees with a protected environment to openly and productively share honest opinions and experiences takes a special sensitivity. And, as employee research can have an impact on morale (good or bad), it is best to use a research professional experienced with the nuances. A professional executive search consultant early on in her career, Susan Thornhill brings a very unique skill set to employee research. Her extensive experience consulting with senior and human resources executives on critical organizational issues and her sensitivity to employees and their concerns has enabled Susan to identify and share significant key research findings having a proven impact on retention.

NOT-FOR-PROFIT and ORGANIZATION RESEARCH:  A consummate volunteer her entire professional career, Susan Thornhill has served in senior leadership and Board of Director capacities for youth, service and professional organizations. This has provided her an added understanding of not-for-profit organizations “from the inside out”.  Thornhill Associates has successfully conducted many research studies for a variety of not-for-profits with research objectives such as:

  • Member and employee recruitment/retention
  • Strategic planning foundational research
  • Sponsorship program design
  • Concept testing and design of a new association
  • Ad testing
  • Teen health issues
  • Donor preferences
  • Patient challenges, wants and needs


RESTAURANT EMPLOYEE RESEARCH:  A well known family dining restaurant chain with many restaurants run by franchisees was suffering from general management turnover in excess of industry norms.  They did not know why people were leaving, did not understand the costs involved, and no one was accountable.  Traditional focus groups using a very effective collage projective technique identified and highlighted key issues and opportunities.  The research played a key role in a major retention initiative.  The company achieved a 50% turnover reduction in one year of both General Managers and Assistant General Managers and a 12% reduction in turnover of hourly employees, providing savings of approximately $2 million.  Thornhill Associates joined with the company in presenting this case study at the California HR Conference by PIHRA – Professionals in Human Resources Association.

RETAIL EMPLOYEE RESEARCH:   A leading retail not-for-profit in Southern California was experiencing difficulty in recruiting quality employees.  Thornhill Associates conducted a comprehensive research study having two key information objectives:  understanding the aspects of their retail store management positions that were perceived to be most and least valuable (research with current employees) and determining the perception of the organization as a place of employment and how that perception might be enhanced (research with outside or prospective retail store managers).   Specific key insights were identified to help the organization improve employment experiences and to position themselves to be more favorably viewed as a place of employment.

ROTARY CLUBS NONPROFIT RESEARCH: Member retention and strategic positioning – Following a pro-bono research project for the Rotary Club of Los Angeles, Thornhill Associates was hired by five other large Rotary Clubs (Sacramento, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Austin, Rockford) to conduct research with members providing clear direction on how to best position the Club for a successful future.

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATION NONPROFIT RESEARCH:  When the Qualitative Research Consultants Association needed to revamp their Annual Conference sponsor program, Thornhill Associates conducted one-on-one brainstorming interviews with 17 key conference sponsors to understand motivations for sponsorship and program level acceptance.  Treating the sponsors as “strategic partners” provided for engagement and ownership, resulting in the development of program highly successful both in increased income generation and sponsor satisfaction.

Susan Thornhill’s nonprofit volunteer affiliations.