Career Lessons Learned from Administering a Survey…
As I mentioned in my last post, one of the projects I am working on this summer involved a survey. Although I was only hoping to gain information about employees’ experiences using certain software platforms, much to my surprise, I also learned or reaffirmed several career-lessons:
Lesson 1 – Building rapport with others is key in getting their support/assistance: When I realized that I would have to administer a survey to collect data for my project with the Technology Solutions (TS) department, I was a little worried about how successful I would be in my endeavor as City employees are surveyed on a regular basis. Being cognizant of the potential that employees are over-surveyed, I decided to meet with a number of key people in each department who could encourage others in their department to complete my survey. In my meetings with these key employees, I collected basic information for my project; but, more importantly, I made sure to build a connection with them. That way, when I emailed out my survey, it would not come from a faceless individual from one of the City’s 24 departments; rather, it would come from someone who spent an hour or so getting to know them. Overall, this strategy paid great dividends as my overall survey response rate was above 75 percent. I doubt that the response rate would have been that high had I not worked to build a working relationship before sending out my survey to employees. I’ve always known that building relationships with others is important, but this was the first time I experienced the benefits directly. As I look forward to a career in local government, I know that continuing to build relationships will be imperative in getting things done.
Lesson 2 – Understand that technology is a double-edged sword: More often than not, a new technology will improve the way certain tasks are done. However, one should be aware that that is not always the case. For example, in creating my survey, I decided to use a “drag-and-drop” format for a ranking question, instead of the typical “fill-in-the-rank” format.” I figured that respondents would enjoy the fact that the “drag-and-drop” format updates ranks automatically when options are re-arranged – unlike with a “fill-in-the-rank” format, where the respondents have to delete and re-enter ranks each time they change their minds. Unfortunately, this was the first time many employees used the “drag-and-drop” format; thus, they were unsure what to do. Even though my intention was to make the respondent experience easier, the result was quite the opposite. Knowing this, in the future, I must remain aware of how new technology can affect users. If a new technology is completely different from what people are accustomed to, one has to give employees a thorough explanation of the new technology and detailed instructions on how to use it. Otherwise, the technology is likely to go unused and/or rendered ineffective.
Lesson 3 –Spent time listening to people’s concerns and feedback: Even though I spent a couple days carefully producing survey questions and had three people test the survey before I officially launched it, the first few survey respondents emailed me about issues they had with certain survey questions – no survey is perfect after all. After each email, I quickly updated my survey in order to ensure that future respondents did not have any issues. Fortunately, the changes I made improved the quality of my survey significantly, as the number of issues reported decreased substantially after the first couple days of launching my survey. Had I not listened to the comments provided by the first few respondents, I doubt I would have collected the quality data that I ended up collecting. When I work in local government in the future, I must work to actively adapt how I work and the materials I produce based on people’s feedback. Government program applications, forms, websites, etc. are often complicated, so listening to citizen’s input about them may yield better products.
In my final blog, I will sum up my experience with the City of Durham. I CAN’T BELIEVE MY INTERNSHIP IS ALMOST OVER!
Innovation in Durham 4
Like all other organizations, the City of Durham offers employees a set number of sick days. However, what do you do when an employee comes down with a serious sickness and runs out of sick leave, vacation days, etc. and needs to maintain a regular income in order to pay for medical bills? Well, for many years now, the City has used a Shared Sick Leave (SSL) Program to help employees in such a predicament. As the name implies, the SSL program allows employees to donate (a maximum of 40) sick leave hours to a coworker who is suffering from a serious medical condition. Not only does this policy ensure that an ill employee maintains some level of income during an extended illness, but it also helps build a sense of family among City employees.