As the season wraps up, many directors find themselves tasked with sending out surveys to try to solicit feedback from frontline staff. And that begs the question, what questions should I ask?
Start with Why
First, as with much of the advice from my Camp Code co-hosts, ask yourself "why?"
- Why are you collecting this data?
- Did something go wrong?
- Do you feel out of touch with what happened on the frontline?
- Do you want to confirm that your perceptions were on par with others?
- Was everything perfect and you want to figure out the formula for how to recreate that again?
This will help you narrow the types of questions you ask as well as help you process the data in the end.
When you write your survey for this summer, plan to use it for at least the next three to five years. This gives you comparable data from year to year that can reveal trends and can be especially telling if there is a significant change in programming or leadership. Sure, you can swap out a question or here or there if the answers you receive in previous years prove to be unhelpful; however, when staff know what kind of questions they will be asked, they may feel more at liberty to share what they really think.
Keep it short! You can’t do everything with one survey so pick out an area you want to focus on and ask in depth questions about that. Okay, you are the director that does what to do everything? Great! Ask one question pertaining to each topic (i.e. training, leadership, daily schedule, etc) and do not, under any circumstance, exceed ten questions. How many times have you been click-baited into answering a survey and found yourself losing interest partway through. That’s one reason I almost always start any evaluations with some questions the staff will know the answers to (and these don’t count towards your ten questions):
- Your name (optional!)
- Your position (optional)
- Years at camp
And then I progress into some more thoughtful questions:
- What did you see happen at camp this summer that you would want to see again OR What went well?*
- What did you see happen at camp this summer that you would not want to see again OR What would have made your summer better?
- What did you learn during staff training that you found to be particularly useful?
- What do you feel like should be covered differently or more in-depth during training next year?
- What did the leadership team do well in supporting you to be successful in your role this summer?
- What could the leadership team have done to better support you in your role this summer?
- Please share any notes about other staff (positive and negative) that you feel are pertinent to share.
- What advice would you give to someone in your role next summer?
- In a perfect world where money isn't a factor, what would be on your wish list to make your job easier in the role you were in this year? OR If you were the camp director, what would you do differently?
- What transformation did you see in your campers this summer? (HT to Travis for that one). What transformation did you see in yourself this summer?
- Are you interested in applying for next summer?
*When asking questions, try to put the positive ones first. If you don’t believe me, check out Dr. Chris Thurber’s discussions on Appreciative Inquiry. The research is clear that when people think about the good stuff first, they tend to have more productive criticisms to share, rather than just venting.
Consider how you want to administer this staff survey and also consider that some of these questions may work best in a final performance evaluation or in an exit interview rather than a written survey. Some of these questions could go into your return staff interview or application. Another reason to keep it short is that your staff may be filling their survey out on their phones or tablets with keyboards that are less than ideal for writing lengthy responses.
The sooner you send your survey out and the more convenient it is to access and fill out, the higher your return rate will likely be (another HT to Travis). With Google Forms and other online survey services, there are lots of opportunities for data gathering that can be sent via email, text, Facebook, Slack, Instagram or other social media of choice. You could even clean out some of that lost and found or camp store swag by incentivizing folks to fill out their survey by a certain date and to include their names.
And you will get some venting. As with all surveys, consider the outliers and pay the closest attention to the trends. You may be viewed as inconsistent if you change based on every little piece of feedback ever received.
Most of all, remember that there are not many industries that really ask for and value the opinions of their frontline staff so take pride in the opinions that are shared and feel proud that you created a staff culture where your staff cared enough to tell you how it is.