Planning the process
The survey is just one part of a whole pre-planned process that begins before any data collection. Schedule the survey launch date first and this allows you to work backwards to your current time and forwards beyond the survey to ensure every step in your feedback journey is considered.
I am regularly asked, “When is a good time to run a survey?” The problem being there is no optimum time, there is always something else going on, quiet times simply do not happen in schools anymore. So instead find a usual week and avoid those where workload is even higher, for example those with parent consultations, report writing, or important academic deadlines.
Ideally, your questions should be evidence based and independently evaluated, for example for their psychometric qualities. The questions ideally need to examine the key areas for workplace wellbeing – areas that leaders can address and have the greatest impact on the culture and working environment of the school.
One excellent resource is the Health and Safety Executive’s Indicator Tool which focuses on six primary stressors identified in the Management Standards approach. The questions are based on the best available evidence linking work design to health outcomes. It is also freely available. The ‘What Works’ wellbeing question bank also has available questions.
Effectively administering the survey
Obtaining a high response rate ensures the survey results correctly reflect the situation in the school. For this type of survey a response rate of over 50% is adequate; over 60% desirable; over 70% good and above 80% very good. When working with schools, we always aim to achieve a minimum of 80%, though it may not always be possible, particularly in larger schools. Any response rate less than 50% provides data that is only indicative and not truly representative.
To help promote participation it is important to get the balance right between encouragement and pressure to take part - the latter will probably mean less open responses. To encourage good uptake, staff should feel it is important, that their views matter and will be listened to and acted on.
Here are some points for consideration during the survey process:
- Publicise the survey, engage with staff and include supportive comments from the CEO, principal, headteacher and other senior leaders
- Ensure all staff understand the purpose of the survey and why their input is important
- Explain the whole process, when the survey is scheduled, when they will receive feedback on the results and how the findings will be addressed
- Ensure line managers understand the process and encourage their staff to participate
- Assign time during the working day to complete the survey. Ideally the survey should be designed to take no longer than 10-15 minutes
- Continue to publicise the survey throughout the process
- Provide contact for questions or support.
Guaranteeing anonymity means staff feel confident to share feedback freely and openly. The more belief that the responses will not be identified the greater the likelihood that their responses will be frank and honest. Using an online survey provides staff with more assurance of anonymity than pen and paper responses, and using a third party is likely to bring the most reassurance.
Beginning the survey with a formal statement of anonymity and communicating this in writing and verbally before and during the process, helps reinforce trust. The behaviour of all leaders needs to be congruent with this message – in the event that any comments made identify a staff member, confidentiality must be maintained and no mitigating actions taken. Any failure to demonstrate total integrity, will have repercussions for future survey participation, engagement and staff trust.
Analysing the survey data
This is a time consuming task and likely to be the most challenging part of the process. Difficulties in analysing the data can lead to subsequent actions which are adhoc or dismissed completely. Be transparent and share results with leaders, staff, governors, and other stakeholders, as quickly as possible after the survey closes.
Communicating the results is key. Make it visual, identify areas to celebrate first, alongside any quick wins. For longer term actions, discuss approaches with staff so they can share suggestions and be part of the solution. Taking this on only as a senior team simply adds to stress levels - we often forget senior leaders are also staff!
It is also important to review wider school data and trends: absence statistics and reasons for absence; feedback from return to work and welfare interviews and the impact of cover, both on wellbeing and financially. Also, retention statistics and feedback from stay and exit interviews; the use of Employee Assistance Schemes or other support provided, such as counselling; grievances; student behaviour; and school performance trends.
The survey is just one part of measuring staff wellbeing and is just the start. What happens afterwards is most important, as this is where good conversations and shared solutions are created, and plans are developed and implemented.
Creating an ongoing evaluation process will provide the best chance of systematically improving the wellbeing of your staff and the outcomes for your students, making wellbeing simply something that happens every day.
If you are looking for support to simplify and systemise the process with a ready-made wellbeing evaluation and improvement tool, please visit welbee.international or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Mark Solomons is a wellbeing, leadership, culture, engagement and performance improvement expert. His mission is to support school leaders to transform culture, improve staff wellbeing and performance.
Mark has an MBA from the globally acclaimed UK Cranfield Business School, with a focus on Organisational and People Development, and took a programme in Organisational Leadership at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA. In 2015 he published his first book ‘Building resilience, the seven steps to creating highly successful lives’.
In late 2018 he founded School Wellbeing Accelerator, creators of Welbee - a highly effective online evaluation and staff wellbeing improvement tool, designed to help senior leaders and HR Directors create thriving schools, colleges, Multi-Academy Trusts and Districts, to retain and motivate staff, reduce costs and drive up student attainment.