This March, it’s Survey Madness!

Even folks who are barely familiar with social science research know the term “survey fatigue.” It describes a phenomenon, empirically supported now by a solid body of research, in which people who are asked to take surveys seem to have only a finite amount of tolerance for it (shocking, I know). So as a survey gets longer, respondents tend to skip questions or take less time answering them carefully. When the term first emerged, it primarily referred to something that could happen within an individual survey. But now that solicitations to take surveys seem to appear almost everywhere, the concept is appropriately applied in reference to a sort of meta survey fatigue.

But if we want to get better at something, we need information to guide our choices.  We ought to know by now that “winging it” isn’t much of a strategy. So we need to collect data, and oftentimes survey research is the most efficient way to do that.

Therefore, in my never-ending quest to turn negatives into positives, I’m going to launch a new phrase into the pop culture ether. Instead of focusing on the detrimental potential of “survey fatigue,” I’m going to ask that we all dig down and build up our “survey fitness.”

Here’s why . . .

In the next couple of months, you are going to receive a few requests for survey data. Many of you have already received an invitation to participate in the “Great Colleges to Work For” survey. The questions in this survey try to capture a sense of the organization’s culture and employee engagement. For all of you who take pride in your curmudgeonly DNA, I can’t argue your criticism of the name of that survey. But they didn’t ask me when they wrote it, so we’re stuck with it. Nonetheless, the findings actually prove useful. So please take the time to answer honestly if you get an email from them.

The second survey invitation you’ll receive is for a new instrument called The Campus Living, Learning, and Work Environment. It tries to tackle aspects of equity and inclusion across a campus community. One of the reasons I signed on for this study is because it is the first that I know of to survey the entire community – faculty, staff, administration, and students. We have been talking a lot lately about the need for this kind of comprehensive data, and here is our chance to get some.

So if you find yourself getting annoyed at the increased number of survey requests this spring, you can blame it all on me. You are even welcomed to complain to me about all the surveys I’ve sent out this term if that is what it takes to get you to complete them. And if you start to worry about survey fatigue in yourself or others during the next few months, think of it as an opportunity to develop your survey fitness! And thanks for putting up with a few more requests for data than usual. I guarantee that I won’t let the data just sit at the bottom of a hard drive.

Make it a good day,

Mark

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