Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Designing effective surveys, part of Instructional Design: Needs Analysis.
Surveys are an excellent way to gather data from a large audience. There are many inexpensive online tools that can allow you to quickly launch surveys to a wide audience, and then analyze their responses with minimal effort. But beware, like many other data collection methods, surveys take careful planning to use them effectively. This video will show you when and how to use surveys for your training analysis. I'll also point out some potential pitfalls that you'll want to avoid. Let's start by listing some situations where you might want to use a survey.
Surveys are highly effective with large audiences. With the interviewing skills training project, it would be difficult to observe or interview all 50 supervisors. But we can easily survey them. Surveys can also help gather sensitive or confidential information by allowing people to remain anonymous. For example, leadership development programs sometimes rely on employee surveys to help pinpoint growth areas for managers. Employees might be more likely to share constructive feedback about their boss in an anonymous survey.
Surveys can also be used to validate data you've collected from other sources. For example, imagine you're designing a training program for a computer system. During interviews, you learn that many people don't know about some really helpful how to videos that can be accessed within the system. You might add a question about this to a survey to see if this is a widespread issue. The quality of your survey will greatly effect the usefulness of the data it provides. Here's some steps you can take to create an effective survey.
First, keep your survey focused by starting with a specific objective. If you're creating software training, you might want to learn about your audience's experience with similar software programs. If you were developing safety training for fleet drivers, you might want to learn about driver's attitudes towards mandatory safety regulations. For the interviewing skills training, the survey might focus on validating some of the top issues revealed in performance observations, and interviews. The next step is to check for existing surveys.
The data you're looking for may already exist, saving you the time of surveying people again. Common examples include customer service surveys, employee engagement surveys, and surveys used for similar training programs. When it comes to writing your survey questions, less is usually better. Try to keep your survey as short as possible by asking only questions that you really need to know the answers to. A good rule of thumb is to ask no more than ten questions. The last tip is to make your survey as convenient as possible for your audience to complete.
Online is best if everyone has access to a computer. But you may need to look for alternatives, if that's not the case. For example, you might design your survey for mobile devices if your audience is a group of field service technicians who use smart phones but not computers. Let's take a look at the survey I created for the interviewing skills workshop. This survey will go out to all 50 supervisors who will participate in the training. The goal of this survey is to validate observations gained from sitting in on job interviews and having conversations with individual supervisors. The survey starts with a short introduction that reminds participants of the survey's purpose. The survey itself has only five questions. A short survey like this will generally get a better response rate than a long one. It will also prevent us from getting overloaded with too much data. Many surveys are anonymous, but the first question is extremely important. Later on, we'll be able compare the survey responses to individual turnover rates. The next three questions are based on observations in interviews with specific supervisors.
I noticed that many supervisors don't spend much time on interviews. So question two will help us see if this is a trend. Question three will help us learn where interviews are typically held. And question four will tell us if supervisors use a specific set of questions. Question number five calls for a free text response. I don't really know how supervisors make hiring decisions, so I don't want to lead them by making up categories to choose from. Now that we've covered a few basics on survey design, I want to share a few pitfalls to avoid. Asking too many survey questions can cause two problems. First, the longer the survey, the fewer responses you're going to get. Second, the more questions you ask, the harder it is to focus on the data you really need. Try to keep your survey as short as possible by focusing on a specific set of objectives. Confusing questions can make it hard for participants to give you the information you're looking for. Use plain wording so the questions aren't misunderstood. Participants should also know why they're being asked to complete the survey.
Without a clear benefit, participants might be less inclined to complete the survey. They may also feel frustrated if they take time to complete a survey, but don't see any action taken as a result. Surveys can be a powerful data collection tool. I have one last piece of advice to help you get the most out of them. It might be tempting to rely on a survey alone because it's easy to get a lot of data. However, surveys work best when combined with other data collection methods. By combining multiple data sources, you'll get a much richer source of data that you can use to analyze your audience's training needs.
- Setting project objectives
- Identifying the target audience for training
- Selecting data sources
- Facilitating focus groups and interviews
- Designing effective surveys
- Identifying participant needs
- Defining learning outcomes
- Presenting results to project sponsors