Air Force surveys workforce

The Air Force Manpower Innovation Agency recently launched an online survey to "tap the pulse" of the service on management and work-related topics.

The 2002 Organization Climate Survey, conducted under the direction of Gen. John Jumper, chief of staff of the Air Force, was made available online Jan. 22 and runs through March 8.

The results should prove beneficial. "This is about providing useful tools and information back to commanders for ways to improve their organizations," said Capt. Scott Hopkins, the Air Force's survey program manager.

It marks the second time the survey has been given to the worldwide Air Force population on a Web-based platform supported by software from Raosoft Inc.

This year's survey has been revamped to reduce downtime for users. Hopkins said the 1999 survey got about 200,000 responses out of a possible 450,000, but was plagued by slow response rates, caused by the responses being collected on a single server. The server received so many hits that the firewalls crashed and had to be rebuilt.

"People were turned off immediately, so we wanted to ensure that the first time they come in the door, it's fast," Hopkins said, adding that this year's survey includes about 100 questions and can be completed in about 45 minutes. It can be found at www.csafsurvey.com.

The Air Force corrected the downtime problem by putting the software on a dozen servers at strategic regional locations, and Raosoft enhanced its technology to enable the various databases collecting the surveys to flow into a central one at the management and innovation agency's headquarters in San Antonio, said the company's chief executive officer, Catherine Rao.

"The forms are easier to fill out, they're more accessible, there's better guidance on screen, and the data is held with increased security," said Rao, adding that reports based on selected criteria can now be generated by commanders at all levels who are interested in an aspect of the anonymous responses. This year's goals are to exceed 300,000 responses and to use the information gathered in the survey to improve the Air Force's overall culture, Hopkins said.

"Leadership is one of the most important drivers of job satisfaction," he said. "To impact performance...leaders must take care of their people. You take care of the people, they take care of the mission."

John Gantz, chief research officer at IDC, agreed that the Web is a natural choice for a quick turnaround, but he was wary of any online survey that takes 45 minutes to complete.

"Forty-five minutes is very long on the Web, even for employees willing to help," said Gantz, adding that he would use "skip patterns" for the questions so the survey would only take 20 minutes to complete but still yield a suitable number of responses to each question.

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Next Steps

Once the online 2002 Organization Climate Survey ends in March, the Air Force Manpower Innovation Agency will work with the Air Force Academy on detailed modeling of the data.

The academy is also leading the "virtual consulting" effort to produce intelligent, knowledge-based reports, in addition to the traditional rules-based reporting models.

Once that work is complete, Gen. John Jumper, Air Force chief of staff, will be briefed at the end of April, followed by briefings with the heads of the major commands. Then it's up to the commanders to use the data.

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