The State Worker

Snail mail snag slows California state worker survey

Marybel Batjer, secretary of California’s Government Operations Agency, which is surveying state workers about their jobs.
Marybel Batjer, secretary of California’s Government Operations Agency, which is surveying state workers about their jobs. rpench@sacbee.com

A first-of-its-kind survey intended to measure how state employees feel about their work has suffered a delay for a low-tech reason: office mail.

A contracted company in mid-June sent the 11-question survey to 5,000 randomly-selected state workers. About 90 percent of the surveys were delivered electronically, with the balance sent via employers through the mail, said Government Operations Agency spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill.

The agency figured it would publicly release the questions, the anonymously-submitted results and an analysis by the end of July.

But the number of paper responses was noticeably low. Soon the agency realized what had gone wrong: Many of the hard-copy questionnaires weren’t getting into employees’ hands because their jobs were outside the office that receives their mail, such as Highway Patrol officers, game wardens or Caltrans road workers.

After officials figured out how to overcome that obstacle, the contractor mailed a second batch of surveys. The extra work by JD Franz Research Inc. added no cost to the $49,000 the state is paying the firm to write, distribute, collect and analyze the survey and its results.

It did add a month to the process. Gledhill said the agency expects to publish the survey, feedback and analysis around Labor Day.

“It was worth the delay to make sure we have good results,” she said.

The survey asks employees 10 questions that rate things like the importance of their work and quality of communication with management. An 11th question asks respondents to describe a particular aspect of their jobs in three words. Pay and other issues handled through collective bargaining, are not surveyed. All the responses go through the research contractor to assure anonymity.

Government Operations Secretary Marybel Batjer has said the feedback will set a “baseline” for understanding how state workers think about the work that they do and help focus civil-service reform efforts.

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