Quantifying Happiness

Fortune recently named Google the best company to work for — yet again. Not only have they revolutionized our on- and offline lives, but Google now hopes to transform the way we work. Their data-driven culture has seemingly found a way to quantify employee happiness.

But what have they really learned?

It doesn’t take much data crunching to realize that providing gourmet meals, onsite dry-cleaning and exorbitant bonuses will increase happiness and productivity. Ditto for generous leave time and flexible schedules. Now Google wants to use their data to answer fundamental questions about worker productivity such as, “Are leaders born or made? Are teams better than individuals at getting things done? Can individuals sustain high performance over their lifetimes?”

These are fascinating questions. And I have no doubt the geniuses at Google have the wherewithal to answer them one day. But I don’t need copious amounts of data to know what makes a healthy workplace environment. As one of millions of people who spend the majority of their days, nay, lifetimes, at work, it boils down to a few simple things: trust, feedback, respect.

My company may not be as big as Google (yet), but the leadership is committed to creating a work environment where those values are stressed. It’s amazing how far something as simple as mutual respect will get you. Or trusting your employees and providing them with constructive feedback.

So while I admire Google’s efforts to quantify workplace happiness, I know that it’s still the small things that matter to most people.

On the Fly

Being a member of the Client Services Team has definitely taught me that no two days are the same. On any given day, I could be conducting trainings or working independently to launch a client’s initiative. Between ongoing projects and (sometimes) shifting deadlines, I also field calls and emails for the Support Line.

To be perfectly candid, this can be potentially disastrous for someone unable to make adjustments on the fly. While I enjoy checking items off my to-do list as much as the next person, I often have to ignore it altogether to have a productive day.

And while this can be true for any role, I’d say it’s doubly true for Support personnel — we support co-workers in the office and remotely, along with the entire Zarca user population and survey participants. As such, there have been many mornings I arrive at work confident about what I’ll get done that day. But, inevitably, by 10:00 a.m., I receive an email from a client asking me to craft a new initiative or a colleague requests my help editing a questionnaire due by the end of the day.

Adjusting your schedule on the fly can be difficult. But flexibility is one of the most valuable attributes you can possess as a teammate. This doesn’t mean you necessarily drop everything when you’re asked for help, but it does allow you to manage expectations so that you’re able to assist your fellow teammates when necessary.

Being flexible — and practicing good time management — means you can have a candid conversation with a colleague about competing deadlines, and then adjust your day accordingly so that you can assist colleagues and clients while still paying attention to your own work. Because true workplace value is measured by your contributions across the entire company, not just within your own department.

In This Life

Sometimes you observe a situation and realize that common knowledge isn’t all that common. Rather than heap scorn, this is actually a chance for you to speak up and share your “common sense” with others — leading to one of those magical “Oh, I didn’t realize” moments.

I recently had an encounter like this at my office. Faced with a rapidly approaching deadline, my colleague became increasingly frustrated because she couldn’t figure out how to quickly send multiple documents to a waiting client. Observing her growing angst, an opportunity presented itself.

Now if you’re unaware of how to do this, it could appear to be a daunting task. But, secure in my knowledge, I calmly maneuvered her mouse and, in a few click and drags, all 74 documents were attached to the email she was composing.

Her reaction was priceless. “Oh, I didn’t realize it was that easy!” The task done, peace ensued.

Although there are many things that may be common knowledge to you, you should always be ready and willing to assist others — your information can provide a timely solution to their problem.

Whether it’s mundane tasks or complicated procedures, don’t be afraid to share what you know. Speaking up can save a colleague, friend or stranger from misspent time and aggravation, and promote a smarter and more collaborative work environment.

Off the Beaten Path

Exploration is the act of searching or traveling around a terrain for the purpose of discovering resources or information.

Many times, we are afraid to explore anything new or unfamiliar. Whether it’s because of a fear of failure or a lack of experience, we often fall into easy and comfortable patterns, especially when it comes to new technologies.

Although our Engage platform is quite intuitive, some clients haven’t taken full advantage of its best features, resulting in more work than is necessary.

For instance, I sometimes get calls from users afraid to explore the Export Manager Tab. Why, they ask, are their multiple-select check box answers clumped into one cell in the file when they run Response Table reports and export to Excel?

The answer is that they’re making extra work for themselves. If you simply want to view responses in Excel, just venture over to the Export Manager tab and use the Excel button.

Forcing yourself to investigate unknown sections of the platform, like the Training Tab or the User Guide, can end up making your life much easier. You may even find that utilizing our Power Reports or List Manager could save you and your company hours of work.

Now, go forth and explore!

Take Your Time (Do It Right)

Like many of you, I enjoy a good cup of coffee. Sure, instant coffee will do if you’re flagging and pressed for time. But if good coffee is important, you’ll invest time and energy to make sure it’s brewed properly.

Because if you want something done right, don’t rush it.

A while ago, I was helping a client design a ballot for their organization’s upcoming election. The client figured creating the ballot would be simple enough. Since there were only two open positions, the ballot would only need two questions and an introductory paragraph. Easy enough, right?

Well, not exactly.

A few hours later, I received calls and emails from my client who realized some essential items were missing from the ballot, including candidate bios and photos. We scrambled to complete the survey and distribute it the next afternoon.

Despite our last-minute mad dash, the client still forgot to add one of the candidates. So the survey had to be quickly taken down, edited and re-distributed. And while the final version looked professional and including everything the client wanted, the process was far more stressful than was necessary.

Preparation and review would’ve prevented many of the mistakes that were made during this survey launch — and saved us both plenty of headaches. It’s a lesson we all know, but sometimes it bears repeating: take your time, and do it right (the first time).

Sometimes, It IS Complicated

February’s here. And for the shortest month of the year, there’s plenty going on. There’s the Super Bowl, Groundhog Day, Mardi Gras and Presidents’ Day. But everyone knows Valentine’s Day is the most important day of the month.

It’s the day people either love, or love to hate.

When I think of Valentine’s Day, I think back to third grade. My teacher would force us to create cards for everyone in our class, make little mailboxes and walk around the class delivering the cards we’d made. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Valentine’s Day was also the first time I participated in a survey.

As I walked around making special deliveries, my friend Brittany handed me a piece of wide-ruled notebook paper with one scribbled question:

Do you like Evan?

  • Yes
  • No

I checked “No,” and gave it back to her. Weeks later, Evan started “dating” Emily. I was heartbroken.

If I were to design that survey today, I would use one of my favorite features, Question Display Logic. That way, when I selected “No,” a text box would appear allowing me to explain why — that my other friend Sara already called dibs on Evan, and I was bound by the code of friendship, despite my true feelings. Remember, I was in third grade.

Surveys don’t have to be long and complicated. But if you’re asking Rating or Yes/No questions, it’s a good idea to allow respondents to explain their answers further. Understanding the reasoning and context of certain answers paints a more complete picture of the respondent — giving survey creators and takers some needed nuance.

Because sometimes it is complicated.

A Brave New World

I love all types of science fiction. From fantasy sci-fi to hardcore sci-fi, from Dr. Who to Children of Men, the best science fiction tells us something about who we are and where we hope to be. When I first read about prominent futurist Ray Kurzweil, he seemed like a quack straight from a cheesy sci-fi movie. Among other things, Kurzweil has predicted the integration of nanotechnology with humans, leading to our eventual immortality.

This seems crazy until you consider the number of events Kurzweil has correctly predicted, and that Google has hired him as their new Director of Engineering. In this role, he is working on a new search engine that uses artificial intelligence to answer questions before you ask them. According to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt:

This friend of yours, this cybernetic friend, that knows that you have certain questions about certain health issues or business strategies. And, it can then be canvassing all the new information that comes out in the world every minute and then bring things to your attention without you asking about them.”

Depending on your bent, this is either very exciting or very frightening. But the line “bring things to your attention without you asking . . . ” did make me think of the many ways we already rely on this type of technology.

The Zarca platform has characteristics of a “cybernetic friend” as it is smart and intuitive enough to prevent you from making survey design mistakes, protecting the integrity of your data.

The platform intelligently prevents ballot-box stuffing, uses data validation to prevent GIGO and utilizes true anonymity to encourage participants to provide better feedback.

While not the cybernetic best friend of Kurzweil’s musings, the platform is more like a parent who won’t let you enter text into a numerical allocation box, or stops some troll from skewing your results by taking the survey 50 times.

I’m not sure what the world will look like 20 years from now, but with quantum computers, self-driving cars, virtual reality glasses and survey platforms that “care” about the integrity of your results, we’re headed toward a brave new world indeed.

Proper Planning Can Prevent Potential Problems

Posted by: Joanna Zimmerman

Everyone knows the age-old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Uplifting as this sounds, with the speed at which things move today, I’m willing to bet that most professionals want to accomplish tasks on the first try, and most employers have a low tolerance for the whole “not succeeding” thing.

What if we had the insight to prevent errors, thereby eliminating the need to perform a task again?

The truth is, with a little forethought and planning, we can control certain aspects of our work. For instance, a successful questionnaire must be well planned and designed. Creating your questionnaire with your end goal in sight allows you to focus on what you want to get out of your reporting, which helps you formulate and format the questions.

Jumping feet first into the design process without proper planning can leave you in a difficult position.

I worked with a client recently who was hoping to do a giveaway based on answers to a yes or no question, but only as it applied to a particular region. Because there was no question in the survey that asked respondents to provide their geographical information, the user called to ask for assistance in identifying which of those respondents fit the criteria for the giveaway.

Well, this task would have been easy enough if we could have created a filter based on the geographic question. As it stood, there was little to do but examine each respondent individually and match them to information that was “living” outside of the system.

Had the administrator discussed with their team all the ways they could use the data, they would have quickly realized the necessity of allowing respondents to enter this information. Instead, this oversight decreased efficiency by creating extra work.

Proper preparation and being unafraid to ask questions can save you a lot of time and headaches. With a little planning, we can happily retire the phrase “try, try again” — and concentrate on being successful the first time.

Why You Must Protect Your Data

While you may think you already have enough safety measures in place to protect your data, the unfortunate reality is that cyber criminals have realized the lack of data security implementation within small businesses, and are therefore starting to target them more and more. While high-risk organizations will avoid this possibility by minimizing human risk, hackers are able to infiltrate less secured systems with a better percentage of success.

You may be wondering how hackers access your sensitive data. Although you may have effective firewall software, hackers still have several points of entry. All it takes is one malware application, such as an email attachment, to leave you exposed to other threats.

So how do you remain secure in an increasingly insecure internet environment?

First, you must take your data security seriously. Whether it’s a simple Word document, or a password protected .zip file, make sure you know exactly where your data is located. It’s also crucial that you NEVER share your passwords nor install software without approval from your IT Team. Lastly, when browsing the internet, avoid clicking on ads or any unfamiliar links.

You should also take additional precautions, such as changing your default password and strengthening your passwords by avoiding obvious phrases.

A few committed hackers can wreak havoc on poorly secured systems. You can prevent most problems by valuing your data and implementing these basic security protocols. Taking these types of measures can give you peace of mind, knowing that your systems are safer from attacks.

Know Your Audience

Everyone likes to laugh, and once in a while you may take a stab at being the funny one by the water cooler. We’ve all been there — a situation mirrors something from your favorite TV show, and you take a stab at a funny anecdote. But if your audience isn’t familiar with the reference, your joke falls flat.

Whether you’re telling a joke, providing instructions or helping a client troubleshoot an issue, you have to know your audience.

Recently, we received a call from a client who thought something was wrong with the system because she had only received a couple of responses to her survey — despite sending it to 10,000 people. After reviewing the technical side, it was determined that many people were receiving and opening the survey, but they were dropping out after a short time.

So then we took a look at the survey itself. It was cluttered, wordy and completely unappealing. The worst part — the target audience was senior citizens in assisted living facilities. Not only was it likely that these participants were unfamiliar with computers, but there’s a good chance many are visually impaired as well.

It became very clear why so few had completed the survey.

So, before you start designing your survey, know your audience. Then choose font, color and wording accordingly and watch your response rates soar.