Strategies for Kickoff of GCASS Surveys

Overview. The Ground Climate Assessment Survey System (GCASS) surveys gather respondents’ perceptions of their unit’s organizational safety climate. An essential element of survey success is letting respondents know why their feedback is important and how the results will be used. The following offers insight and suggestions regarding the kickoff phase of the survey process to encourage participation and promote quality, actionable feedback.

Survey Kick-off

The unit will assign a representative to initiate and administer the survey process. After survey set up, the CO is sent an email recommending endorsement of the survey effort. Leadership involvement throughout the survey process is essential to collecting sufficient responses and, thus, obtaining useful data.

What Should the CO Convey?

In general, it is important to emphasize that this is not just another “check-in-the box” survey. As such, COs may consider kicking off a unit survey during a unit formation, if practical. A unit formation offers COs an ideal opportunity to discuss the importance of respondent input. Additionally, an email from the CO to unit personnel is a positive method to reinforce the importance of the surveys. Keep in mind that parameters such as unit deployment status, Internet connectivity, computer availability, etc., all influence the survey effort. These elements vary significantly across Marine units so that no single template for an email is recommended.

The following suggestions from prior COs provide ideas worth considering for survey kickoff:

Opening Remarks

  • state the purpose of the survey
  • identify who to contact regarding survey questions (e.g., survey administrator)
  • if the survey is part of a larger safety effort, explain how the survey supports that effort
  • discuss response anonymity (i.e., demographics are not linked to survey responses)
  • indicate the survey opening and closing dates
  • remind respondents NOT to include classified, operationally sensitive, or personally identifiable information in comments

Survey Process
  • identify how the unit will use the results
  • indicate that a CAC is NOT required to take a survey
  • state that surveys can be taken from any desktop computer or mobile device (e.g., smart phone, iPad, etc.)
  • encourage participants to take advantage of open-ended (comment-type) survey items
  • (COs generally agree these items provide the most substantive/actionable feedback)

  • provide who (within the unit) will be debriefed on the results
  • tell who (outside the unit) has limited access to the results

Closing Remarks
  • emphasize this is an opportunity to provide candid feedback directly to the CO
  • let participants know their feedback is important
  • thank participants in advance for their participation

One suggestion to maximize participation is to recommend that respondents consider the survey as a giant CO’s suggestion box . . . COs cannot mitigate safety concerns unless they know about them. Encourage respondents to not only provide honest feedback, but also offer suggestions for improvement. In this way, working together can make a difference.

Summary. GCASS surveys were developed specifically for commanders to assess their unit’s organizational safety climate. A formation and/or an email from the CO at the initiation of the survey process can communicate the importance and value of this survey to unit members. Suggestions are provided to assist in developing the CO’s kickoff email.