Strategies from the 2010 Census Playbook

Linda Dulye's picture

Census Survey.jpgWe’ve been following with interest the Census Bureau’s playbook for rolling out the decennial process and have been struck at how similar the bureau’s approach is to effective organizational surveys.

The fact is, every organization does its own census but most do it annually in the form of an employee satisfaction survey or engagement survey. And one thing the Census Bureau has in common with organizations is the goal of 100-percent participation.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways the Census folks are working toward that goal:

  • Multi media communications. The Census Bureau relies on everything from TV ads to posters in churches and other community centers. And, they have staffers out talking with citizens across the country explaining the process and why the census matters, and building trust. Think of ways to reach out to employees early and often through in-person meetings, posters, email and Web communications.
  • Timeframe. Visit the Census Bureau web site and you’ll see they bureau has developed a detailed timeline for the entire process – from recruiting census takers in 2008 to the delivery of final data to the president in December. During your engagement survey process, share your project timeline with employees. Let them know the key milestones and when they will see the results themselves.
  • What’s at stake? Can you articulate for employees the implications of your survey? New benefit programs? Changes to key processes? According to the Census Bureau, census data helps to determine how more than $400 billion dollars of federal funding each year is spent on infrastructure and services like hospitals, schools and public works projects. That’s a concrete number people can understand. What’s at stake for your organization?
  • Confidentiality. In our experience this issue comes up often in surveys – no matter the topic. People want to know who will see the data and whether it can be traced to them. Here’s how the Census Bureau addresses the issue on its web site:


By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ answers with anyone, including the IRS, FBI, CIA or any other government agency.

Using a third-party to collect and analyze data is the simplest way to ease privacy concerns.



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