5 min read

First Baptist Orlando Case Study: Unveiling the Power of Trust in Survey Dynamics

First Baptist Orlando Case Study: Unveiling the Power of Trust in Survey Dynamics

Feedback can be difficult to receive, especially when it’s poorly gathered and communicated. This can leave leaders feeling skeptical and uneasy about surveying again. But what if there was a credible and more effective way?

After a painful experience with an internally developed survey, Danny de Armas, senior associate pastor of First Baptist Orlando in Orlando, Florida, sought a better way to understand and improve the church’s workplace culture. With hopes of using data to inform, rather than weaponize, Danny engaged with Best Christian Workplaces to conduct an Employee Engagement Survey.

This case study explores how First Orlando used the data gathered from the Best Christian Workplaces Employee Engagement Survey to move beyond the fear of employee surveys and leverage the process to build a flourishing and transparent workplace culture.

The Situation

First Orlando’s first exposure to employee surveys was a poorly designed internal survey. This negative experience tainted their perception of surveying in general, especially Danny’s.

[Our initial experience with surveying] started out of a painful experience because the first survey we did was not a Best Christian Workplaces survey. It was developed by people on staff, and I was not aware enough or schooled enough on the way surveys work, that it was actually used as a weapon against me. It was just poorly done. It was wounding to me, and it [the responses] hurt me. - Danny

This initial setback could have fostered bitterness, but Pastor de Armas was challenged by a trusted friend to pursue surveying with Best Christian Workplaces. The Best Christian Workplaces survey was notably different from the internally developed survey - it was credible, more sophisticated, and proven to work. With the support of Best Christian Workplaces consultants, the results not only revealed areas for improvement but also reasons to celebrate.

Today, the church's experience with Best Christian Workplaces has transformed its perception of employee surveys from something to fear to a valuable instrument for positive change. Danny looks forward to the annual results and feedback as a source of yearly encouragement.

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Building Trust Through Survey Results

Addressing concerns about anonymity was an important first step when pursuing a new survey option. To help increase trust and transparency, Danny personally shares the survey results in an annual meeting. While the leadership team retains some details, he shares the overall scores and responses with the entire staff. Though humbling at times, this approach eliminates an "us vs them" mentality and encourages a shared responsibility for organizational improvement.

Additionally, the expertise and partnership with the Best Christian Workplaces consultants help build trust and credibility around the results. Consultants analyze and interpret the feedback, creating a space where leaders can listen to the unfiltered voices of the team.

After their survey in 2020, Tara VanderSande, a Best Christian Workplaces Consultant, led an all-staff meeting on giving and receiving feedback. At the same time, she met with the senior leadership team to facilitate action planning for their engagement plans. She returned the following year to lead a session on conflict competence.

Danny mentions, “I just so value the whole process, the Survey, and Tara [Best Christian Workplaces Consultant] helping us throughout.”

The ongoing partnership with Best Christian Workplaces to create action plans and address areas of growth, combined with an ongoing commitment to surveying year after year has led to five years of Best Christian Workplaces Certifications. Benefits, job security, and high-quality teams and supervisors continue to be leading strengths. In 2022, First Orlando achieved its first ranking as Flourishing, scoring in the 83rd percentile of all organizations surveyed. Staff feel cared for and feel positive about their long-term opportunities.

Overall, First Orlando has shown continuous improvement year over year, successfully utilizing survey results and learnings to improve its organizational health.

Fostering a Culture of Continuous Feedback

Early survey results pinpointed lower scores in the areas of supervisor feedback, cross-department teamwork, and accountability. This cross-section of lower-scoring items indicated a lack of communication, specifically candid and kind feedback. With the help of Tara VanderSande, a Best Christian Workplaces consultant, Danny, and the rest of the church leadership acted quickly to address the issue.

Based on the feedback, the leaders created a systematic approach to feedback. This continuous feedback loop applies to everyone in the church, and, as a result, everyone has an opportunity for regular feedback, both positive and constructive. The once sporadic positive feedback has now become a regular part of the cultural footprint of the church, fostering a sense of accomplishment and motivation among the staff.

This well-executed performance-management system is a significant contributor to the church’s high scores in the areas of Uplifting Growth.

Addressing Communication Challenges

In their second year of surveying, it was clear Healthy Communication was an area the church needed to improve. Instead of hiding the problem, Danny openly communicated his commitment to making a change, recognizing that fixing this large-scale issue wouldn't be easy. He reflects:

“I was just transparent or vulnerable in front of the team and said, ‘“I want you to know we're trying this, but it's way harder than you realize. It's not for lack of effort. We need to get some better systems in place, and you can help us. But I want you to know I'm working on it really hard.”’ - Danny

First, Danny recognized that supervisors and staff faced real-life constraints like travel and vacation, causing delays and misalignment in communication. Often, it wasn't about not communicating but communicating in the wrong order.

The solution was a systematic approach to the sequence of communication. In executive meetings, the leadership team discusses what needs to be communicated and in what order, making sure the right information gets to the right groups at the right time.

The secret sauce to this approach is letting different leaders communicate - not just whoever is “in charge.” In the past, Danny felt compelled to personally communicate the most crucial information. But, delegating the transmission of information to other leaders lightens his load and also creates a more dynamic and diverse communication environment.

Additionally, a pivotal aspect of First Orlando’s communication strategy is the "trust or talk" philosophy. Recognizing the complexity of decision-making, Danny encourages staff at all levels to trust in the decisions made by leadership or engage in open dialogue if something seems off. This philosophy fosters an environment where individuals feel empowered to express concerns without fear of reprisal.

First Orlando’s commitment to reinforcing trust through communication has built a strong foundation of transparency, contributing to high scores in Healthy Communication.

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More Than Just Data

For First Orlando, the survey results are not just numbers on paper; they have become a catalyst for growth and improvement.

"There's something about the instrument that you all [Best Christian Workplaces] have developed, you know, the number of people that you're surveying and everything else that gives it credibility, but it's also a highly sophisticated instrument that lets us get to the issues that people are having boots on the ground." - Danny

From skeptics to raving fans, First Orlando’s ongoing commitment to the survey process strongly demonstrates the transformational impact a commitment to trusting the process and the survey results can have on workplace culture.

For more information about First Orlando’s success with the Best Christian Workplaces Employee Engagement Survey, listen to the Flourishing Culture Leadership Podcast where Al Lopus, Cofounder & Board Chair of Best Christian Workplaces, talks with Danny de Armas, the senior associate pastor of First Orlando.

Take the Next Step Toward a Healthy Church Culture

Healthy growth and increased Kingdom impact start first with prioritizing your people. Like Danny and the team at First Orlando, you can use the Best Christian Workplaces Employee Engagement Survey as a resource to evaluate the health of your organization and make important changes to reach more people.

Join the hundreds of churches around the globe who have also taken courageous steps to identify blind spots and improve their workplace culture through surveying.

Ready to get started? Request a sample report here.




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