Club Story: Using Pulse Checks To Be Better in Springfield

Today’s guest post is from Brandy Harris from Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield, where they have been LOVING Pulse Checks. Read on to find out how they use them at their Club!

Webster Dictionary (probably) defines pulse checks as this cool thing should be implemented at Clubs across the globe and that a bunch of distinguished BGCA leaders developed.  I can tell you this, pulse checks are one of the best ideas I have heard in a long time.

I know everyone has their opinions about the NYOI survey. Most of the concerns about the survey revolve around the ambiguity of what to focus on after results are in. Omar and his team at BGCA have listened and developed what I like to call A GAME-CHANGER. Pulse checks are wonderful ways to get a “pulse” on your members and target concerns at your Club. Also, and perhaps most exciting, they help you celebrate successes.

My team and I have had the privilege of testing pulse checks at the Sertoma Unit. Then, once we understood the basics, we started implementing them at our other three traditional units. We started with exit polls. Basically, we had a plastic tub with a laminated grid on top. We cut holes in the tub for members to place tokens in the slot that best represented their experience at the Club on a given day or in a given room.

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Then, we compiled results. We used a chart similar to this one:

Sample Token Poll Response Chart

This is a sample of what we used when we first started.

Rotation Frequency Prompt Yes No because _______ No because _______ No because _______
October

2017

Area Specific New area each day I felt safe in the (area)
November

2017

Exit Polls 2 times a week I had fun today
December

2017

Area Specific New area each day I learned something today
January

2018

Exit Polls 2 times a week I felt like adults listened to me today
February

2018

Area Specific New area each day Adults recognize me when I try hard
March

2018

Exit Polls 2 times a week I feel safe at this Club
April

2018

Area Specific New area each day There is a staff who cares about me at this Club

In the “NO because ______”, we had staff members write in possible answers to narrow your focus. For example:

Prompt: Do you feel comfortable talking to staff when you are upset?

Answer One: Yes
Answer Two: No, because they don’t ask how I feel.
Answer Three: No, they don’t understand.
Answer Four: No, I would rather not talk about it.

Prompt: Are you happy at the Club?

Answer One: Yes
Answer Two: No, staff don’t make me feel included.
Answer Three: No, members leave me out.
Answer Four: No, I do not feel safe here.

After we implement new things, I find it super important to reflect and adapt. So after a few months of implementing…this is what we discovered:

Plus (Positives) Deltas (Areas for improvement)
Immediate response Took a while to get four Clubs on the same page
Ability to target areas and times of day We were just starting and didn’t have a variety of implementation ideas
Ability to provide a space for member feedback Relaying the importance of pulse checks effectively to staff and members

The Sertoma Unit used the pulse check process for several reasons. First, we knew that our NYOI data was good, but not great. Together, as a team, we sat down and examined our data. We felt a little lost about how to proceed and how to gauge where to begin improvement. Second, we were excited to start something new and different, especially a thing that would help us better understand our members. Finally, we have excellent programming. We know our opportunities are great, but we needed more information about member experience. We used pulse checks to be better. We used member feedback to target problem times of the day (i.e. switch or transition time and large group meeting times). We used member feedback to identify our areas with the poorest emotional safety. We also used parent feedback to better our communication.

Most importantly, we didn’t just let this information sit. Once we found out that members felt the LEAST physically safe during large group transitions and in the restrooms, we adapted. We started a new transition system where member transition freely and volunteers and staff monitor various areas of the Club. They have two minutes. Also, members indicated that they felt unsafe in the restrooms. We now have a policy where only one member per area is allowed to use the restroom and all staff members have a two-minute timer. If a member goes past that time limit, the staff notifies a director to check on the member.

Also from pulse checks, we learned that members felt the LEAST emotionally safe in the pre-teen center. In a lot of ways, this makes sense. It is such a critical time for kids and often, most of our bullying concerns revolve around pre-teen members. So, because of the information we gathered during pulse checks, we decided to have listening sessions with pre-teens and implemented a boys hour and a girls hour where members share ideas. Because of pulse checks, we were able to really focus on tangible ways to better the overall Club experience for members. What an empowering, wonderful thing!

BGCA just released an incredible, comprehensive Pulse Check manual. It clearly articulates how you can collect immediate feedback and thus, empower your team to take positive steps towards improving your Club experience.  It provides several ways to gather information (i.e. polls, listening sessions, and surveys). It has a step-by-step guide to implementing pulse checks too. You can find tips for success (i.e. things I wish I would have thought of when I started) and planning ideas. My favorite part about this manual, though, is that it is can be handed to a director, executive, a volunteer, or part-time staff and it can be understood and implemented.

I can honestly say that I am thrilled to implement these pulse checks at all four of our Clubs. I know that we can truly find ways to improve our Club experience and allow a safe place for members to share their ideas and opinions.

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Brandy is both Director of Programs for Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield and Unit Director at the Sertoma Unit. She also runs Glue Sticks & Management Tricks, the ClubX Blog’s bestie! 

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That time we finally met in person at National Conference and took a photo in terrible lighting and  after flying cross-country but look how cute we are still!
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