UW News

November 6, 2008

Climate Survey 2008: Satisfaction, and continued improvement

Faculty and staff at the UW generally report that they are proud to work here and satisfied with their employment experience. Those are the results of a “climate survey” conducted under the auspices of the Leadership, Community and Values Initiative (LCVI).

The survey was conducted last January, but the results are being made widely available for the first time this week. It is a repeat of a survey taken in 2005, with a few new questions added.

“Not a lot has changed,” said Elizabeth Warrick, director of Professional and Organizational Development, who designed the survey. “This wasn’t a longitudinal survey, however. We didn’t have all the same people filling it out this time as last time. So more than change, I think the survey measures a current state.”

Both surveys were sent to all faculty, staff and academic student employees. A total of 6,601 people responded to the 2008 survey, representing 22.3 percent of possible respondents. Eighteen percent of faculty responded and 30 percent of staff generally, but only 21 percent of medical center staff.

“However, we had a 280 percent increase in medical center staff responding from 2005 to 2008, so we’re pleased about that,” Warrick said.

The questions were all multiple choice, with six possible answers ranging from either strongly agree to strongly disagree or very satisfied to very dissatisfied. The means on most questions hovered between four and five — that is, between somewhat agree and agree or between somewhat satisfied and satisfied.

“One of the great things the survey says is that University employees are for the most part very satisfied and very happy working here,” Warrick said. “There are some areas where we could do better, and we have to be diligent because we don’t want to rest on our laurels. We need to make sure we are continuing to improve.”

The areas of concern that came up on the survey are, in fact, the same ones that came up in the 2005 survey: transparency in decision making, faculty leadership development, staff career development, recognition and a supportive climate for diverse faculty and staff. These are all areas that the University has been working on since 2005. Some of the efforts include:

  •  A University vision and shared values were developed and introduced.
  • Communication and transparency were increased by town hall meetings, online videos and blogs featuring top leadership.
  • Additional funding was secured to expand the ADVANCE leadership program for chairs and emerging leaders.
  • An “onboarding” program designed to introduce individuals new to executive leadership and deans to their roles and the University was developed.
  • A career development program for staff was launched.
  • Two new positions were created to deal with diversity issues — one for staff and one for faculty.
  • More than 500 supervisors were trained in recognition and received recognition tool kits.

Salary continues to be an area of concern also, even though salaries have been increased since 2005. But interestingly, salaries do not appear to be the main driver for employee turnover. According to the survey, salary has a high impact on commitment, but less on engagement and pride/morale.

The areas that had a high impact on all three — commitment, engagement and pride/morale — were career development for faculty and both career development and understanding UW goals and individual roles for staff.

The 2008 survey added questions on the impact of the vision and values launched by Provost Wise in 2006.

“We asked people if the vision and values have been discussed within their unit and that number was pretty high,” Warrick said. She added, however, that more work needs to be done to make sure faculty and staff understand how their own work impacts the vision and values.

There were areas on the survey, Warrick said, where the mean scores went up or down, but none of the changes was statistically significant. Full survey results are now posted on the LCVI Web site’s home page: www.washington.edu/president/lcvi.

Summing up the survey results, Warrick said, “It’s clear that the University is still seen as a great place to work. Our faculty and staff find the fact that they can contribute to the University’s overall goals and mission to be really important. We still have some areas to work on, but we’re working on them. We’re already addressing those issues and we just need to make sure that those efforts are touching as many individuals as possible.”

Mindy Kornberg, vice president for Human Resources, affirmed the importance of the LCVI, which is under the sponsorship of the president, the provost and HR: “The Leadership, Community and Values Initiative will continue to guide workplace culture enhancements and serve as a tool with which the vision and the values can become ‘real.’ We expect LCVI to continue to focus on the areas previously identified and also add a new emphasis on communications, resources and trainings for mid-level faculty and staff managers.”

Warrick noted that one of those training opportunities will begin in January with a “management excellence series.” These will be free or low-cost sessions of three hours or less to which managers can come and “learn tools and be connected with resources that can help on a variety of work climate issues.”

She said she hopes that long-term, more people across campus will become involved in LCVI efforts. Another climate survey is planned for 2010.