Staff survey helps U find areas to improve

Results will give U officials a look into employees’ work environments.

Taylor Nachtigal

In the coming weeks, University of Minnesota employees will have the opportunity to voice any concerns they might have about their work environment.

The second annual employee engagement survey, which launched Monday, aims to help provide school leaders with feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of each unit and department at the University. The results allow department and unit leaders to address any
issues that might be plaguing their employees’ ability to do their jobs.

“The research has really found when you have employees that are focused and motivated, they do their best work,” said Brandon Sullivan, director of leadership and talent development for the University’s Office of Human Resources.

OHR sent out the optional survey to all 19,000 benefits-eligible faculty and staff members across all five campuses. It will be open until Oct. 31, Sullivan said. Last year, nearly half of all faculty members responded to the survey, and 60 percent of staff members responded.

The process will be almost identical to last year’s, Sullivan said, but he’s hoping the conversations following this year’s results will be deeper.

“We don’t want to dump data on people,” he said. “We want it to be a conversation.”

With the results of the survey, which will come out in January, Human Resources hopes to implement plans to enhance engagement and correct or improve upon any areas in which the University is lacking, Sullivan said.

Last year’s survey found that both faculty and staff felt the structure and process in their work environment was most unfavorable.

Both groups also shared a most favorable view of the University’s “commitment to excellence.”

Information like this is important for recruiting and retaining top employees, and sustaining performance and collaboration across the University, according to last year’s results report.

Bill O’Neill, chair of the Faculty Senate’s Civil Service Consultative Committee, said this type of survey is the ideal way to reach out to all faculty and staff members across a large institution like the University. Generally, he said, it’s difficult to engage all employees.

Sullivan said one of the biggest challenges with the survey is communicating the results and action plan to everyone.

He pointed to the Humphrey School of Public Affairs as an example of a school that has been actively working to address its results
from last year’s survey.

Humphrey School Dean Eric Schwartz recently presented the school’s initiatives spurred by its results, like creating diversity and short-term engagement committees, to the University’s Board of Regents and the Civil Service Consultative Committee.

The school is also implementing orientation for all new faculty and staff to make them feel more welcome, Schwartz said.

“We welcome the fact that the University feels we are doing the right thing [with the results],” he said, “but we are well aware there is much, much more we need to be doing on these issues. This is really a work in progress.”