Since 2017, 37% of faculty agree action has been taken to improve work environment

The employee engagement survey, which is administered every several years, assesses the work environment for employees at the University.

by Niamh Coomey

Thirty-seven percent of University of Minnesota employees reported feeling that some action was taken toward improvement in the work environment since 2017.

The employee engagement survey, which has been administered every several years since 2013, assesses the work environment for employees at the University. The results were released to individual managers in January and response rates were presented to the Board of Regents in February. The data is intended to be used to improve working conditions at the University. 

The 2019 survey found that the majority of staff and faculty agreed that they are proud to work at the University, and most faculty agreed that they are able to do challenging and interesting work. Less than 50% of staff and faculty agreed that the information from the survey will be used constructively. 

Response rates to the survey varied among different colleges, as well as between staff and faculty. 

These rates are often dependent on whether there was improvement since the last survey, said Brandon Sullivan, senior director of leadership and talent development in the University’s Office of Human Resources. 

“In the long run, the main driver of response rates to employee surveys is whether employees see action taken on the results at the local level,” he said.

Employees who felt action had been taken were 1.4 times more likely to have trust and confidence in their college’s leadership team, the data show.

Since the survey began in 2013, more action and participation has been seen every year, Sullivan said. 

“That’s really the whole point of the survey, is really to improve the work environment,” he said.

According to the 2019 survey, 42% of faculty agreed that there is an equitable distribution of workload within their department or unit.

This data point is often difficult to address because it relies heavily on individual perception of workload, said Carolyn Llorens Karasch, the human resources director in the College of Continuing and Professional Studies. 

“The engagement survey is at one point in time,” she said. “It’s whatever was happening to that employee during the time of the survey, the day they took the survey.” 

Restructuring positions, seeking technological improvements and, on rare occasions, finding funds for a new position are strategies used to improve the distribution of workload in response to the survey results, she said.

In the Big Ten, the University is among the only universities that do a system-wide survey of all staff and faculty, Sullivan said. 

The School of Nursing had the highest faculty response rate, at 89%, and a similar response rate for staff.

This is driven by a culture around data collection within the school, Nursing School Dean Connie White Delaney said.

“The key in the school is that people respect data, they want to contribute to it, there is an unwavering commitment to always going and being better,” she said.

The school has formed task forces and work groups in past years to address concerns raised by the survey data.

“When we review the results, we basically take action on every point that the staff or faculty want to address,” she said.