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W&M releases results of latest employee climate survey

  • Building strong leaders:
    Building strong leaders:  Pictured here are participants in the inaugural Building Stronger Leaders program, aimed at helping leaders develop a healthier, more inclusive culture. The year-long program focused on Facilities Management values and three foundational principles: respect, fairness and accountability. The program was so successful that it will be modified and offered to the rest of campus during the 2019-20 academic year.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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William & Mary employees see the university as a good place to work and feel engaged in their jobs. However, they are concerned about pay and opportunities for advancement at the university.

That’s according to a fall 2018 survey of employees — both faculty and staff — at the university. W&M recently received the results of that survey, and human resources representatives will be meeting with units across campus within the next few months to discuss the findings. Sam Jones, senior vice president for finance and administration, will present highlights from the survey to the Board of Visitors during its meeting on campus this week.

“While we are happy to hear that most employees think that the university is a good place to work, there are clearly areas where improvement is still needed,” said Jones. “We have been working to address these areas since the 2015 survey and will continue to do so. The results of this survey are invaluable to that work and our goal of making sure employees feel valued and supported.”

The survey was administered by PricewaterhouseCoopers and focused on seven overall areas: employee engagement, W&M as a place to work, employee views of their jobs, pay and benefits, supervisor quality, overall management quality and diversity. The Gelfond Group, now part of PwC, conducted a near-identical survey at W&M in 2015.

The response rate for the latest survey was 76%, up 5 percentage points from the 2015 survey. Also slightly up in the latest survey were favorable responses to overall themes of employee engagement (up one percentage point to 75%), W&M as a place to work (also up one to 72%), pay and benefits (up two to 46%), supervisor quality (up three to 76%) and management quality (up one to 54%).

“Surveys like these are important tools for understanding the climate among employees and guiding actions that can help better it,” said Robert “Bob” Green, interim chief human resources officer. “We are grateful to all who responded and are eager to share the results with the community so we can determine what steps are needed to maintain our successes and address areas for improvement.”

On questions about employee engagement — the level of their commitment and involvement — 75% of respondents selected favorable answers. Eighty-seven percent said they were proud to work at W&M, and 72% said that W&M is a good place to work. Seventy-two percent also said that the university treats employees with respect, and nearly the same percentage (73%) said that W&M inspires employees to do their best work.

Employees also reported a good understanding of their job responsibilities, with 92% selecting positive replies to related questions. Eighty-one percent said that W&M is making good use of their skills.

A majority of W&M employees — 76% — also view their supervisors favorably, a slight increase from the 2015 survey.

While questions about benefits received mostly positive responses, a majority of respondents expressed concerns about pay. For instance, only 39% responded favorably to a question about compensation. That number is down slightly from the 2015 survey in which 41% of respondents responded favorably to the same question. In addition, only 32% of respondents replied favorably to a question about opportunities for advancement, and 28% responded favorably to a question about the level of bureaucracy at W&M.

Favorable responses to questions about diversity were also down 2 percentage points since the last survey, but the overall number remained steady at 75%. An overwhelming number of respondents (99%) said that they have a good understanding of what constitutes discrimination, sexual violence or harassment, and 94% said that they knew how to report such incidents. However, only 65% of respondents said that employees are treated fairly without regard to race, color or national origin, down from 70% in the last survey, and 66% said that employees are treated fairly without regard to age, also down from 70%.

The survey also revealed differences in how people of color and classified employees view their work environments and experiences.

For instance, only 60% of classified employees who are not exempt from overtime rated W&M favorably as a place to work, compared to 72% overall. Also, among African-American respondents, the favorable score on questions related to employee engagement was 61% (compared to 75% overall), with lower scores specifically around questions on W&M as a place to work (48% compared to 70% for all respondents) and as a place where they are treated with respect (55% compared to 72% for all).

Similar areas of concern for African-American respondents were revealed in the 2015 survey. They were presented to the president’s Task Force on Race and Race Relations and used to inform actions taken by that group, including training for W&M employees and students as well as new recruitment and retention efforts. Those efforts are ongoing.

An outside consultation company was also brought in to identify issues of concern specifically within Facilities Management. A consultant hosted a series of focus groups within the division, and, as a result, a human resources generalist was hired to ensure the consistent implementation of policies. A working group was also established to explore ways to improve fairness, respect and accountability within Facilities Management.

“We have been working hard to address the issues around equity that were revealed through the last climate survey and through the work of the Task Force on Race and Race Relations,” said Chon Glover, W&M’s chief diversity officer. “While I am grateful for what has been accomplished, there is clearly more to do. We will continue to strive to further understand the issues and hone our strategies for addressing them, keeping up momentum started by the task force.”

According to the executive summary for the latest employee survey, some of the possible actions that can be taken to address current areas of concern survey include: offering more supervisory training and support, developing non-supervisory career tracks and more training in support of career advancement, conducting a market-based salary study across employment categories and classifications, streamlining business processes in conjunction with cross-training and career path opportunities, improving communication among employee groups and the administration and incorporating the results of the survey into W&M strategic planning work.

“We will continue to review and share the survey results to help us build on university strengths and improve in areas of weakness,” the executive summary says. “While ‘top down’ direction is important, true change occurs among individual employees, their supervisors and at the department and unit level. It will require a concerted effort from everyone to achieve the workplace excellence to which we aspire at William & Mary.”