Western asks faculty, staff to ‘Speak’ up

Next week, Western faculty and staff will again have their say about how satisfied they are at work.

“It’s about an opportunity,” said Andrew Fuller, Director (Learning and Development), Human Resources. “It’s an opportunity for faculty and staff to give a voice to their experience in the workplace, with respect to the climate, and whether they feel engaged and fulfilled with their day-to-day work experience.”

The WE SPEAK: Faculty and Staff Survey 2017 launches with an email from Western President Amit Chakma on Jan. 24. Metrics@Work, an organizational consultant based in St. Catharines, will follow that email with a link to the survey sent to 9,800 employees, including full- and part-time faculty and staff.

The survey will remain open until Feb. 13.

All responses are confidential and go directly to Metrics@Work. Metrics then takes the data, groups it and reports aggregated or combined responses of an entire group rather than an individual.

“Confidentiality is key,” Fuller stressed. “That’s why Western hires an external company.”

The survey takes 15-20 minutes to complete and participants can start to fill it out and go back to it, if needed. It can be accessed digitally by phone, tablet or personal computer.

“It’s a chance to make an impact on the university, your department, your work and it’s a chance to have an impact on the future,” Fuller said.

The university last surveyed faculty and staff in 2012. Metrics@Work also helped conduct that survey.

Questions on the current survey mirror those asked in 2012 focusing on subjects such as work engagement, workplace safety, communication and collaboration, involvement in decision-making, individual and team recognition, respect and opportunities for learning and career advancement.

The 2012 survey gave faculties and departments information to start a conversation about improvements, Fuller explained. Many units went on to implement WE ACT plans to increase engagement. The Faculty of Engineering was among of them.

“Engineering did an extensive amount of work and really took the responses to heart last time to bring about change,” Fuller said. “It shows that if you are committed, you can make a difference.”

After the 2012 survey, Engineering Dean Andrew Hrymak was not satisfied with both the results and the turnout from his faculty. So he took it upon himself to make some big changes.

“People were not engaged enough with what would happen once the survey was complete,” Hrymak said. “One of the goals was to build awareness in terms of why the survey was important and also what we would do with the results. People seeing action on the items being raised was very important.”

Hrymak organized a retreat to narrow down areas his faculty and staff wanted to focus on. “You cannot focus on everything,” he stressed. “There were so many questions and a number of different views on what was important.”

With the help of working groups, three areas emerged: 1. Communication; 2. Mentorship and career advancement; and 3. Work-life balance. With that in mind, a mission, vision and values statement was created. Next, the faculty awards program and email best practices were reviewed and a website was created to capture all of the progress.

Many of the initiatives Hrymak and his team started in 2012 are still going strong today.

In 2012, 75 per cent of full-time staff and faculty completed the survey, whereas only 51 per cent of part-time employees completed the survey. “It’s important to get a good turnout. We want a high response rate. The better the information, the more we have to work with,” Fuller said.

That survey provides a baseline for comparison to the new results.

In the 2012 survey, Western employees showed confidence in the institution regarding a number of areas when compared to similar workplaces, including performance management; being treated fairly; career advancement; overall communications; change management and job safety. Employees targeted collaboration with other departments and department/work unit communication as areas for improvement.

Overall, Western boasted higher-than-average Organizational Engagement and Work Engagement scores, although there was striking differences between faculty and staff – with staff showing higher levels of Organizational Engagement (more alignment with the university) and faculty rating Work Engagement higher (more alignment with their faculty/department).

The survey stated: “Our desire to continue to build our reputation as a world-class research institution is reflected in these results – there is shared desire between faculty and staff for more innovation, which refers to being flexible and changing in response to new circumstances, having a willingness to experiment, take risks and try new ways of doing things. Further, the results indicate we wish to build on a culture that places more value on human relations – this means treating people fairly, having respect for others and working effectively in teams.”

One of the areas identified as needing improvement across the university was work/life balance. Living Well @ Western and the Global Corporate Challenge are two programs created to bring about a focus on health and wellness. Both programs are highly successful, Fuller said.

Results from the 2017 survey will be received in March and circulated campuswide by April.

Fuller believes it “doesn’t matter where you are at, it’s what you do with it.”

Fuller said each area will have their own unique needs so they will need to find their own path, but Human Resources will provide support on how to prioritize and interpret results.

“Something as simple as a town hall meeting to talk about the results or something as complex as what we saw in Engineering,” he said. “All of those big and small changes fall out from that path.

“We encourage consultation with colleagues around what the priority areas are, and what the actions are for them.”

BY THE NUMBERS

Next week, Western launches the WE SPEAK: Faculty and Staff Survey 2017. Questions on the current survey mirror those asked on the previous WE SPEAK Survey in 2012.

Results from that survey showed Western employees had confidence in the institution regarding a number of areas when compared to a wide variety of workplaces, including performance management; being treated fairly; career advancement; overall communications; change management and job safety. Employees targeted collaboration with other departments and department/work unit communication as areas for improvement.

When compared to other universities, Western showed a higher satisfaction with senior leadership (66 per cent for Western compared to a University Database average of 45 per cent), higher belief in being treated fairly by the institution (77 per cent to 63 per cent) and a higher degree of collaboration with other departments (70 per cent to 57 per cent). Employees showed a lower degree of satisfaction with collaboration within departments (72 per cent to 74 per cent), support for diversity (78 per cent to 79 per cent) and work unit communications (66 per cent to 65 per cent).