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Seattle University


Take the Survey-It Matters

Written by Mike Thee
February 25, 2013

All SU employees are encouraged to take the Faculty and Staff Satisfaction Survey, which launches next week.

"As a Jesuit university, Seattle University’s commitment to caring for the whole person extends to faculty and staff in addition to students," wrote President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., in an announcement this week. "The time is right for all of us to again take the satisfaction survey, both to measure our progress and to identify where further work may be needed."

The 2009 survey-which affirmed a number of strengths, including an exceptional collective commitment to the university's mission, vision and values-also surfaced a few areas with room for improvement, most notably in the categories of compensation and benefits, fairness, governance and internal communications. The university took the feedback to heart and has set into motion a variety of new initiatives to strengthen those areas that employees identified in the survey as needing more attention.

In direct response to the 2009 survey, the university has invested more substantially in employee compensation and benefits, moved to a merit-based system for staff pay, provided more avenues and opportunities for faculty and staff to weigh in on university decisions, instituted a new wellness program, made a variety of enhancements to health benefits, and created a service leave benefit for staff to volunteer in the community during work hours. Those are just some examples.

These changes are being noticed-and appreciated-by SU faculty and staff.

Survey Time

As in 2009, the 2013 survey will be administered by ModernThink, which partners with The Chronicle of Higher Education on its nationwide survey of "Great Colleges to Work For" supplement. The 2009 survey received a 60 percent response rate from SU employees, which is significantly higher than the 36 percent average of schools participating in "Great Colleges" survey. The survey begins Monday, March 4. For more information, visit Satisfaction Survey.

One of the areas of improvement highlighted in the 2009 survey was governance and faculty involvement in decisions related to education programs. The Core Revision Committee, for instance, used a variety of new feedback mechanisms in order to give a large number of constituents the chance for their voice to be heard throughout the process. These included holding open fora that incorporated small group discussions. Vicky Minderhout, professor of chemistry and co-chair of the Core Revision Committee says:  "This perspective sharing is really important to building community and shared purpose. It is hard to walk in someone else's shoes if you do not even know how they think about the issue. Diverse groups in which everyone has an opportunity to speak are particularly relevant for this perspective sharing and we worked to orchestrate that."

Susan Oistad, manager of Reprographics and Mailing Services, who has been on SU's staff since 1994, recalls that the university conducted just one other satisfaction survey in her time here. Oistad describes how impressed she is with the university's response to the 2009 survey. "The areas that emerged as needing improvement were actually worked on!" she says. "The university took what employees said and came up with answers."

One example Oistad gave was the effort to increase base pay to levels competitive with the external labor market and the implementation of the merit-based pay system for staff.  "Merit pay was a key element in the survey results and I've heard staff talk about it for years. My staff benefited from the market analysis and merit increases and the huge commitment by the university made working here more equitable for them." 

Another outcome of the university's response to the 2009 survey was related to greater transparency in communications with the community. Oistad cited the many open fora held about various topics, including changes in compensation and benefits. "The open fora were great opportunities for everyone to hear and ask questions about upcoming changes," she says. "The openness of the process was important to me." 

When asked what she values most about working at SU, Oistad cites our "incredible community" and the many ways faculty and staff can engage. "There are events happening all the time; I think SU goes out of its way to foster a sense of community among faculty and staff."

Tammy Shadair, manager of budget and operations for the Center for Service and Community Engagement has taken advantage of the many wellness opportunities that have been offered since the benefits changes prompted by the 2009 satisfaction survey were put in place. Shadair has met with a life coach and is in the "1,000 point club" of Seattle University LiVE, the online wellness program launched in 2011, in which employees and their families earn points and prizes for participating in wellness activities.

Using LiVE, Shadair has participated in challenges and tracked her progress on various wellness goals.  She attended wellness fairs, had her biometrics tested and was inspired to join a class offered University Recreation that she reports is keeping her on her toes. When asked how her participation in the wellness program has impacted her work-life balance, Shadair says that it has made her consider "How in balance is my life?" and that the tracking and challenges helped her pay attention to her work-life balance and improve it. 

An item that emerged from the 2009 survey as an opportunity for improvement was a need for more supervisor training. Professional development programming has increased steadily since then, with 485 employees logging over 1,000 hours of training time in 2012. Professional development programs for supervisors of staff have been offered on a variety of topics targeted at building supervisory skills.

Jamie Peterson, manager of the media production center in the Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons supervises regular full-time staff and students who assist users of the MPC on a variety of media projects. Peterson has taken full advantage of the new professional development programming offered to supervisors. "I am always looking to expand my horizons and develop my skills," he says. "The professional development programming for supervisors shows me how SU does things and connects me to colleagues who are addressing similar circumstances." 

One example Peterson gives about how participating in professional development programming has impacted his supervision is that when it comes time to set goals with his staff, he now thinks of long-term outcomes and is attentive to the career path of his staff and takes care to recognize accomplishments instead of limiting his focus on improvement areas. 

Yes, despite what Mick Jagger would have you believe, there is satisfaction to be had when it comes to the SU work experience. And it all goes back to the importance of making sure your voice is heard. Take the survey!