Survey shows high engagement, opportunity for improvements

By Jason Winders and Paul Mayne
April 24, 2013

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We SpeakPaul Mayne, Western News
John Yardley, Metrics@Work president, leads a discussion at the Leader’s Forum last week after rolling out the findings from Western’s We Speak faculty/staff survey. Metrics@Work conducted the survey.

Results from the We Speak faculty and staff survey, conducted last fall, showed room for celebration, but also room for improvement.

Overall, the numbers reflect a university community engaged with the institution at nearly sector-best levels. Work engagement at the faculty and unit level, however, was average for the sector.

The numbers presented are as deep and meaningful as they are personal and complex. 

Metrics@Work, which conducted the survey, has a database of more than 160 organizations from which Western can compare. They also measured Western against a sector-specific database of six Canadian universities and on college.

Nearly 75 per cent of full-time staff members and 51 per cent of full-time University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA) members participated in the survey.

The survey presented two, top-level scores in terms of engagement – Organizational Engagement and Work Engagement.

Western tallied an overall score of 74.7 in Organizational Engagement, a number measuring the university community’s engagement with the institution as a whole. Basically, it’s how we feel about Western.

That number was well above the university sector average (64.6) and the Metrics@Work database average (68.8), and narrowly missed topping the best university sector score (75.3). The top database score is 84.3.

Western also tallied an overall score of 74.6 in Work Engagement, a number measuring the university community’s engagement with their work and work unit. Basically, it’s how we feel about what we do and who we do it with, every day.

That number was above the database average (73.3), and just shy of the university sector average (75.1). It fell short of the university sector (80.7) and database (83.5) bests.

In those numbers, you start to see a hint of Western’s strengths and weaknesses, as far as this survey determined.

 “You had particularly high organizational engagement scores,” said John Yardley, Metrics@Work president. I suggest to you that I think I’ve only seen it once or twice in the 160-odd organizations we have surveyed.

“It’s very rare and positive because it’s how people feel about Western as a whole.”

Yardley stressed the survey is more than one score, but a series of scores beneath that single number feeding hundreds of different conversations and decisions across faculties and units.

There, you see wide variations inside Western, across faculties and departments. That’s a reflection of the institution’s complexity.

“You are a 6,000-person organization; you have very different faculties; you have very different staff functions,” Yardley said. “The reality is, you need to understand each bit (of the survey) and how these bits fit together.”

Overall, when it came to individual drivers, the university compared quite favourably against external institutions both inside and outside the postsecondary sector.

Compared to the total Metrics@Work database, Western boasted 18 higher drivers, one the same and two lower. Among the high end, ‘Performance Management’ and ‘Treated Fairly’ topped the list; ‘Department/Work Unit Communication’ and ‘Collaboration Within Department’ were the only two below database average.

Compared to the total Metrics@Work postsecondary database of seven Canadian institutions with 4,400 respondents, Western boasted 15 higher drivers, one the same and one lower. Among the high end, ‘Satisfaction with Senior Leadership’ and ‘Treated Fairly’ topped the list; ‘Collaboration Within Department’ and ‘Support for Diversity’ rounded out the bottom.

As far as raw scores, ‘Job Safety,’ ‘University’s Support for Diversity’ and ‘Role Clarity’ consistently ranked the strongest drivers across every segment of the university community. Western’s faculty and staff saved their highest scores for these areas.

Another way to view the numbers is to compare our scores relative to the scores of other institutions by looking at what categories have the highest score separation.

For instance, Western staff members found their highest positive separation of scores versus the Metrics@Work university database within the drivers of ‘Collaboration With Other Departments’ and ‘Career Advancement.’ Only four staff drivers charted lower than the sector average – ‘Decision Making in Your Department,’ ‘Support For Diversity in Your Department,’ ‘Leadership in Your Department’ and ‘Collaboration Within Department.’

But Western faculty members found their highest positive separation versus the university database within the drivers of ‘Workload (Role Balance)’ and ‘Treated Fairly.’ Five faculty drivers charted lower than sector average – ‘Support For Diversity in Your Department,’ ‘Leadership In Your Department,’ ‘Decision Making in Your Department,’ ‘Department/Work Unit Communication’ and ‘Collaboration With Department.’

Yardley pointed to the common low response in ‘Collaboration Within Department’ and common high response in ‘Treated Fairly’ as starting points for discussions.

“You have room to improve. This is not all about a starry-eyed group of people walking around saying, ‘We got great results.’ You have some things that can be improved,” he stressed. “But you’re not broken.”

Much of that improvement will come out at the deeper levels – the faculty and division level. There, discussions will have a more on-the-ground feel.

“You don’t do something to the whole of Western, that’s just a waste of time,” Yardley said. “You literally need to focus on where there are local issues and deal with those, and you will see greater improvement as a whole.”


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