College staff survey offers mixed reviews

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October 23, 2007

4:27 AM

A recent survey conducted by the administration shows that a high percentages of respondents reported that they trust their co-workers, think that their co-workers are strongly committed to helping the institution, are valued as a team member within their department and feel their work is important to the department’s success. Staff also think that their supervisor is consistent and fair when dealing with employees, say their department is a good place to work, and are proud to say they work at the College.

p. However, the survey revealed areas of trouble for the administration, especially in pay and compensation.

p. Nearly half of the respondents said that their department has insufficient staffing to handle assigned duties.

p. Fifty-four percent said that their pay is not comparable to similar jobs outside the College, and 40.5 percent said that they are not fairly compensated for the work they preform. An additional 69.5 percent said that tuition reimbursement for employees taking College courses is important.

p. The survey was performed as part of an internal restructuring of human resources according to Virginia’s Higher Education Restructuring Act of 2005. The change will move human resources policy control from the state to the College. The University of Virginia and Virginia Tech are making similar changes.

p. “We mean to use it as a basis to help understand the most important steps to take to have the best, most fulfilling working conditions possible in the College community,” College President Gene Nichol said. “I think it’s instructive on that front.”

p. The survey was composed of 928 respondents from every department of the College. Of those surveyed, 26.6 percent were faculty, 55 percent were non-faculty employees, and the others were either hourly workers or did not report their status.

p. High percentages of respondents reported that they trust their co-workers, think that their co-workers are strongly committed to helping the institution, are valued as a team member within their department, feel their work is important to the department’s success, think their supervisor is consistent and fair when dealing with employees, say their department is a good place to work, and are proud to say they work at the College.

p. However, the survey also revealed areas of trouble for the administration, especially in pay and compensation.

p. Nearly half of the respondents said that their department has insufficient staffing to handle assigned duties. Fifty-four percent said their pay is not comparable to similar jobs outside the College, and 40.5 percent said that they are not fairly compensated for the work they do. A further 69.5 percent said that tuition reimbursement for employees taking College courses is important.

p. Twenty-one percent of respondents said their department does not receive good support from senior College administrators. Almost 18 percent of respondents said the College does not care about employees and does not treat them fairly, and another 24.7 percent were neutral. Most problematic was the portion who feel the College is not a well-run institution: 12.4 percent.

p. This survey differs from prior surveys because it included all employees of the College at all levels of authority. Previously only faculty had been polled, but in this new survey, faculty made up approximately one-quarter of the respondents.

p. Mathematics professor Marylou Zapf pointed out the possible biases and flaws in the survey. “The survey results are based on a voluntary response sample so the statistics reveal information only about the respondents, not the entire College employee population,” she said. “Traditionally, voluntary surveys are biased.

p. The respondents are usually those with strong negative opinions [or] those who are strongly motivated in favor of change.

p. The survey information will be used by a steering committee to make recommendations to Nichol by January and to the Board of Visitors by February. By July 2008, the new College-run human resources department is scheduled to be operational.

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