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Employee Engagement Survey Results Presented at Meeting

February 6, 2018

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – The 2017 employee engagement survey completed by 1,046 faculty and staff showed that Middlebury’s benefits-eligible workers have a strong sense of pride in the institution and value their ability to make a difference in the lives of highly talented students.  

The survey, which was administered last October and had a 68 percent response rate, also disclosed that a majority of faculty and staff have a positive overall working experience, value the sense of community engendered by Middlebury, enjoy a high degree of “job fit,” and appreciate the flexibility and autonomy their jobs afford.

The administration shared the survey results at a town-hall-style meeting on January 17 in Dana Auditorium. Jeffrey Cason, vice president for academic administration and interim provost, said that while the data “revealed important strengths about the institution, it also points to some significant challenges we have and things we need to work on to make things better.”

Cason referred to the sense of empowerment experienced by Middlebury employees. “We need to work on communicating more effectively, and, in particular, communicating in such ways that make our colleagues feel empowered. Although [the survey showed] there is a great deal of pride in working for this institution, there is also a significant degree of concern about colleagues not feeling empowered in their jobs.

Watch: January 17 presentation of the Employee Engagement Survey results.

“I want to state a commitment here–and I know I speak for President Patton when I say this–we are really committed to communicating and understanding the data from this survey,” he said. “We intend to work with this data and make changes as a consequence of what we are learning.”

The survey disclosed that employees want improved communication, better performance management, and greater accountability from their supervisors and senior leadership. It revealed that workers experience “pain points” regarding compensation, staffing, and facilities. It also showed that employees desire increased transparency in decision-making; more participation in decisions that affect their work; and greater accountability in terms of how management handles “low performers, disrespectful behaviors, and perceptions of favoritism” in the workplace.

The instrument administered by ModernThink, an organizational development firm hired by Middlebury, also revealed that the sense of community within departments “does not consistently translate into strong cross-functional collaboration or a sense of alignment across all of Middlebury.” For some employees, there is tension between the Vermont and California locations; for other workers, there is tension between faculty and administration.

Karen Miller, the vice president for human resources, called the survey the first “systemic institution-wide survey” to include all of Middlebury’s benefits-eligible employees in Vermont, California, and around the globe.

The survey generated “a really good data set” for moving forward to improve the institution, she said. “From that data comes insight into how we are actually working together right now, and I am excited because from that insight we open ourselves up to opportunities of how we might work together differently in the future, not only to propel Middlebury forward, but to actually unleash the untapped potential of our workplace environment.”

Richard Boyer, a senior consultant with ModernThink, presented the data in a series of 40 PowerPoint slides to an audience of about 100 employees in Vermont and to others who logged into the livestream of the presentation. Boyer took the audience through the 67-question survey, discussed the methodology, and explained the 15 “core dimensions” that the instrument was designed to shed light upon. They include job satisfaction, communication, teaching environment, senior leadership, facilities, fairness, and collaboration.

David Provost, executive vice president of finance and administration, explained that the next step of the process is for Middlebury’s senior leadership to communicate specific survey results to their departments. The challenge, he said, is to consider the question, ‘What do we in our areas have to contribute to this discussion in addressing some of the areas that we are not as strong in?’ “We want to make sure that those conversations are taking place at the departmental level because [the issues raised in the survey] are not consistent across the organization.”

The vice presidents across the institution will offer their employees opportunities to engage in the discussion about possible next steps, and the administration is looking at ways to survey non-benefits-eligible employees. Additionally, employees will be invited to attend sessions with colleagues across Middlebury honing in on institution wide opportunities for improvement. The first topic will be performance management, which is how is how the institution aligns capabilities and contributions of its employees to achieve its organizational goals.

Reporting by Robert Keren