UK@Work Survey Results: Introduction
Earlier this year, the University of Kentucky achieved an important milestone in the history of the work-life initiative launched by President Lee T. Todd Jr. in 2002. In February 2006, nearly half of all faculty participated in the first-ever university-wide survey of work-life issues (known as UK@Work). This survey followed a similar survey of staff in October 2005, which achieved a response rate of over 50 percent. The survey project was a direct result of Todd’s establishment of the UK Work-Life Office and the hiring of its director in 2004.
As Todd has noted, the work-life surveys will help the university evolve as a competitive work environment that is attractive to a diverse, dynamic workforce focused on advancing the greater good of our Commonwealth. By working together to address the concerns highlighted by the staff and faculty community, Todd has said UK will become the kind of Top 20 workplace essential for a Top 20 university. Further, the UK@Work surveys met a goal set forth by the original UK Work-Life Task Force, which recommended the formation of a work-life office and an institution-wide assessment (including focus groups and surveys) of work-life issues.
The content of the surveys and the high level of participation achieved are a testament to the large number of contributing groups, including the Work-Life Advisory Council, Human Resources, the Office of Institutional Research, Planning, and Effectiveness, as well as the Staff Senate, University Senate and countless individual volunteers from across the university community. In addition, more than 300 faculty and staff participated in focus groups to provide an initial, qualitative inventory of work-life concerns.
The staff and faculty surveys focused on several broad themes: work environment, work-life effectiveness, diversity, and recruitment/retention. Highlighted results can be found throughout this report. Altogether, 6,279 employees participated in the survey. The identity of all respondents will remain confidential.
The preliminary analysis outlined here will spur a new set of initiatives, plus enhancements to existing policy and practice, which will enable employees to become as effective as they can be at work, at home - and in this increasingly connected world – everywhere in between.
The staff and faculty surveys provide the university with a great deal of information to consider, on topics ranging from general job satisfaction and perceptions of supervisor effectiveness to more general issues relating to work-life balance. Some findings include:
- Many staff members are satisfied with most aspects of their jobs, the challenges presented by those jobs and their supervisors. While benefits are viewed quite favorably by all staff, more than half of respondents express some dissatisfaction with compensation.
- For faculty respondents, teaching loads and expectations for service and outreach are assessed as “about right,” while available resources for scholarship and creative activities in some areas are perceived by many as “too little.”
- Both staff and faculty respondents tend to view working relationships with, and perceived respect and work-life support from, colleagues and supervisors more favorably than communication and support from “senior leadership.”
- In terms of popular current or prospective work-life offerings, many staff value current and potential flexible work arrangements, while faculty favor increased technical support. Many respondents among both faculty and staff favor a tuition assistance program for employees’ family members.
Given the strengths and challenges highlighted here, and at UK@Work presentations now underway, where does the university go from here? To begin, UK Work-Life will hold a series of information/education sessions in October to respond to specific employee concerns highlighted in survey feedback, including childcare, retirement savings and workplace flexibility, among other topics of interest.
Moreover, at the urging of Todd, UK Work-Life has begun a collaborative process to engage relevant groups in evaluating strategic and financial impacts of potential new workplace initiatives. This process should result in a series of specific recommendations originating from employee groups charged with these responsibilities.
Ultimately, the feedback provided by UK employees will support the university as it strives to achieve elite status as an employer of choice – for our employees that means making a great place to work even better – a goal that, in turn, supports UK’s overarching plan to join the ranks of the nation’s Top 20 universities.