Survey says: Employees mostly happy at Yale, and getting happier, but some areas could use improvement

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In the 2017 Workplace Survey, staff members expressed increased satisfaction with numerous facets of their Yale careers, with 86% saying they are proud to work for the university and a near-equal number (85%) indicating they are satisfied with their employment here.

While staff members also identified particular areas for improvement, they gave many categories the most favorable ratings since the university began the Workplace Survey in 2005. This year’s survey was Yale’s sixth; the last one took place in 2014.

The overall favorable response on the survey improved from 67% to 70%, a new record high.

The 2017 Workplace Survey had a 77% staff participation rate. Of those responding to the survey, 52% are in managerial and professional positions, 38% are in clerical or technical positions, and 10% are in service and maintenance posts. The members of all three workforce groups indicated improved satisfaction in their Yale work since 2014, with those in the service and maintenance workforce showing the highest gains in favorable ratings (up 9 percentage points since 2014).

The survey, which took place in March, queried employees about their commitment to working at Yale as well as other areas of work life, including productivity, teamwork, innovation, decision-making processes, career development, workplace diversity, and more. Staff members also shared their perceptions about the university’s rewards and benefits, communications, leadership, and performance management.

The good news: In addition to expressing a high commitment to their Yale careers, employees voiced through their ratings an overall satisfaction with the university’s healthcare benefits (87% said their benefits are comprehensive and provide great protection); their retirement benefits (82% said those benefits offer important future security); and the absence of offensive behavior (80% claimed there was no tolerance for sexual harassment, discrimination, insensitive remarks, etc. in their units). In addition, most staff members (76%) report that they have clear performance goals and know their managers’ expectations of them.

Biggest areas of improvement: The greatest year-to-year improvement in employee survey responses was in the areas of labor relations (56% said they feel labor relations are changing for the better, up 13 percentage points since 2014); communications (79% said they trust the communications they receive from the university, up 7 percentage points); pay (61% said they feel they are paid fairly in comparison with Yale colleagues in comparable jobs and 50% think that Yale pay is better than that of other organizations, both up 7 percentage points); and the university’s future (55% believe Yale is changing for the better, up 7 percentage points).

Areas staff members would like to see improved: Some employees indicated a wish for improvement in the following areas: wellbeing (32% said they felt stressed by their work); leadership (25% said the overall morale in their units was low); pay (24% believe Yale’s pay is worse than other organizations); decision-making (24% said decisions in their units are often delayed waiting for decisions from higher levels of management); teamwork (22% said workplace conflicts in their unit are not handled openly and constructively); and development (21% said their manager had not had a meaningful discussion with them in the past year about their career development). All of these areas showed slightly improved ratings from 2014.

Michael Peel, the vice president for human resources and administration who will retire at the end of the month after nearly nine years of service at Yale, says that, overall, the 2017 survey reflects substantially greater work satisfaction among all workforces (managerial and professional, clerical and technical, and service and maintenance), and a steady increase in favorable ratings on survey categories since 2010.

He said he is pleased by the gains in favorable rankings among employees in a majority of categories, but said that more work can be done to achieve uniformly favorable ratings in particular departments. The average gap between the highest-scoring and lowest-scoring units was 35 percentage points, he noted, reflecting a wide variation in how some employees perceive the work atmosphere in their units.

“Managers in individual units will assess their specific survey data, and we will also review verbatim comments and compare survey results with benchmarks,” says Peel. “The next stage in the process will be to develop specific action plans for individual units and at the institutional level with the goal of continuing our upward trajectory in making and keeping Yale a great place to work. It is satisfying for me on a personal level to see, as I prepare to depart, that the university continues to be a place where so many staff members are satisfied and proud to work.”

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