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Employee survey shows wide success; some need work

The most recent in a series of WSU surveys shows employees remain committed to the goals of the strategic plan and perceive WSU as a high-quality institution. And while staff attitudes and information experiences have improved, the survey shows that more work in those areas can be done to assist faculty.

Surveys and focus-group discussions were done in 2001, 2003 and spring 2005 concerning employee views on internal communication, commitment to WSU’s strategic goals and views on university identity. These assessments assist the administration in planning and implementing communication systems and events designed to improve internal communication at WSU.

Patty Sias, associate professor, Murrow School of Communication, and her organizational communication students surveyed faculty and staff. Here’s what they found.

Strategic plan commitment
Employees remain strongly committed to the goals of the strategic plan. Based on a five-point scale from strongly committed (5) to not at all committed (1), average faculty and staff commitment to each of the four strategic goals is above 4.0.

The highest level of commitment expressed was for building an environment of trust and respect, 4.46. The other scores were: 4.19 for the best undergraduate experience in a research university; 4.22 for world-class research, scholarship, graduate education, arts and engagement; and 4.28 for a commitment to quality in all that we do.

Commitment & job satisfaction
Again on a 5.0 scale, employee satisfaction with their jobs had a 3.85 mean score, while employee attachment or commitment to WSU received an overall 3.5 mean score. That sense of commitment has seen improvement since 2000 among all groups of employees. The scores for 2001, 2003 and 2005 for commitment to WSU were:

Classified staff: 3.09 / 3.42 / 3.39
Administrative/professional (A/P) staff: 3.12 / 3.36 / 3.73
Faculty: 3.04 / 3.60 / 3.49

Supervisors and information
A primary area of improvement noted in the more recent assessment as compared to the 2003 survey centered on classified staff-administrator relations. Classified staff reported significant improvement in respect for, and quality of relationships with, immediate supervisors and significant improvement in being respected by mid-level administrators.

The assessment also indicated significant improvements in A/P staff information experiences and relations. Specifically, A/P staff reported being significantly better informed regarding how decisions are made, reported significantly higher levels of trust in and respect for mid-level and senior administrators, and reported a significant increase in their level of commitment to WSU.

While the attitudes and information experiences of classified and A/P staff improved since 2003, faculty information experiences and relations were problematic, Sias noted. Specifically, faculty reported receiving significantly lower quality information from mid-level administrators and being significantly under-informed about issues such as academic realignment, administrative hiring and budget planning. Faculty also reported significantly lower levels of trust and respect for, and by, senior and mid-level administrators compared to 2003.

Perceptions of WSU identity for all employee types (classified, A/P and faculty) emerged as another area of strength in the 2005 assessment, Sias said. Results indicate employees perceive WSU to be a high-quality academic institution and indicate significant improvement since 2003 in employee perceptions of student behavior and quality.

Actions being taken
The results of the 2005 assessment largely underscore the effectiveness of the efforts made to improve internal communication with classified staff over the past two years, Sias noted. These include the annual Showcase banquet that honors both faculty and staff for outstanding performance, increased classified staff profiles on the WSU website, in WSU Today and the Pullman Community Update, and improved communication with new employees during orientation events. These programs include substantial information regarding WSU identity, mission and strategic plan.

WSU has efforts under way to address the faculty concerns revealed in the 2005 assessment. For example, Showcase has been given more visibility and attention. The Academic Showcase exhibit session, in particular, highlights faculty research and in 2005 drew many faculty, staff and students interested in learning about the work of colleagues. The Distinguished Faculty Address now is presented as part of the Showcase luncheon.

The administration also is continuing efforts toward establishing a University Club to provide an informal environment that will enhance faculty-administrator information-sharing and relations.

In sum, the 2005 assessment revealed significant improvements in WSU internal communication over the past two years. Continued attention to the problem areas should result in an even more effective university system, Sias said.

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