2015 Staff Survey results

Last fall, 61 percent of Stanford's staff participated in a survey that asked about working at the university. Respondents expressed pride in the institution and the opportunities it affords, while expressing a need for a better understanding of university priorities.

Nine out of 10 staff members are proud to work at Stanford, and are proud of the work they do to support students and faculty, according to the results of the 2015 Staff Survey, which the university conducted last October.

The staff survey is the first step of a university-wide workplace initiative designed to identify opportunities to strengthen the employee experience at Stanford in coming years. The results will be used to identify specific ways to improve and enhance the work experience at the university and to inform strategic planning.

Stanford distributed the survey to active, benefits-eligible staff, including exempt, non-exempt and bargaining unit employees.

Sixty-one percent – 7,226 people – of Stanford’s 11,942 staff members participated in the survey. Stanford partnered with an independent research organization to design the survey, which included 51 core questions and one open-ended question, “What else do you want to add about working at Stanford?”

University Human Resources (UHR) has presented a summary of the results to Stanford’s 13-member cabinet, which includes deans of all seven schools, and to other university leaders across the campus. UHR recently shared the results with individual schools and units. Each school and unit has one or more designated survey liaisons – a human resources manager partnered with a dean of administration and finance, for example – that serve as primary contacts on the project.

“Ensuring that all levels of leadership understood the results and are involved in the next steps of the survey initiative has been critical,” said President John L. Hennessy. “We have an extremely engaged workforce and staff, who are eager to hear the results and understand what the university will do to improve. Creating a clear process that has the support of our talented staff is key to moving forward.”

Overall, the results of the survey were positive, UHR officials said.

More than 80 percent of the employees who responded to the survey believe that people of all backgrounds can succeed at Stanford. More than 90 percent believe Stanford provides a healthy and safe place to work. In terms of professional development, more than 80 percent of employees said Stanford provides opportunities to learn new skills.

In addition, nearly 80 percent of respondents said that they are continually improving the quality of work they do, and that their jobs make good use of their skills and abilities.

UHR officials said the survey results also showed there is room for improvement in communicating Stanford’s priorities to employees.

More than 70 percent of respondents said their work group’s activities are clearly aligned with their school or unit, and that their work group has a clear understanding of the needs of faculty and students. However, fewer employees – 60 percent of staff respondents – said their leaders set clear priorities for their work groups, and that they were satisfied with the information they receive from management on what’s going on at Stanford.

Nearly 70 percent of the employees who responded to the survey said that Stanford has tools in place that enable them to easily share information, and nearly 70 percent said that people willingly share what they know with staff from other parts of the university.

Employees surveyed also identified specific areas that the university will further examine for improvement, such as minimizing administrative barriers and streamlining work processes. Some employees who responded to the open-ended question talked about the challenges of living and working in the Bay Area, which is known for its high cost of living.

Elizabeth Zacharias, who joined Stanford as vice president for human resources in mid-October, said she found the results to be very informative, both in terms of important strengths the university wants to preserve as well as areas where improvements would enhance the employment experience at Stanford.

“As we further analyze the survey feedback, we expect there will be a need to ask additional questions to fully understand the areas of focus and actions to take,” she said. “I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues to identify concrete next steps that will support our staff, whose contributions to the university’s mission of excellence are highly valued.”

Next phases of the workplace initiative

Each school and unit now has its own results, including benchmark data comparing the results to other universities and to high-performing companies in the United States.

In March and April, schools and units will share local results with employees and possibly schedule “discovery meetings” to better understand key aspects of the quantitative results and help identify priorities for workplace improvement. Discovery meetings could take several forms, including brief surveys on specific topics that surfaced from the survey results, focus groups or team meetings, UHR officials said.

Members of UHR’s Learning & Organizational Effectiveness team are available to help schools and units better understand their local results, and to provide guidance on how to manage the “discovery” and “action plan” phases of the initiative.

In April and May, schools and units will use the information gathered in the discovery meetings to develop any action plans. During this phase, decisions about action steps may be implemented across the university, at the school or unit level, or even at the department or group level, based on themes revealed in the results. Some offices have conducted local surveys and are already implementing action plans or workplace initiatives. In those areas, the staff survey results will be used to validate and inform planned actions.

Employees can view a high-level infographic summary of the survey results and follow the progress of the workplace initiative by visiting the Staff Survey section of the Cardinal at Work website.