The attitude of higher education employees regarding their institution’s values lagged compared to employees overall. Taken together, the answers revealed the possibility of a disconnect between the stated cultural priorities of an institution and how employees, and leadership, act upon that mission.
Only 41% of higher education staff agreed or strongly agreed that institutional leadership espouse the institution’s values. Among all employees across all industries, 56% agreed that their company’s leaders reflected their company’s values. Another disconnect appeared to be with the faculty and staff’s perception of their school’s support for their jobs. Only 41% of higher education staff and faculty feel their voice is heard at work, compared to 52% of the State of Work respondents.
Higher education employees were also 11 percentage points lower when asked whether their institution inspires them to perform at their best. And, only 34% of those employees agreed or strongly agreed that their institution understands their needs as an employee, which is 20 percentage points lower than our State of Work respondents.
Recognizing stress factors
When asked what factors in their lives cause the most stress, higher education employees were closely aligned with those of other State of Work respondents. Both said personal debt, and then medical issues were the top two life stressors, and accordingly, like private businesses, higher education institutions would do well to recognize and address these stressors among their employees. Similar to employees overall, higher education employees also ranked two key issues – the ability to retire and mental health – among their top five stressors, although mental health ranked fifth for higher education employees, as opposed to third for all employees.
The outlier stressor for higher education respondents was “political and social environment,” which was the third highest stressor for higher education employees, but sixth among employees overall. In a more positive comparison, 28% of employees overall said their manager was the most stressful part of their workday, but only 14% of higher education employees felt this way.
As the Great Resignation continues, institutions should be innovative in how they message and promote the employee experience and in what they do to attract and retain key talent.
What does the workplace of the future look like? How can institutions continue to support work-life balance and offer unique and differentiated total rewards? Based on the survey results, the following are a few strategies for higher education institutions to consider:
- “Next generation” employee value proposition: It is time to respond to new hire expectations more creatively and aggressively. Whether addressing additional financial concerns of new hires burdened by significant student loans, or work flexibility demands, or simply a desire for more personalized benefits, a differentiated value proposition can clearly distinguish your institution from other employers and bolster retention efforts. Understanding what is causing your staff and faculty stress and then addressing these pain points through a tailored benefit program can provide a competitive advantage.
- Refreshed listening strategy: Survey responses clearly indicate that current faculty and staff do not believe they are being heard. Whether by way of traditional special interest groups, pulse surveys, periodic focus groups, a renewed commitment and effort to truly hear your colleagues and understand their needs can refresh your colleagues’ belief that your institution is truly committed to and working on creating a better and more engaged experience for staff and faculty. Leveraging analytics to truly understand staff and faculty opinions – and using that information to make data-driven decisions – will provide institutions with what they need to attract and retain key talent.
- Innovative “boomerang” strategy: Survey data regarding those who have recently left their former employer – boomerangs – suggest there may be some dissatisfaction with new employers. With a reported 40% of survey respondents indicating they would consider returning to their former institution, an attempt to maintain good alumni relationships with former staff could result in stronger and quicker return of desired employees.