20 questions, a little time, your feedback

20 questions, a little time, your feedback

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Faculty and staff leaders encourage participation in streamlined Working at Iowa survey

For Earlene Erbe, the Working at Iowa survey that launches this week presents a rare opportunity, one she encourages all staff and faculty to embrace.

“The university is giving all employees a chance to provide honest feedback on their jobs and their workplaces,” says Erbe, administrator of undergraduate labs for the Department of Chemistry and president of the University of Iowa Staff Council. “I’ve worked for more than 36 years at a variety of institutions, and in my experience it’s uncommon to find an organization that wants this kind of feedback.”

This fall, it’s easier than ever to be heard. The re-engineered survey includes only 20 survey items, and will take as little as five minutes to complete. All regular faculty and staff can access the survey via email invitations to be distributed starting Thursday, Oct. 11.

Working at Iowa basics

Here’s what you need to know about the Working at Iowa survey:

• Shorter and faster: With just 20 survey items, it may take as little as five minutes to complete.

• Access via email: All faculty and staff will receive email invitations with links to the survey.

• Runs through October: Initial email invitations go out Oct. 11. The survey closes Oct. 30.

• Confidential: Human Resources staff and UI administrators never see individual surveys. It’s like voting in an election—HR can track who’s taken the survey, but not how they’ve responded.

• Ready for action: Survey items are designed to make areas of need clear. Units will get reports that present the results, and “data-coaching” sessions will help them plan improvements.

Learn more at: www.uiowa.edu/hr/working/.

What works and what needs work

UI Human Resources administered the first Working at Iowa (WAI) survey in 2006 and deployed a follow up in 2008. The 2012 survey builds on that experience, draws on input from a cross-campus advisory committee, and responds to advice from experts on workplace assessment.

“Research shows that higher levels of employee engagement track with higher levels of productivity,” says Joni Troester, director of human resource services for Organizational Effectiveness/Health and Productivity. “We want to know what faculty and staff feel the university is doing well, where we can improve, and how we best serve the university’s strategic goals.”

The WAI survey is confidential. Individual faculty and staff access the survey via unique URLs distributed in email invitations, but surveys are not matched with individual respondents. Units only get reports on items with 15 or more responses, another measure to preserve confidentiality.

Shared governance support

UI Faculty Senate President Linda Snetselaar echoes the call for participation, especially among her colleagues.

“I’d love to see an 80 or 90 percent response rate from faculty,” says Snetselaar, professor of epidemiology in the UI College of Public Health, which will help process WAI reports once the survey closes.

“Working at Iowa helps university leaders listen to faculty and truly assess how things are running,” she adds. “It’s an indication of how much the university cares about taking stock and charting new directions when needed.”

Both Snetselaar and Erbe expect shared governance bodies to take a serious look at WAI results. They see the survey as a chance to work with departments, colleges, and central administration on ideas and initiatives.

“I feel we have one of the strongest shared-governance programs in the Big Ten,” says Snetselaar, “and that allows us to connect on multiple levels.”

Worth taking the time

Erbe hopes university units will identify areas where they can improve, but also take the time to recognize progress they’ve already made.

“I hope we’ll celebrate our successes,” she says. “That provides the boost that makes it easier to turn attention to the areas that still need work.”

She points to past surveys on shared governance as evidence that research and sincere feedback can produce positive change. Staff Council membership and leadership are more diverse than they used to be, she notes, due to recommendations that the body represent not just different units, but also different functions.

WAI can yield similar results.

“I know people are busy, and that it’s not always easy to find time to participate in initiatives like this,” Erbe says. “But I believe it’s worth it.”


Lin Larson, University Communication and Marketing, 319-384-0042
Jim Schafer, Human Resources, 319-335-5978


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