Survey results give Staff Council food for thought and action

Governance group shares findings from working climate assessment

In an effort to more effectively serve its constituents, the University of Colorado Staff Council sent out a Working Climate Survey in fall 2016 to ask how university staff and classified staff members felt about their work environments in three areas: benefits, professional development and university policies.

The results of that survey recently were posted at the UCSC website.

“It’s hard for (a council) to come up with goals if you don’t know what is on peoples’ minds, and we decided to create the survey as a way to engage staff,” said Annie Melzer, a member of the UCSC committee who helped prepare the survey information for release.

Some of the survey results:

  • About three-quarters of respondents said they understood the benefits offered to them by CU and said some most-valued benefits were health insurance, retirement pension, paid time off and flexible work schedules.
  • 57 percent said a paid parental leave benefit would be important to them.
  • 84 percent of university staff and 80 percent of classified staff said they have pursued professional development opportunities as a CU employee. Those who have not participated in professional development opportunities said they were unable to take time away from their duties, they were not supported by their supervisors or they did not have the funding to pursue opportunities.
  • About 66 percent of respondents said they used the dependent tuition benefit, and 36 percent of university staff and 30 percent of classified staff said they plan to use the benefit in the future. (Note: The survey was taken prior to the implementation of the pilot tuition benefit program.)

Another interesting finding, said Carissa Smith, another member of UCSC’s survey committee who helped organize survey data for presentation, was that respondents said they wanted improved communication regarding policy changes as well as input into any changes before they happen.

“I think (the survey) was a nice reflection of some of the things (UCSC) was working on,” Melzer said. “For instance, about two years ago, someone mentioned the parental leave issue to System Staff Council, and I and Ashley Eschler decided to start researching it. The more we dug into it, the more we realized people were really passionate about it.” Questions about parental leave were added to the survey at the last minute.

“When we got the results, we were really shocked about how passionate people were about wanting that particular policy,” Melzer said. More than 500 of the respondents added written comments about the subject. “The survey noted that CU did not have a paid parental leave policy for staff, and that sparked a fire. Many people, whether or not they have kids, think a university this size should offer it.”

The 37-question survey was sent to 9,992 staff employees; 2,824 responded. The Boulder Institutional Research group helped UCSC compile survey results.

“The response rate was fairly high,” Smith said. “We also collected a pretty good sample from most demographics.”

More than 4,600 write-in comments from respondents, either about survey issues or other concerns, also were compiled. Some comments dealing with issues not addressed in the survey, for instance, included parking availability and fees, other transportation issues, wages and workplace culture.

“We were really excited about (the comments) because we were able to categorize those and come up with more statistics and will try to make these concerns as actionable as possible,” Melzer said. “This is really just the starting point for coming up with goals.” UCSC will discuss those goals and an agenda for the upcoming year during their annual retreat this fall.

Overall survey results already have been presented to administration officials, the Board of Regents and campus staff councils. The survey information will be broken into campus-specific responses and passed on to individual campus staff councils, allowing those groups to also consider taking actions on a more micro level, Melzer said.

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