Ohio State faculty and staff’s opinion of workplace culture has decreased over the past three years, according to a recent OSU study. Meanwhile, faculty satisfaction with parking costs and satisfaction with salary also yielded results that showed a decline from previous years.
The study asked for the opinion of faculty and staff and found 78.8 percent were satisfied with their position at the university — the lowest percentage recorded in response to this question since the survey was first offered every three years since 2008.
According to the “Faculty and Staff Surveys: 2014 Results, 2008, (and) 2011 Comparison” report, published online by the OSU Offices of Human Resources and Institutional Research and Planning, the 2014 report yielded a 2.1 percentage point decrease from the 2011 survey’s response of 80.9 percent in regards to the satisfaction question.
Reasoning for results
Anne Nagy, associate vice president for talent and organizational development at OSU, said the decline in employees’ satisfaction with their positions could be attributed to university-wide issues occurring at the time of the survey, mainly uncertainty in leadership as the university searched for a new president last spring.
“At the time the 2014 survey was administered, the university was going through immense change and uncertainty awaiting new leadership, which may have influenced this outcome,” Nagy said in an email.
Michael Drake took over as OSU’s president in July. The survey was conducted during a three week period starting at the end of February, said Julie Carpenter-Hubin, assistant vice president for the Institution Research and Planning. Joseph Alutto was serving as interim president of OSU at the time.
Although many factors might explain the 2.1 percentage point decrease in the 2014 data, Scott Jaschik, editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed, a website that shares news articles, opinion pieces and job openings related to higher education systems, said he does not think the changing leadership would have that much of an impact on employee satisfaction.
“For most faculty members and for most administrators … they are not dealing with the president on a daily basis,” he said. “Whether a faculty member is happy may have much more to do with the department head than the president.”
The 2011 survey results recorded the highest percentage of faculty and staff satisfaction with their position at the university. The first surveys, conducted in 2008, showed a satisfaction rate of 79.1 percent — still about 0.3 percentage points higher than 2014’s results.
Carpenter-Hubin said the decrease might be because of the fact that participation in the survey varied between the four levels of employees surveyed: tenured/tenure track faculty, regular clinical faculty, associated faculty and staff.
“This is the only time we ever combine all types of faculty and staff into a single number,” Carpenter-Hubin said in an email. “Our tenured/tenure-track and clinical faculty actually show gains in satisfaction, whereas associated faculty (e.g. lecturers, etc.) and staff satisfaction has declined. The overall number shows a decrease primarily because we have more staff than faculty.”
According to a statistical summary published on OSU’s website earlier this year, as of Autumn 2013, more than 6,600 faculty members — including tenure track faculty, clinical faculty, research faculty and associated faculty — were employed by the university.
In contrast, more than 23,000 staff members — including both administrative and professional staff and civil service staff — work at OSU, according to the same statistical summary.
The 2014 surveys, which were open to OSU faculty and staff members from late February to early March, marked the third reiteration of these triennial questionnaires, which focus specifically on issues of workplace culture at the university.
“In 2007, a campus-wide initiative was initiated to assess and improve the workplace culture at Ohio State,” Carpenter-Hubin said.
“In 2008, we asked faculty and staff about a wide range of questions related to workplace engagement, satisfaction, retention or other important indicators of a healthy culture … Each time the survey has been administered, we also added questions particularly relevant at the time of the survey, such as work-life balance and personal wellness.”
The surveys were available to faculty and staff members both online and in hardcopy format. They consisted of multiple choice questions and, in the case of the faculty survey, a chance to input numbers in response to questions asking employees about the amount of time per week they spend on specific tasks.
According to the 2014 survey report, faculty surveys included questions related to the perception of OSU, faculty resources, staff support, collegiality, unit administration, and degree to which their unit is a good fit for them.
Data from the report showed growth in regard to tenured/tenure-track faculty in the areas of staff support, faculty resources and perception of OSU. Responses to questions relating to collegiality and “degree to which their unit is a good fit,” have remained mostly stagnant compared to responses from 2011.
Clinical and associated faculty responses declined in comparison to 2011 responses in the areas of collegiality and faculty resources.
One specific area of dissatisfaction observed in the survey data appeared in regards to “satisfaction with cost of parking,” a question listed under the faculty resources category.
According to the survey data, the percentage of tenured/tenure-track faculty members who considered themselves satisfied with the cost of parking in 2008 was 28.6 percent. In 2011, this percentage decreased to 23.8 percent and has dipped even further to 15.7 percent in the 2014 results.
A similar trend was observed in the clinical and associated faculty members, with satisfaction percentages for clinical faculty falling to 13.5 percent in 2014 from an initial 20.9 percent in 2008. Associated faculty showed a 16.9 percentage point drop in satisfaction from 2008 to 2014.
Jaschik said employees’ concerns about parking is something he would expect when collecting data from a university the size of OSU.
“Parking is an issue everywhere. That is not surprising,” he said. “Parking is a big issue at lots of places, and I think it may be a particularly big issue at big universities.”
Two years ago, OSU leased its parking operations to Australian private investment firm QIC Global Infrastructure in a 50-year, $483 million deal. CampusParc, the company that runs the day-to-day parking services, was created as part of the contract.
Staff surveys included questions that inquired about work environment, senior leadership, opportunity for professional growth, unit administration and accountability.
In general, the staff scores showed improvement in all categories measured except senior leadership.
Marilyn Frueh, an organization and leadership effectiveness consultant, said despite decline in satisfaction in some areas, positive trends in participation and feedback were also observed in this year’s survey.
“Participation in the 2014 survey was higher than previous years, which speaks to the high level of engagement we see from our organization,” Frueh said in an email. “There has been significant positive change in the area of feedback and coaching … Another area of improvement is represented in the positive feedback from faculty on staff support received.”
Carpenter-Hubin said the survey data can be used to address areas in need of improvement, and that many of these changes will most likely be implemented by individual colleges and units.
“OSU has shown continuous improvement over the last six years, and this survey has been an incredibly useful tool for identifying the topics and areas where we continue to have opportunities to improve the quality of the workplace culture at OSU,” she said. “Leaders across the university are encouraged to assess the data specific to their unit or college, and develop targeted plans to address areas they identify as opportunities for improvement.”