Executive Summary

In the fall of 2006, as part of CEPACs contribution to improving the retention of new hires, CEPAC convened a brainstorming team to study the feasibility of establishing a mentoring program for MSU staff. The team determined that it needed input from both new and seasoned staff and, while collecting this feedback, solicited other information relevant to recruitment, retention, and employee experience.

The survey was designed so as not to lead the respondents in any way. Thus, of the eleven non-demographical questions, eight offered no suggestion or limitation (such as multiple choice, or yes/no answers might). Rather, respondents were required to provide their own textual comment .

Two hundred and eighty responses were received from a potential pool of 1,112 (25%). About seventy classified staff had attended an interactive luncheon meeting at which similar questions were asked and it is possible that, having given input at the luncheon, these staff did not participate in the survey.

Studying respondents age, gender, and longevity distributions reveals an acceptable correlation with the MSU classified work force as a whole. This, together with the 25% return rate and the unprompted occurrence of popular themes, led the brainstorming team to consider the survey outcomes an adequate representation of staff opinion.

Some of the themes emerging here are also reflected in CEPACs other recent interactions with the staff (for instance the interactive luncheon 2/13/07, and the Pooled Resources needs assessment). In this survey, the staff expressed enthusiasm for a number of things, including:

  • Staff mentoring
  • Enhanced new staff orientation, including campus tours
  • More job-specific training, or written instruction by someone who has performed the job
  • Simple, spontaneous recognition of the work of the classified staff, particularly at the departmental level
  • More departmental support for the classified staff in general
  • Opportunities to better understand and appreciate -
    • MSUs mission/history
    • The work of other staff/departments
    • The impact and value of their own contribution departmentally, and to the institution in general
  • Improved communication, at all levels, but with emphasis on networking with employees who perform similar tasks.

Respondents top five most valued aspects of working at MSU were:

  • Benefits
  • The people we work with (co-workers; faculty; administrators)
  • The students
  • The nature of the work (varied, impactful, productive, positive)
  • The flexibility of the working environment

Respondents offered useful suggestions for improving customer service - from methods of providing more consistent information, through visitor-friendliness, to streamlining procedures.

Despite the absence of specifically-relevant questioning, respondents referenced low salaries, and the impossible cost of local area housing. While this should not be disregarded, it is perhaps unsurprising - as CEPACs recent research (MSU Within the Community Context)might attest. What is remarkable, however, is the frequency and variety of contexts in which respondents report dissatisfaction with parking (it featured among the answers to all but one of the comment-facilitating questions). Clearly, this continues to be an issue of considerable consequence to the staff.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The CEPAC brainstorming team, responsible for gathering staff input both via this survey and at the interactive luncheon on February 13, offers the following recommendations, as endorsed by CEPAC. We are encouraged by the wealth of constructive feedback provided by the survey. We recognize, in the ideas offered, the potential to improve recruitment, retention, staff morale, and the working experience in general. Further, we acknowledge the relevant efforts already underway at MSU (e.g. streamlining paperwork and procedures, various collaborative initiatives, etc). Lastly, CEPAC notes that several themes within these recommendations are applicable to both new hires and seasoned staff and we suggest they be considered in the widest context.

  1. The Employee Experience survey provides feedback useful in the pursuance of the MSU Within the Community Context recommendations (e.g. promoting the virtues of MSU as an employer) and should be utilized in this regard.
  2. A simple mentoring program appears both feasible and desirable at MSU. It possibly need only incorporate resources such as: Q&A listservs; and centrally-offered information (likely via the Pooled Resources on-line facility) regarding such things as building locations, the key responsibilities of each department, glossaries of MSU terminology (such as PTF, BPA), new staff orientation materials, etc. Mentoring might however also include ways to help staff better understand and appreciate -
    1. MSUs mission/history
    2. The impact and value of their own contribution departmentally and to the institution in general.
  3. More regular new staff orientation would be beneficial, enhanced, at minimum, with a tour of campus.
  4. New hires could be encouraged to feel more engaged and confident through increased departmental investment in job-specific training, or written instruction provided by someone familiar with the job.
  5. While the current Employee Recognition event is appreciated, staff morale would likely benefit from:
    1. Adaptation of the Employee Recognition program to include greater numbers of people through

i. small and simple awards

ii. more frequent, highly publicized, events

iii. staff appreciation activities as the department level

    1. Opportunities to network and interact with peers.

In exploring the feasibility of implementing any of these recommendations, CEPAC suggests:

focusing on improved communication at all levels, with emphasis on networking among employees performing similar tasks bearing in mind respondents repeated call for more overtly-demonstrated support of the classified contribution at the departmental level considering most appropriate and effective involvement of departments and individuals in the instigation and provision of these ideas continued examination of classified staff issues related to parking.

Following are the details of the survey outcomes.

SURVEY OUTCOMES

Staff Demographics

Gender

Respondents

MSU Workforce (Fall 2006)

Male

63

22.9%

398

36%

Female

212

77.1%

720

64%

Age

Respondents

MSU Workforce (Fall 2006)

Under 21

1

0.4%

4

0%

21-29

32

11.6%

176

16%

30-45

80

29%

321

29%

46-55

102

37%

368

33%

56+

61

22.1%

243

22%

 

How long have you worked at MSU?

 

Respondents

MSU Workforce (3/07)

<12 months

29

10.4%

201

18%

1-2 years

27

9.7%

199

18%

3-5 years

60

21.6%

195

17%

6-9 years

59

21.2%

167

15%

10+ years

103

37.1%

356

32%

 

How long have you held your current position?

 

Respondents

<12 months

51

18.3%

1-2 years

44

15.8%

3-5 years

66

23.7%

6-9 years

56

20.1%

10+ years

61

21.9%

 

Sixty percent of the respondents who have worked at MSU for more than 10 years have been in their current job for at least 10 years. Most of the remaining 40% have held their current post for less than three years.

Which of the following areas best describes the work of your department?

 

Respondents

Academic

47

16.9%

Student Service

54

19.4%

Administration

51

18.3%

Research

16

18%

Aux/Res Life

30

10.8%

Facilities Services

26

9.4%

Other

54

19.4%

Survey participants responding other to this question specified departments which are commonly listed under one of the above categories. The value and accuracy of these data in general are therefore questionable.

In which category does your job title fall?

 

Respondents

MSU Workforce

 

Classified Prof

122

44.2%

190

17%

Sec/clerical

88

31.9%

349

31%

Tech Para

17

6.2%

246

22%

Skilled Crafts

13

4.7%

51

5%

Service Maint

14

5.1%

282

25%

Other

22

8%

 

 

 

The distribution of responses, compared to the MSU workforce in general, suggests staff may be unfamiliar with which the EEO category under which their job title falls. Survey participants responding other mostly cite titles that would reasonably be included in the main EEOs, above. The value and accuracy of these data in general are therefore questionable.

Non-demographical Questioning

Staff from our remote locations often self-identify in surveys such as this (CEPAC does not request it due to considerations of anonymity). No-one did on this occasion and so we are unable to separate local from remote experience.

When you first joined MSU what was one thing remember as being the biggest help to you as a new hire?

227/280 respondents answered the question. Some reported having worked at MSU for so long they couldnt remember their orientation. Others had been students before employees and reported a pre-existing familiarity with the University. The majority of the remaining respondents cited co-workers friendly assistance in this context. The next most helpful thing was new employee orientation. There are reports of difficult transitions, and even of no help getting to know MSU or the job at all. Most responses are, however, positive.

What might have been done differently to improve your experience as a new hire at MSU?

205/280 respondents answered the question. A common theme relates to difficulties learning the job in the absence of the previous incumbent, other teacher, or written instruction. Popular recommendations for improving the new hire experience include: new employee orientation closer to the start date; more time/instruction to better understand benefits options and associated paperwork; an additional orientation on the history, philosophy and mission of the University; an introduction to MSU jargon and basic generic procedures/best practices; a campus tour; more Banner training; job-specific training, provided by the department/college and, wherever possible, by the person leaving. At the 2/13 luncheon it was also suggested that hire dates should be 2-3 days prior to starting the job to give new staff time to attend absorb the information provided through the above ideas.

Further considerations included: follow-up Banner training (e.g. 6 months) after hire by which time staff have an idea of questions specific to their area; and a greater investment of time and effort by the department, rather than leaving the new hire to sink or swim.

Please describe what you value most about working at MSU?

235/280 responded (the survey did not lead their choices in any way and answers were given textually). Respondents volunteered their information in such a way that it was possible to prioritize the valued aspects of working at MSU:

 

 

First Priority

Second Priority

Third Priority

Fourth Priority

Total

Benefits

71

24

8

1

104

The people (co-workers; faculty; administrators)

36

20

4

2

62

The students

23

8

6

1

38

The nature of the work1

25

2

2

 

29

Flexibility2

16

4

5

 

25

Academic environment

17

5

1

 

23

Educational opportunity

9

9

1

 

19

Job security / regularity

12

2

2

 

16

Supervisor support

6

4

 

 

10

Sense of community

8

1

 

 

9

Other

9

 

 

 

9

Professional development

3

1

 

 

4

1Respondents suggest the work is varied, impactful, productive, and positive.

2it should be noted that converse responses indicate that flexibility is not present in all jobs or within all departments.

 

Respondents Most Valued Aspect of working at MSU, by Years of Service, Gender, and Age

Breaking down respondents most valued aspects of working at MSU (first priority) by years of service, gender, and age, and comparing response ratios to the general respondent pool, reveals some interesting information. (Please see Addendum 1). Benefits were reported as the most valued aspect of working at MSU across the board in accordance with the respondent pool ratio. Educational Opportunities appear more highly valued by staff aged 21-29 and with 1-2 years service, and are insignificant to 10+-year employees, and those over the age of 56. A similar trend appears to apply to Flexibility. The opposite was expressed relevant to Job Security/Regularity, with greater appreciation among the older, longer serving, male staff. Professional Development appeals to both ends of the service spectrum, the older staff and, compared to the respondent pool, in greater proportion by male employees. It appears of less interest to the 21-29 age group or fairly new hires, perhaps because these are the people currently most vested in educational opportunity.

In your opinion what specific assistance, information, or training would be useful to:

New employees: common themes include more assistance in understanding and enrolling for benefits; more comprehensive orientation (including campus tours, and information about where to park; the fringe benefits like gym, etc); more detailed, job-specific training with written notes for later reference; mentoring; more comprehensive Banner training.

Seasoned employees: common themes include improved communications; orientations into what other departments on campus do, and opportunities to network with other staff; timely information related to benefits (e.g. retirement preparation; VEBA); education on how to progress a career at MSU; refresher training courses (e.g. Banner; computer programs) and updates on campus policy; staff recognition.

All staff on an on-going basis: regular encouragement and appreciation; improved communications generally, and at all levels (e.g. frequency; consistency of content); listservs/blogs for FAQs; instruction in emergency/safety protocols; professional development and training opportunities including how to progress a career at MSU; inter-departmental networking and exchange of best practices; updates and information about how the university is attempting to address staff issues (housing; salary; workloads etc); more convenient and/or less expensive parking.

If you encounter a problem in your job a question you cant answer perhaps which of the following resources would you typically utilize? (please check as many as are relevant)

 

Respondents

 

MSUs web site

130

55.6%

The Internet in general

82

35%

Manuals or other self help literature

70

29.9%

Consult a co-worker within your department

195

83.3%

Consult within a network of people suggested by your department

103

44%

Consult within a network of your own making

106

45.3%

Other*

26

11.1%

*on the whole, other responses could fit within the options listed above.

It has been suggested that some form of mentoring might be beneficial to new staff. Do you agree with this in principle?

226/280 answered: 181 yes, 45 no. The idea of mentoring was most popular with older employees. Sixty-five percent of yes respondents were over the age of 30, with 46-55 year-olds being the most likely to support the concept (35% of yes respondents). Further, the longer respondents had worked at MSU the more likely they were to favor mentoring, with the largest group of yes respondents having more than 10 years service (37%). Female staff approved of mentoring 4:1 over their male counterparts, a ratio which doesnt deviate far from that of the surveys respondent pool in general.

What would you like to see in a mentoring program?

Some respondents concept of mentoring focused more on employee benefits, but most on job-training issues. Various opinions were offered regarding the provision of mentoring. Although not a majority sentiment, there was consistent expression that mentoring should be provided at the department level. Caution was voiced around recruiting only appropriately-experienced and enthusiastic mentors, with good morale. Consideration was given to the potential difficulty of seasoned staff finding time to mentor amidst their already heavy workloads. Some respondents suggested that mentors be compensated for providing the service.

Common themes for what a mentoring program might look like included: contact lists of people and their areas of expertise; a summary of what each department does; introductions to others with similar responsibilities; job-specific manuals; periodic meetings of small groups of people with similar jobs to explore best practices; Q&A blog; pairing new hires with seasoned employees (various degrees of contact were suggested, from daily for a short period of time, through ad hoc, to indefinite mentoring relationships).

Means to help new hires included: more time/information to adjust from private enterprise (it was observed that the university working environment is very different from the private sector); background information about the university (MSUs history, mission, hierarchy including legislature/Board of Regents, funding, building locations, what departments do); assistance understanding all the benefits, and providing information about clubs, events, committees etc that staff can join; services for staff whose first language is not English.

MSU strives to offer excellence in customer service. In your current job, how often do you interact with these University customers. This question was intended to identify the staffs primary customers. However, the way in which the question was posed may have led respondents to report interaction of all kinds, not just in the customer service context. Therefore CEPAC considers the resulting data flawed and has omitted them from this report.

In your experience, how might MSU improve customer service?

165/280 responses. Suggestions include: identify who the customer is; be knowledgeable about procedures; offer consistent information; eliminate sending people from department to department (perhaps through better training of front line staff); better signage around campus; always have someone available to provide key information dont have all the experts out of the office at once; never give the appearance that answering a question is an inconvenience; provide timely follow through; improve search capability and user friendliness of the MSU web site; provide visitor-friendly parking (free and convenient) focusing on, for instance, prospective students on MSU Friday; reward staff for excellence in customer service; encourage team building (student success buttons are great) so that employees appreciate common goals and experience a feeling of belonging to MSU; offer conflict training and how to manage difficult customers; promote the worth of MSU in the community; streamline paperwork and processes; provide supervisor training.

Employee Recognition: what do you consider would be a meaningful way in which to recognize our employees?

183/280 responses. Common themes include: regularly recognizing large numbers of people; adding a department-level focus; re-instigating/enhancing the online Spotlight recognition - get to know our employees type thing.

Strongly-expressed sentiments include: whatever the nature of the recognition, it must be heavily publicized to encourage others to appreciate and participate; rewards need not be large lunch/gift cert/cup of coffee/car wash coupons - perhaps within MSU to keep the benefit on campus e.g. Sweet Shop, Book Store, Food Service; non-monetary rewards may include Spotlight features, or presentation of certificates.

More specific recommendations include: dinners or luncheons for groups of staff based upon longevity (3,5,10 yrs); assigning a special campus Day of Recognition providing plaques, discounts, etc on that day; random drawings for a reserved parking spot for one month; free or discounted parking all year; activities at the department level in addition to campus-wide events; gift certificates or discounts at local businesses; regular, small awards by peer selection; lump sum bonuses; a free class at MSU or dollars provided for training opportunities; a selection of prizes form which an employee may choose.

Thinking of your entire career, what have you experienced as a good morale builder, or something which added a fun element to the job?

187/280 responses. A spontaneous word of encouragement; great co-workers; the opportunity to grow, innovate and create; flexible hours; gathering with co-workers for a meal or break; positive attitudes in the workplace; good supervisors; staff recognition and appreciation; building a community feeling (like Move In Day, the Welcome Back Picnic); not having the frustration of losing ones parking space if you leave during the day; understanding what other departments/staff do; meaningful, timely performance evaluations; being trusted to do the job; knowing, at the end of the day youve done the best job you could do; working gatherings (e.g. the Provost-sponsored lunch).

Please describe one practice or non-salary benefit you enjoyed in a job with a previous employer that you miss at MSU.

169/280 responses. The common themes are: easy, free parking; departmental retreats designed to build relationships and thus productivity (not to train, berate, or sharpen skills); staff discounts (with the employer and in community); ad hoc days off (e.g. birthday); bonuses; the chief executives parking spot for a month; employee of the month recognition; flexible schedules (e.g. adjusted hours in summer; closed 12/25-1/2); free gym facilities; regular appreciation with small awards (lunch/ gift cert/cup of coffee/car wash coupons); supervisors who pitch in; less bureaucracy (lines of reporting, required signatures) in most procedures speeding things up and keeping things moving; performance-based compensation effectively assessed and awarded by the immediate employer rather than centrally; regular yet spontaneous words of encouragement from supervisors.