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Faculty and Staff

Employees Express Pride, Identify Concerns in Survey

In the 2020 UNC System Employee Engagement Survey, taken before the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty and staff express overall job satisfaction and pride in the university.

Three incoming freshman, wearing their masks, chat together in Wolf Plaza during COVID-19 move in 2020. Photo by Marc Hall
Faculty and staff give their views on 15 topics related to job satisfaction on a systemwide survey administered in February.

Wolfpack pride remained high among NC State faculty and staff who took a February survey tracking employee engagement. The 2020 UNC System Employee Engagement Survey, the follow-up to a 2018 survey, asked faculty and staff to respond to 61 belief statements organized into 15 categories related to job satisfaction.

As in 2018, NC State employees expressed a high degree of pride in the university, with 77% overall giving positive responses to five statements related to institutional pride. Eighty-four percent agreed they are “proud to be a part of this institution,” and 89% said they understand how their work contributes to the university’s mission.

The 2020 survey was completed by 5,096 employees – 57% of the university’s full-time workforce – which is an increase of three percentage points over 2018. The survey allowed employees to respond to each belief statement on a scale, from “strongly agree” and “agree” to “disagree” and “strongly disagree.” They could also choose a neutral position, “sometimes agree/sometimes disagree,” or select “not applicable.”

Overall, the results were positive, as they were two years ago. In the 2020 survey, more than two-thirds of employees gave the university high marks in six categories: pride, 77%; job satisfaction/support, 74%; facilities, 74%; supervisors/department chairs, 72%; professional development, 67%; and the teaching environment, 66%.

Some topics relating to interpersonal dynamics were not rated as highly. The percentage of employees giving positive responses to statements relating to communication, collaboration, fairness, respect and appreciation ranged from 55% to 58%.

The percentage of employees agreeing with positive statements about shared governance increased three percentage points over 2018 but still fell shy of 60% overall.

Approval of senior leadership ticked up one percentage point, with an average of 65% of employees agreeing with six positive statements on the topic.

Pride and Resilience

Chancellor Randy Woodson said he was pleased with the survey results, noting that the questionnaire was distributed before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the university to reduce campus operations.

“As I review the survey results today, I can clearly see evidence of the pride and resilience that have carried us through this difficult year,” he said in a message on the survey website. “I’m so pleased that 84% agree that NC State works to provide a safe and secure campus environment.”

Among the groups responding to the survey, faculty members tended to express lower levels of agreement with the survey statements.” Faculty identified four areas that warrant attention, giving them a positive response rate of just under 55%. Of the 1,025 faculty who responded, only 52% gave positive responses on the topics of shared governance and communication, 53% on the teaching environment and 54% on fairness.

Employees subject to the State Human Resources Act identified two areas that warrant attention: Just 51% gave positive responses on the topic of collaboration, and 54% gave positive responses on the topic of communication.

Drilling down to the 61 belief statements on the survey, a majority of NC State employees gave a favorable response to 54 statements. Three-quarters agreed with 13 statements, including, “I am given the responsibility and freedom to do my job,” “The institution takes reasonable steps to provide a safe and secure environment for the campus,” and “All things considered, this is a great place to work.”

One-third or more of employees gave an unfavorable response to just two of the items: “I am paid fairly for my work,” perceived unfavorably by 41% of respondents, and “My department has adequate faculty/staff to achieve our goals,” which had an unfavorable response of 35%.

Attitudes toward benefits were more positive. Sixty-one percent of employees agreed and 13% disagreed that the university’s benefits meet their needs. Two-thirds of employees are satisfied and 10% are dissatisfied with their benefits overall.

Trends Since 2018

A few trends emerged when comparing the results from 2020 with those from 2018. Employees are more likely in 2020 than in 2018 to be satisfied or very satisfied with NC State’s wellness programs (56% versus 51%).

Since the 2018 survey was conducted, colleges and units across NC State have worked to improve the work environment, focusing on areas such as diversity and inclusion, institutional pride, professional development and administrative policies.

Data from 2020 suggests that some of this work has improved employee satisfaction and engagement. For example, the percentage of employees agreeing that NC State accurately measures their job performance ticked up one percentage point. And the percentage agreeing that employees are meaningfully involved in institutional planning moved up three points.

The new Wellness and Recreation Center opened to faculty, staff and students on Monday, October 26, 2020. Photo by Becky Kirkland.
NC State’s new Wellness and Recreation Center, which opened Oct. 26, gives faculty and staff more opportunities to participate in health and fitness programs. Employee attitudes toward wellness trended up on the 2020 survey.

But attitudes toward workplace fairness and respect slid in 2020, with positive responses to a series of statements on these topics falling three percentage points since 2018. These statements included:

  • Promotions in my department are based on a person’s ability (47% in 2020 versus 50% in 2018).
  • Issues of low performance are addressed in my department (45% versus 48%).
  • This institution has clear and effective procedures for dealing with discrimination (71% versus 74%).
  • I am regularly recognized for my contributions (51% versus 54%).
  • At this institution, people are supportive of their colleagues regardless of their heritage or background (74% versus 77%).

Attitudes toward NC State’s commitment to diversity and inclusion have also dipped. In 2020, 69% agreed that “This institution places sufficient emphasis on having diverse faculty, administration and staff,” down four percentage points compared to 2018. Another 10% disagreed, and 20% gave neutral responses.

The Employee Engagement Survey is an initiative of the UNC System Office to support the development of excellent and diverse institutions, a key goal of the system’s strategic plan. The biennial survey is conducted by ModernThink, an independent management consulting firm. The survey questionnaire is based heavily on a survey administered by ModernThink for the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Great Colleges to Work For project, with input from the UNC System Office and representatives of each of the campuses.

Another employee engagement survey is scheduled for early 2022.