Pulse surveys: measuring staff sentiment

27 May 2021

Since August, the U of A for Tomorrow (UAT) team has sent out monthly pulse surveys to 5600 employees across the institution to gain a sense of how the university community is feeling about both academic and administrative transformation. Each month, the survey is sent to 700 random employees and receives an average response rate of 35 per cent. This survey is an opportunity to take the pulse of our community on a few key questions relating to the UAT initiative, such as: Do staff and faculty have the information they need? Do they feel that their voices are being heard? Do they understand the purpose of UAT?

Of the approximately 2000 responses we received, we also collected more than 1400 individual comments during the past eight surveys that were sent out. These responses were analyzed each month and compared with feedback from previous months, to help guide and adjust change management and communication initiatives. 

Our findings

Overall, sentiment has shifted from staff seeking to provide input to wanting to see real change:

  • August and September focused on the need for more information and representation in the decision-making process.
  • October and November showed a growing understanding of the UAT vision and intent, but significant concerns over increased workloads without immediate solutions.
  • Responses in 2021 thus far have focused on the value of the colleges and the need to see real change, not just planning for the change.

Feedback heard has centred around three themes:

  1. Feeling distress at the situation (including the budget cuts and pressures of COVID-19 as well as pace and size of change) which have placed an inequitable burden on administrative staff.
  2. Recognizing that there are opportunities for positive change, but frontline staff must be engaged for that to happen.
  3. Concern that the colleges must add value and achieve their objectives, not only add another management layer.

Comparison since August

Since January, staff confidence in the outcomes of UAT is shifting upwards after a period of trending downward. Staff also report that they know where to find updates and are increasingly feeling that their feedback is being heard. We are also starting to see increased understanding of the reasons behind academic and administrative restructuring.

Next phase of restructuring

The Service Excellence Transformation (SET) program, the administrative restructuring arm of UAT, has been busy preparing services to transition to the new operating model since the functional workstreams will be transitioning processes and people within the next few months. The IT stream has already started transitioning services from several faculties, and HR and finance are not far behind. 

Planning for the implementation of the colleges continues. President Flanagan and Provost Dew have been working with the college and faculty deans and other senior leaders to determine the colleges’ overall structure, governance, authorities, and accountabilities. This will clarify changing roles and responsibilities for faculties, departments, and central portfolios and integrate SET and the academic restructuring into one model.

Colleges will shift administrative burden away from faculties and departments to ensure that faculties and departments can focus their energy and activity on core academic matters. The colleges will provide high-quality administrative services at a lower cost and achieve administrative savings. They will also foster university-wide collaboration and interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary teaching and research.

We thank you all for your patience and understanding during this time of transformative and often uncomfortable change and ask that you continue to provide us with your feedback and thoughts through our various feedback mechanisms!

Count yourself in!

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to complete the pulse survey. This feedback is invaluable and helps us point our efforts in the right direction to better serve the university community.

The surveys are sent the last Wednesday of every month to the next set of 700 employees at the university, so stay tuned to see if you receive one! The latest pulse survey was sent yesterday, Wednesday, May 26. It should take 5-10 minutes to complete and is both anonymous and confidential (the responses will only be shared as aggregated data). If you receive one, we encourage you to please share your honest feedback—you’ll have a week to do so once the survey hits your inbox.