Too Few Higher Ed Employees Engaged With Work

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

A new report by Cornerstone OnDemand and Ellucian in partnership with the Human Capital Media Research and Advisory Group takes a closer look into the importance of keeping higher education employees engaged in their work, focusing on how to reverse the current trend that suggests an increasing number of professionals are feeling disengaged.

The report, “Empowering Employees: The State of Employee Engagement and Retention in Higher Education,” states that a recent survey found 52% of faculty members to not be engaged in their work, with 14% being actively disengaged.  Just 34% said they felt engaged in their work.

Key findings within the report suggest that student success depends on faculty engagement as well as staff engagement, and that successful employment engagement is necessary in order to properly measure student success.  In addition, it states that employee engagement and retention are financially beneficial for institutions of higher education.

A total of 469 people participated in the 2016 Employee Engagement and Retention in Higher Education Survey from a number of higher education institutions.

In all, almost one-third of respondents said turnover rate for faculty at their institution was low or below average, with another quarter stating the rate was lower-than-average.  Many respondents sited compensation, workload, and culture as being the top drivers of attrition.

“I know several who have left that had a passion for the university, but the attraction for better benefits and compensation and a better workplace outweighed their commitment to the University. We are currently in a difficult financial situation and a lot of institutional knowledge has left for greener pastures or retirements,” wrote one respondent.

While student success depends on how well prepared they are for class, how much they study, and their overall stress level, engaged faculty and staff also influence student success rates, which is an important aspect of the reputation and the continuation of the institution as a whole.  As one respondent wrote, “Engaged employees are more committed to student success.”

The authors suggest that in order to ensure faculty and staff members are engaged while at work, the tools must be in place to measure and track engagement.  The ability to compare previous engagement with current attitudes must be there, as well as the ability to make necessary adjustments.  Once feedback is received, institutions can make the necessary recommendations to implement programs that will result in positive outcomes for all.

The majority of survey respondents noted some version of such a program already in place at their institution.  Almost half, 47.2%, said they use a Learning Management System.  Meanwhile, close to 35% said technology was incorporated into regular performance feedback tools, such as appraisals, while an additional 33.3% said performance management tools were used.

The authors conclude that engaged faculty members have the ability to provide extra support to students, mentoring them and offering a nurturing environment that allows students to succeed.  Institutions must support their workforce by adding programs and initiatives that are aimed at increasing employee engagement.  They state that doing so will allow institutions to retain essential faculty members.