Campus & Community

University-wide staff survey to measure employee engagement

5 min read

Measuring engagement

survey logoHarvard staff: What’s your Harvard like? Do you tell people great things about working at Harvard? Do you recommend Harvard as a place to work? Do you ever think about leaving Harvard? Do you do your best work every day? Do you regularly go “above and beyond” at work?

Survey timeline

  • March 17: Survey available and on paper from local human resources offices
  • March 31: Last day to complete the Web-based survey
  • April 7: Last day paper surveys accepted via U.S. mail
  • Mid-June: Survey results provided to University leaders
  • July 1: University-wide results reported to employees via July-August issue of Harvard Community Resource
  • July-September: School- and unit-specific results reported to managers and employees locally
  • July-November: University and local response plans developed
  • March 2008: Follow-up survey conducted to measure improvement

Questions such as these measure your “engagement” with Harvard as a workplace. A new employee survey, What’s Your Harvard Like? The Harvard 2006 Staff Survey, will be available Friday (March 17) and is designed to measure employee engagement. This engagement can be encapsulated in the phrase “Say, Stay, and Strive,” that is, whether employees say positive things about working at the University, whether they intend to stay, and how much they are willing to contribute.

Harvard Provost Steven E. Hyman describes employee engagement as “that inspired commitment that can yield extraordinary results.”

The 90-question survey has been tested and found to take about 20 minutes to complete. All nonacademic University staff, including administrative and professional, clerical/technical, and services and trades employees, will be given time during the workday to complete the anonymous survey, which will be available on the Web and on paper.

This survey follows the Great Place to Work (GPTW) survey, which was most recently conducted in some areas of the University in 2002 and 2003. That survey provided baseline data about employee satisfaction and about Harvard as a workplace. Several new initiatives resulted from that survey, including new leadership and management training throughout the University, new staff rewards programs at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), and community-building programs at HSPH and the Kennedy School of Government.

While the GPTW survey produced positive results, its emphasis was on employee satisfaction. The 2006 Staff Survey focuses on the level of involvement of the Harvard workforce. Engagement is correlated with greater performance, productivity, and with stronger affiliation between employees and employers. “Measuring engagement will help us to more clearly understand what is important to our people. This knowledge will allow us to better target our people practices and initiatives – all with an eye towards ensuring Harvard is a great place to work,” said Marilyn Hausammann, vice president for human resources.

Hausammann continued, “This survey will help us create and sustain the kind of work environment that attracts, motivates, and retains the talented people Harvard needs to be successful.”

“Harvard cannot be a great university without also being a great place to work,” said President Lawrence H. Summers. “This survey is an important first step in enhancing employee engagement – the process of reaching out to employees to get input will enable us to identify potential issues and develop strategies for improving the climate for all employees.”

Measuring engagement

The survey will measure employee opinions in areas such as the following:

  • Relationships with leaders, managers, and co-workers
  • The day-to-day work experience
  • Opportunities for learning and advancement
  • Work/life balance
  • Pay, benefits, and recognition

To conduct the survey, Harvard has retained Hewitt Associates, a leading international consulting firm in the area of employee opinion research, employee communications, compensation, and benefits. In 1994, Hewitt pioneered the shift from measuring employee satisfaction to measuring employee engagement. Since then, Hewitt has developed an extensive library of employee-engagement survey questions and conducted studies with more than 4,000 organizations. Using Hewitt’s library of employee survey questions as a starting point, a combined Harvard-Hewitt team collaborated on the design of the 2006 Staff Survey. The survey was then customized based on interviews with 50 University leaders.

Taking the survey

The survey will be completely anonymous and will be available over the Web (to retain anonymity, it will not be via the Harvard intranet) and on paper for those without computer access at work. The paper survey will be available in four languages: English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Translation and reading assistance will be available upon request from the Bridge to Learning and Literacy Program in the Office of Human Resources. The survey will be conducted from March 17 to 31. Those taking the paper survey will have until April 4 to complete and mail it.

Upon completion of the survey, employees will be able to enter a raffle for prizes.

Survey results

A series of intensive workshops for administrative and human resources leaders will be held in June, facilitated by Hewitt Associates. The goal of these workshops is to provide University and local leaders with the information and support they need to interpret survey results and begin action planning.

Employees will begin to hear the results of the 2006 Staff Survey in the July-August issue of the Harvard Community Resource. Thereafter, updates will appear in the Resource and on the HARVie Web site.

The University will conduct a follow-up survey in spring 2008 to gauge the effectiveness of actions and initiatives resulting from the engagement survey.