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Results and Action Planning

How does Northwestern define staff engagement and why is it important?

Northwestern staff members are critical to advancing Northwestern’s strategic trajectory as a leading research and academic institution. It is important for the University to understand what staff members value, what motivates them, and how they experience the University.

At Northwestern, engagement means staff members are:
  • Valued as a member of our vibrant and dynamic community
  • Connected to the mission and values of the University
  • Enabled and supported in seeking opportunities to learn and grow
  • Empowered to collaborate with others to achieve great things

When and how will results be communicated at the University and School/Unit levels?

Northwestern is committed to transparency. We plan to share common themes across the University with staff early in 2018 through email communications from Provost Jonathan Holloway. Once school and unit leaders have been briefed on their results, they will communicate results specific to their respective areas within their communities.

How will results for my department and team be communicated?

Each department will receive support and guidance to assist them in communicating their themes and next steps within their respective teams. School and unit leaders as well as Engagement Champions will work with department leaders to determine how to best communicate results at this level.

Is it possible to see the overall results for each school/unit?

Overall results at the University level will be shared widely with the campus community. Detailed results for each school and unit will be shared with those individual schools and unit leaders, who will then develop communications to inform their respective staff.

What is the commitment of leadership to communicate and act upon the results at the University and school/unit levels?

Our leaders are committed to taking meaningful action to improve in opportunity areas.

At the University-level, leadership will engage in a process to more deeply explore these areas of opportunity. School and unit leaders will receive a briefing to better understand overall Northwestern themes as well as overall themes for their school/unit.

Overall, leadership will work to identify the next steps to engage you in implementing long-term solutions and meaningful changes.

What type of data does my supervisor see related to the results?

Raw survey data is housed by Aon Hewitt and will not be shared with anyone at Northwestern University. School and unit leaders, as well as supervisors will be able to access aggregated data for their areas of responsibility. Data received by leaders in aggregate will not include any names or other identifying information. Data will only be available for questions or teams in which there are a minimum of seven responses.

How can I be sure the confidentiality of my responses remains protected now that data is available?

All individual responses were collected by Aon Hewitt and will be kept strictly confidential. Northwestern will only receive a summary of responses in consolidated form, not individual responses.

What happens with the comments that staff members provide in response to the open-ended questions in the survey? Who will have access to read those responses?

Comments in response to the two open-ended questions are reported as provided by respondents. We asked that participants not include any names or other identifying information. Schools and units with more than 30 staff members who responded to the survey will receive comments verbatim.

When will leadership communicate the changes that will be made as a result of the survey?

Northwestern leadership, as well as schools and units, will be developing action plans throughout the winter and spring, engaging staff along the way, and will then communicate priorities and actions. Additional information on results and action planning will be provided throughout the year on the Staff Survey website.

How will staff be kept informed of changes that will be made?

At the University level, staff will be kept informed through communications from Provost Jonathan Holloway, or Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer Pamela Beemer. At the school/unit level, school and unit leaders will keep their respective staff members informed.

How long will it take to implement changes?

Action planning will begin across the University this winter and continue through the spring and summer. Action planning will be organized as short-term and long-term changes at all levels of the University. Some analysis may be needed to further understand the results, and schools/units will be making plans to develop the appropriate processes to make meaningful changes in 2018 and beyond.

What changes will happen immediately?

Implementing meaningful change may take time; however, if there are areas identified in which change may be made quickly and effectively, these changes will be communicated University-wide or within the appropriate school or unit. Plans will commence this winter for both short and long-term changes at all levels of the University.

How will success be measured in terms of addressing the results?

Each action item that is implemented across schools/units and at the University-wide level will be measured with performance indicators. Performance indicators are measurable values that will demonstrate how effectively the action items are met. Leadership will measure progress and success against these performance indicators. The 2017 Staff Survey results will also be used as a baseline to benchmark and measure progress when the next staff survey is administered.

When will the next Staff Survey be administered?

Northwestern leadership plans to administer the survey regularly moving forward, likely every two to three years. The exact frequency will be determined at a later date after we have insight into the results from the 2017 Staff Survey. The survey is just one part of Northwestern’s commitment to continuous improvement efforts.

What happens if my school/unit leader or supervisor is resistant to change?

Our leaders are committed to this process and to prioritizing and addressing areas identified for improvement. They will be accountable for implementing meaningful changes that will positively impact our ability to:

  • Understand the motivations, values, and challenges of our staff members
  • Analyze staff members’ feedback to pinpoint areas of opportunity and activate plans for improvement
  • Engage our staff and use data to drive action
  • Attract and retain top talent and be an employer of choice

How much input am I going to have in how the results turn into actions?

Staff involvement will be critical to implementing meaningful action plans. As action plans are developed and implemented, we will identify the level of guidance and support needed from staff at the University and school/unit level to help turn the results into action.

How will the school/unit actions be connected to actions by the University overall?

Aon Hewitt identified common themes across the University, including all schools and units. Actions taken by schools and units will frequently align with these common themes. Schools and units may also act upon additional themes present in results that are unique to their areas.

What if my school/unit needs more resources to put in place actions as a response to the results?

Schools and units will have an opportunity to identify additional resource needs through the annual budgeting process by linking the changes needed to their strategic priorities as well as those of the University overall.

How will my school/unit know what to prioritize out of the results?

Aon Hewitt will provide guidance to school/unit leaders on how to interpret and prioritize the results. Schools/units may also link their results to the strategic priorities of their respective departments as well as the goals of the University overall.

The leadership of my unit/school is transitioning. Will the new leader honor the results?

The results will provide the new leader with a clear roadmap of valuable information regarding the current level of staff engagement as well as areas of improvement.

How do overall University-wide results compare to other research universities?

Northwestern’s overall engagement score was 64 percent. This score is above other peer research universities as well as other U.S. Industries. This means that overall, Northwestern staff members feel inspired to work here, want to remain working at Northwestern, and feel motivated to tell others great things at Northwestern. In addition, staff members had positive remarks regarding Northwestern’s reputation and benefits.

Areas of opportunity include enhancing and communicating career opportunities, tools and resources to improve staff members’ work processes, and helping them identify development needs and create meaningful plans to address them. Staff also feel somewhat disconnected to leadership and have lower confidence in University responses to unfair treatment. The insights staff provided are critical to our evolution as an employer of choice.

How will the January 11 message from President Schapiro and Provost Holloway regarding the University's finances impact resources available to address the survey results?

Northwestern leaders are unwavering in their promise to address the results of the 2017 Staff Survey. As President Schapiro and Provost Holloway communicated, the University has made substantial, thoughtful investments in people, research, facilities and programs over the last decade and remains committed to our strategic priorities. As opportunity areas are identified from the Staff Survey results, we will be thoughtful in developing action plans that leverage existing resources as well as sophisticated long-range planning to achieve solutions that make Northwestern an even better place to work.

For Northwestern Supervisors/Leaders

What do the sponsors and my school/unit leaders expect me to accomplish?

With help from Engagement Champions, school and unit leaders are expected to communicate with staff throughout the action planning cycle. This will include sharing high-level results, priorities and insights relative to their respective areas, and eventually action plans. Supervisors should connect with their Engagement Champions as well as other school/unit leaders to align on expectations.

How can I make sure that I thoroughly and accurately understand the data I receive?

Aon Hewitt will provide recorded training, as well as a user guide for the data reporting tool. More information on these items as well as additional resources can be found in the action planning toolkit.

For more information regarding results go here. For more information regarding the Staff Survey overall go here. For questions regarding the survey, please contact Samir Desai at samir.desai@northwestern.edu or 847-491-8570. For any other questions, contact the Staff Survey Human Resources team at staffsurvey@northwestern.edu.

Is additional data available to me?

Please contact your Engagement Champion if you have questions about the availability of additional data.

The data/results I received do not seem to reflect the day-to-day reality of my unit/school. How can I be sure the results are accurate?

The results accurately reflect the responses that staff members provided by completing the survey. While individuals may have different day-to-day experiences within their school/unit, the aggregate results reflect the overall themes for school/unit respondents.

What training is available for me to prioritize and develop action plans and to lead change?

Aon Hewitt will provide a webcast to assist in accessing and interpreting data. A toolkit will also be available that includes job aids related to the action planning cycle, including communication templates and guides.

How do I form workgroups or teams to help with action plans and driving change?

Work with your school/unit leadership and Engagement Champions to identify areas that require further examination. You may identify chairs or leads for those workgroups as well as plan out a schedule to meet and explore solutions to the identified areas of opportunity.

I am concerned I don’t have the resources needed to be effective in action planning, and the budget cycle doesn’t align with making this type of request.

Implementing action plans may take time beyond the current budget cycle. Leaders are encouraged to capitalize on the easy wins up front while developing a plan within their teams to explore and identify solutions to more complex areas of opportunity. As much progress should be made as possible with existing resources, and future resources may be identified as part of the next budget cycle.

I am not sure how much to communicate to my team – what guidance is provided?

A toolkit will be available to aid in communicating with your team. The toolkit will include templates for PowerPoint presentations, email messages, action plans, as well as general communication guidelines.

To what degree should my staff be included in action planning?

Staff involvement will be critical to implementing meaningful action plans, and a participatory action plan development process typically increases future engagement scores. As action plans are developed, you will identify the level of resources needed to implement the action plans and how to best structure workgroups to yield solutions, both in the near term as well as the long term.

What support is available to me to determine how to communicate results that are less than ideal?

The toolkit will include communication guidelines designed to support supervisors in communicating a wide range of results, including those that are less than ideal, to staff.

Your Engagement Champions as well as school/unit leadership will work with you.

For additional questions regarding the survey, please contact Samir Desai at samir.desai@northwestern.edu or 847-491-8570. For any other questions, contact the Staff Survey Human Resources team at staffsurvey@northwestern.edu.

Methodology

I see that Northwestern has a 64 percent Engagement Score. What does that mean? How does Aon Hewitt define Engagement?

Engagement is the state of emotional and intellectual commitment to an organization or group. It goes beyond satisfaction (how much I say positive things about the company) and commitment (how much I want to stay here) to Engagement (how much I want to put forth extra effort and engage).

Engagement is defined by several behaviors. Aon Hewitt, the external firm that administered Northwestern’s 2017 Staff Survey, measures engagement by three elements — say, stay, strive.

Staff members are engaged when they:

  • Say- Consistently speak positively about the organization
  • Stay- Desire to stay or be a member of the organization
  • Strive- Exert extra effort and engage in work that contributes to organizational success

The Northwestern Engagement Score is based on six questions. Why?

Over the past 20 years, Aon Hewitt has tested several Engagement questions. Over time these six questions were evaluated by consultants and experts in the field, pre-tested with employees, and validated as indicators of employee behaviors that produce positive results for an organization.

The six questions that indicated an individual’s level of engagement were:

  1. Given the opportunity, I tell others great things about working at Northwestern
  2. I would not hesitate to recommend Northwestern to a friend seeking employment
  3. I rarely think about leaving Northwestern to work somewhere else
  4. It would take a lot to get me to leave Northwestern
  5. Northwestern inspires me to do my best work every day
  6. Northwestern motivates me to contribute more than is normally required to complete my work

Aon Hewitt has consistently found that engaged employees have higher retention, produce superior customer service, and help organizations achieve better business results.

How did Aon Hewitt calculate Northwestern’s Engagement Rate?

Aon Hewitt measured Engagement by averaging an individual's responses to the six Engagement questions. Respondents who achieve an average score over the cutoff (4.5) are defined as “engaged”. Those with 5.5 or over are defined as 'highly engaged'.

The Engagement level is computed as the % of individuals in an organizational unit who are considered 'engaged'.

Employees can also be characterized as 'passive' and 'disengaged' based on their responses to the six questions.

To be counted as part of the Engagement Rate, are there a minimum number of Engagement questions that a respondent must answer?

Yes, to be counted as part of the Engagement Rate, a respondent must answer at least one 'say', one 'stay', and one 'strive' question.

Overall University Results

How do overall University-wide results compare to other research universities?

Northwestern’s overall engagement score was 64 percent. This score is above other peer research universities as well as other U.S. Industries. This means that overall, Northwestern staff members feel inspired to work here, want to remain working at Northwestern, and feel motivated to tell others great things at Northwestern. In addition, staff members had positive remarks regarding Northwestern’s reputation and benefits.

Areas of opportunity include enhancing and communicating career opportunities, tools and resources to improve staff members’ work processes, and helping them identify development needs and create meaningful plans to address them. Staff also feel somewhat disconnected to leadership and have lower confidence in University responses to unfair treatment. The insights staff provided are critical to our evolution as an employer of choice.

What Universities are included in the higher-ed peer group?

The following universities are considered peers for the 2017 Staff Survey:

  • Hass School of Business (UC Berkeley)
  • Harvard University
  • Kingston University
  • London School of Economics
  • McGill University
  • Princeton University
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Texas