Frequently Asked Questions
Our staff members are critical to advancing Northwestern’s strategic trajectory as a leading research and academic institution. It is important for us to understand what staff members value, what motivates them and how they experience the university. Last fall, Northwestern conducted its first-ever staff engagement survey. Northwestern defines engagement as the dynamic between staff and their place of work and how staff are individually motivated to contribute to an organization’s success. We are committed to rigorous methodology and objectivity in administering our survey to aid in understanding our staff and to drive progress at Northwestern into the future.
At Northwestern, engagement means you 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
After a competitive review process, Northwestern selected Aon Hewitt, an external consulting firm, to administer the 2017 Staff Survey. They are a global leader and expert in the talent management and staff engagement field. The solutions Aon offers are based on years of rigorous research, thus ensuring the recommendations result in significant, positive improvements for their clients. Northwestern is excited to partner with Aon Hewitt to launch this important initiative.
Your colleagues were selected from schools and units throughout the university to provide input on the survey’s creation. We call these leaders "Engagement Champions." They worked closely with those leading the staff survey initiative to elicit the Feinberg leadership team’s commitment to this effort, direct the school’s people and resources to implement the survey, lead communications within Feinberg and work with the project team on the design and delivery of the survey.
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.
Raw survey data is housed by Aon Hewitt and will not be shared with anyone at Northwestern University or the Feinberg School of Medicine. School and unit leaders and 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.
All individual responses were collected by Aon Hewitt and were kept strictly confidential. Northwestern only received a summary of responses in consolidated form, not individual responses.
Northwestern University plans to make the survey a regular event at Northwestern, likely every two to three years. The exact frequency will be determined at a later date.
For Feinberg, demographic differences in responses were minimal. Non-exempt employees were slightly more engaged than exempt, while managers were only three points more engaged than independent contributors. Engagement by years of service followed industry trends, with staff with less than two years of experience or more than 10 years of experience being more engaged than those employees with two to nine years of experience.
Feinberg staff were on par with overall university trends.
Steering Committee and Action Plan Questions
What is the commitment of leadership to communicate and act upon the results at the university and medical school level?
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 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.
Northwestern leadership, as well as schools and units, will be developing action plans throughout 2018, 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 and on this site.
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 Feinberg level, Dean’s Administration and school leadership will keep their respective staff members informed.
Action planning has begin across the university and medical school and will continue through the 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.
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 have commenced for both short- and long-term changes at all levels of the university.
Each action item that is implemented across schools/units and at the university 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.
Feinberg’s 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
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.
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.
Steering committee members were selected from engaged departmental volunteers and solicited involvement from departments that scored high on staff engagement as well as those that scored low on staff engagement.
We acknowledge this is a challenging time for the university. However, Northwestern University has made an unwavering commitment to staff engagement. The Feinberg Staff Engagement Committee’s proposed action plans leverage existing resources and rely on the expertise of people and programs already in place in various areas of the university. By activating these programs for staff and utilizing resources and talent that already exist, we believe we can make a big impact.
Based on the votes in the room (during the Town Hall), can those tasks that are more important to the staff be expedited on the priority/timing list?
Yes. The Steering Committee will re-evaluate timing and delivery of services based on Town Hall polling and survey feedback.
There will be several opportunities to help with program planning and implementation. One way to signal your desire to help is to contact a member of the Steering Committee. Additionally, the committee will be communicating via email about future programs and opportunities to volunteer or provide input. We recommend reading and responding to calls for action and help as they come up and checking our website for progress updates.
At the departmental and school leadership level, as part of the vetting process, action plans were reviewed by the Office of the Dean, department chairs, center/institute directors, department administrators and other key medical school leadership. This provided an opportunity for leaders to address concerns and buy into the proposed action plans. The Steering Committee will keep these leaders aware of action plans on an ongoing basis with support from the Office of the Dean and the university.
Regarding faculty who supervise staff, the action plans will target everyone employed by the medical school who manage staff in their daily roles, and this includes faculty managers of staff. Our intention is that all the toolkits, mentorship opportunities and programming reach faculty audiences as well as staff.
Given that diversity and inclusion is a challenge for both staff and students, will our efforts to address these issues be coordinated?
Yes. The university has identified diversity and inclusion as one of four cross-university work teams. Feinberg’s participants on the Diversity and Inclusion Work Team will ensure multiple audiences are included in the university’s action plans and that many audiences have a voice in the planning process.
Will mentorship opportunities for staff in non-manager roles be a priority in the action plans? Are there plans to provide more groups, such as young professionals, with associations and training in the future?
Currently, the focus for action planning is on tools and resources for managers, because the more engaged a manager is, the more likely their team is to be engaged. As you can imagine, an actively disengaged manager leads to a disengaged team. We encourage young professionals and non-manager staff to get involved with existing teams and university resources for professional development, including but not limited to:
- NUSAC: Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council
- ANUW: Association of Northwestern University Women
- NURAP: Northwestern University Research Administration Professionals
- AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Administrators’ Development
Additionally, Northwestern offers many Workplace Learning courses for professional development and offers tuition reimbursement for professional and certificate programs. We encourage you to work with your supervisor to identify those training and association opportunities that will be most helpful for your career.
The next Northwestern University staff engagement survey will give us an opportunity to evaluate programming success. We are also evaluating additional mechanisms to gather feedback throughout action planning implementation.