Staff Senate survey reflects optimism, areas for improvement

Results are in and the survey says… Western Carolina University staff members have the strongest overall satisfaction and engagement numbers recorded since the annual WCU Staff Senate survey began in 2013.

Staff Senate administered its biennial staff survey in October. It is designed to collect opinions about working at the university in general, as well as information about interactions with supervisors and colleagues, diversity, and balance between work and family commitments. Findings showed 96 percent of respondents were proud to say they work for WCU. In comments, staff referred to the “family feel” of the university and indicated genuine appreciation for their colleagues and co-workers, and stated that they value the importance of the university’s work with students and their role in that mission.

WCU Staff Senate

The survey was sent to 984 permanent staff members, with 419 participating. In its fourth administration, individual responses are kept confidential and information gathered is used by executive leadership to proactively identify and react to campus issues. Past surveys have influenced the availability of training opportunities for staff, brought attention to diversity-related matters, and increased onboarding support for new employees, said Shawna Young, a staff senator and director of marketing and assessment in WCU’s Division of Student Affairs. To see complete 2017 survey results, click here.

Common factors for workplace satisfaction and improved morale cited by respondents were Chancellor David O. Belcher’s leadership and his commitment to the university and its employees. Belcher, fighting an ongoing battle with brain cancer, announced in November that he would be going on medical leave at the end of 2017 and that he does not expect to return to his duties as chancellor.

“The data trends show continued improvement in all sections of the survey ― some areas with 10 percent or more increases from the previous survey administered,” Young said.

The biggest issue at WCU was identified as compensation. Staff Senate reported in its executive summary of the survey that salaries are being adjusted to near-market rate for new employees, but incremental salary increases for current staff aren’t making a significant impact. Raises, while appreciated, aren’t keeping pace with the cost of parking and health insurance and, in many cases, aren’t keeping up with the salaries of new hires, which creates salary compression or inversion, the summary said.

The next meeting of the Staff Senate is scheduled for 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, in Blue Ridge Hall. Mandy Dockendorf, chair of the Staff Senate, can be contacted for information at aldockendorf@wcu.edu. Attendance of WCU employees at meetings of the university’s Staff Senate and Faculty Senate and related activities is considered work time (university service) with the appropriate approval of the individual’s supervisor.