With year-over-year enrollment declines and the ongoing pandemic, The Great Resignation looms large for higher education — and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Across industries, employees are reevaluating their priorities and making decisions about their work lives. The reality is that more than a third (37%) of workers under the age of 40 are thinking about changing their current occupation. Additionally, according to the McKinsey report, “Women in the Workplace,” one in three women have considered changing or leaving their jobs, a troubling statistic for higher-ed where 60% of all professionals are women.
When we look for ways the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted higher education institutions, much of the discussion centers on the student experience and the shifts in learning modalities. However, the focus must also turn to the employee experience (EX), and the effects the past two years have had on educators and school staff.
We observe EX in higher-ed through measures of individual engagement. Employee engagement considers satisfaction, happiness, and wellness — as well as expectations and obligations. Engagement is shaped by every interaction that a person has with employees and institutional leadership, treatment by students and stakeholders, as well as the policies, processes, and technologies that support (or hinder) their work.
Employee engagement must be a holistic measure of how each employee thinks and feels about their employer and employment situation, and how they act to help meet goals, achieve desired outcomes, and build culture. Here are six ways to bolster the employee experience:
- Look at Employee Experience Holistically
Take a holistic view of the employee experience and create exemplary experiences at every step in the journey. EX is not just based on one moment in time — it’s the totality of experiences. Each bad experience chips away at the employer-employee bond, and each good experience strengthens it. Employing the right mix of listening channels can provide the quality and strength of data needed to drive insights to action.
- Gather Feedback Individually
Faculty and staff bring their own perspectives, needs, and expectations to the workplace, which can vary widely. Generic feedback programs miss the nuances that make or break employee experiences. Instead of trying to respond to one common denominator, collect and analyze data by employee personas and journeys, tapping into a combination of experience data — how employees are thinking, feeling, and acting — and operational data — metrics of performance and success. Personalizing feedback questions provides much richer data for revamping employee training programs or HR policies.
- Connect and Listen Regularly
Authentic connections begin with listening. Create a digital open door by enabling employees to give feedback how and when it suits them. Move from point-in-time employee surveys to collecting ongoing employee feedback to reveal what’s working and what’s not. To make connections at scale, leverage role-based dashboards and related tools to provide the information individuals and supervisors need to have effective conversations about improving experiences.
- Focus on Flexibility
Over the past decade, institutions have experimented with ways to be more responsive and agile in how they work and serve students. The pandemic accelerated these efforts, forcing institutions to stretch even further to facilitate and support employees working from home. According to a 2021 Gallup survey, 54% of employees said they would prefer a hybrid work model, citing a desire to cut back on commute time, balance familial obligations, and maintain a higher standard of overall wellbeing.
- Support Healthy Work-Life Balance
While many employees find working from home to be the holy grail of work-life balance, for many, remote or hybrid work has had the opposite effect, creating exhausting expectations to be ‘always on.’ Qualtrics research has long shown that employees’ perception of their employer’s support of work-life balance is key to satisfaction, motivation, and intent to stay at the organization.
- Turn Feedback into Action
The key to improving this perception, and many others, is to turn employee feedback into action. The 2020 Global Employee Experience Trends Report demonstrates the importance of acting: engagement scores for employees who believe their employer does “really well” at turning feedback into action are double the engagement scores of employees with lower opinion.
Finally, be sure employees have an active role in closing employee experience gaps. A robust employee feedback program can sometimes uncover more questions than it answers. Don’t make assumptions about how employees want changes to occur. Instead, invite those who are most affected to take an active role in identifying root causes and proposing solutions to improve their own experiences.
Omar Garriott is the Global Head of Education at Qualtrics where he helps institutions around the world across K-12 and Higher Ed revolutionize the academic experience and boost engagement with students and faculty through Experience Management (XM). You can reach him at [email protected].
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