Great Colleges to Work For
Wilmington, DE (PRWEB) September 6, 2008
There's a midlife crisis on college campuses according to a new nationwide workplace survey reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education, higher education's prime source for information, news and jobs.
As professors, administrators and other baby boomers on the professional staff near retirement, some of those most likely to succeed them, especially those in the middle of their careers, aren't giving highest marks to some of the workplace dynamics they find at their institutions.
The study conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education and ModernThink LLC, a human resources and consulting firm based in Wilmington, Delaware, shows that respondents seem most upbeat at the beginning and at the end of their careers.
But, echoing other surveys in academe and the corporate world, it reveals that at one point in a career - in this case after about eight years on the job or in the late 40's, -- "midcareer blues" often set in and an individual's positive outlook can darken a bit about his/her employer.
In one area, career development, 64 percent of those in their current positions 8 to 10 years gave positive marks to their institution. This compares to 74 percent for those relatively new to their positions and 80 percent for those in their roles for 25 years or more.
Responses to being treated fairly show that 69 percent of employees in the 45-49 age groups are positive, compared to 74 percent for those 30 to 39 and 80 percent for employees 65 and older.
The survey also confirmed a belief by many that administrators usually think their relations with faulty members are better than they are. Eighty percent of the administrators say their relations with faculty are healthy, compared with 61 percent agreement by faculty members.
And even though they may differ on some issues, all things considered, one area was top for everyone: physical workspace and environment.
Four areas warranting strong attention when hiring new top talent were noted as: formal mentoring programs, midcareer awards, supporting work-life balance, and building a culture.
Generally, the survey results paint a positive picture of today's academic workplace. Findings in the study come from questionnaires and candid comments of more than 15,000 respondents in the first-ever nationwide "Great Colleges to Work For" program initiated by The Chronicle of Higher Education and ModernThink, LLC. In a turn-about for academe, professors, college administrators and other professional staff answered questions instead of asking them. There was no cost to participate.
ModernThink conducted an online survey in March and April 2008, compiled and analyzed data. It also has developed and administered workplace studies and seminars for a number of state workplace programs, for AARP's 2007 Best Employers for Workers Over 50 program, for the American Bar Association and other organizations and companies nationwide.
"Many of the conditions noted in The Chronicle's study also apply to workplaces in other businesses," says Richard K. Boyer, co-founder of ModernThink. "As in corporate America, colleges need to focus on midcareer training to avoid people getting lost in the shuffle."
Boyer also notes that "an institution's work-life policies highly influence employees, reemphasizing the growing impact of this issue that we repeatedly see in all of our workplace studies."
In discussing reasons for the study, Chronicle editor Jeffrey Selingo says, "More than a year ago we set off to create academe's version of Fortune's popular 100 Best Companies to Work For issue. As many baby boomers in the college community near retirement, we determined that more information was needed about the best places to work in higher education."
"To attract top talent and to retain top talent," he emphasizes, "institutions have to create and maintain exceptional work environments. We believe it. The study proves it."
"The Chronicle's 'Great Colleges to Work For' program," Selingo states, "is designed to help colleges improve as workplaces, to compile detailed benchmarking data concerning trends in the field, and to help individuals evaluate workplace opportunities and choices."
Results of the survey and examples of current positive on-campus workplace practices and policies were highlighted in a special "Great colleges to Work For" 36-page supplement - "The Academic Workplace" - in the July 18th issue of The Chronicle. The publication circulates to nearly 80,000 subscribers every weekday. (Information can be found on web site, http://chronicle.com/indepth/academicworkplace).
Selingo indicated that there is no intent to rank institutions. In the study, colleges, arranged by size of their work force (499 or fewer, 500 to 2,499, 2,500 or more), were recognized for specific best policies and practices, such as benefits, collaborative governance, compensation, tenure clarity and other categories.
Participants represented 89 four-year institutions across the country - 39 public universities and 50 private colleges. Of the respondents who identified their job role, 5,840 were faculty members, 4,003 were administrators, and 4,262 were professional support staff. The percentages of positive respondents were fairly high because the study was not a random national sample but was conducted only at institutions that felt confident enough to participate in the "Great Colleges to Work For" study.
The Chronicle and ModernThink worked with a panel of higher-education experts to design the questionnaires. Participating institutions were in one of five classifications by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Each received a complimentary summary report providing an overview of responses along with benchmark data. Additional detailed and comparative analyses are available through ModernThink. (http://www.chroniclegreatcolleges.com)
The ModernThink Higher Education Insight Survey© used in the program included 70 five-point scaled statements, satisfaction on 15 different benefits, 13 questions on specific demographics relating to a variety of higher education job issues, and 2 open-end questions requiring personal comments.
Also, feedback reveals that differences in factors such as job responsibilities, gender, years at the institution, tenure status, years in current position, and salary range can make a difference in an individual's outlook and performance, day-to-day and long term.
"Differences in the workplace emphasize the need for all businesses - large, small, educational, corporate, retail - to encourage and build strong employee engagement," says Eileen Filliben Edmunds, managing partner of ModernThink. "Engaged employees stay longer, perform better and help advance an organization's goals."
In the study, recognized institutions are listed in alphabetical order for workplace issues such as: Professional/Career Development Program, Work-Life Balance, Collaborative Governance, Health Insurance, Compensation and Benefits, Tenure clarity and Process, Confidence in Senior Leadership, Healthy Faculty/Administration Relations, Internal Communications, Tuition Reimbursement, Job Satisfaction, and Perception/Confidence in Fair Treatment.
Selingo says, "Thanks to the positive response from our inaugural 'Great Colleges to Work For' program, we plan to make this an annual event. Response has been overwhelming positive. We all are in a learning process and welcome institutions to register and participate in our 2009 program." (For 2009 survey details and registration, e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Members of the panel that assisted in design of the "Great Colleges to Work For" questionnaires were: Michael Baer, vice president and director, Isaacson, Miller, an executive-search firm; Richard K. Boyer, principal, ModernThink; Lynette Chappell-Williams, director, Office of Workforce Diversity, Equity and Life Quality, Cornell University; Marjorie Hass, provost, Muhlenberg College; Gary A. Olson, dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Illinois State University; and Julie Miller Vick, senior associate director, Career Services, University of Pennsylvania.
CONTACT: ModernThink: 888.684.4658
E-mail rboyer @ modernthink.com
Chronicle: jeff.selingo @ chronicle.com
Richard K. Boyer