Posted at 1:40 p.m., Feb. 20, 2015

Third time's not a charm:
New survey, same complaints

Since late 2013, Laramie County Community College’s administration has requested employees participate in three different climate or morale surveys to assess the work environment, campus policies and decision making and communication, yet results seem to be the same.

The Leading and Communicating survey, conducted in November 2013, was the first of the recent surveys. Despite reports from LCCC’s president that, overall, the results of the survey were positive, many comments from faculty and staff expressed fear of speaking their mind, lack of communication during decision making processes, and disconcerting comments about the human resources department.

In March 2014, the second survey, done through focus groups and known as “the Lundy report,” was commissioned by the LCCC Board of Trustees. It also contained negative comments including what was reported in the first survey. There were still reports of little to no communication regarding decisions made by the administration, concerns about LCCC’s hiring practices and employees still expressed fear of speaking up. Faculty and staff felt the new administrators’ top priorities were to implement changes, build résumés and move along, and most had concerns that morale had never been lower.

LCCC is now on its third survey, and not much has changed.

The recent Noel-Levitz college employee satisfaction survey (CESS), conducted in October 2014, was designed to assess the campus environment for college faculty, staff and administration. Respondents to the survey were asked to rate the importance and satisfaction of statements in four core sections using a five-point Likert rating scale. Noel-Levitz, a national company, then took the results and provided the mean value of each individual statement’s response. A section of the survey was also reserved for open-ended anonymous comments regarding the statements and core sections.

Ann Murray, manager of institutional research, said during the Oct. 17 College Council meeting the survey items serve more as a measure of areas the college is trying to improve such as a way of monitoring improvement measures rather than a way of suggesting improvement measures.

Majority of comments negative

Although the majority of the comments provided for the open-ended comment section were negative, 22 of the 279 comments were positive. One individual said: “We have been working on improving many things at LCCC, and for most of us that culture of continuous improvement makes us proud to work here. It takes a bit of work on one’s own part to get to that point though, and some seem stuck holding onto the past. So many seem to look for things to be unhappy about.”

The first section, campus culture and policies, was rated one-five with one being not important/not satisfied and five being very important/very satisfied. A majority of the respondents agreed the importance of statements such as the institution treating students as its top priority, and doing a good job at meeting the needs of students was close to a value of five. But when asked about their satisfaction on those statements, the results were about a three.

Other statements included effective lines of communication among departments and administrators sharing information regularly with staff and faculty. Both were rated about 4.5 in importance, but below a value of 2.5 in satisfaction.

Open and ethical communication had an importance of 4.5, but respondents were at a satisfaction level of below 2.5.

The respondents rated the importance that change should be managed well at LCCC at a 4.46. But the satisfaction was at a value of 2.14, the lowest mean value of all section one statements.

The human resources policy changes, approved in April 2014, have caused concerns among employees. One respondent said the policy changes severely damaged communication lines between administration and staff and gave the impression that staff had a voice but, in truth, were not actually being heard or acknowledged. Another individual said the HR policy changes “were a big hit to morale.”

Some respondents even complained about the HR department in general, saying, “HR is the root of all the bad things happening around here,” and HR has been “ridiculous” in regards to campus culture and policies.

Other comments in section one range from complaints about a proposal to pay faculty market value to the fear to speak up against the administration.

One individual said, “I could earn over $20,000 more working somewhere else and will most likely leave because of low salary.”

“Employees are fearful for their jobs and speaking their minds,” one respondent said. And the administration should not “justify it as a few dissatisfied employees because more are dissatisfied than are satisfied.”

Improving morale top priority

Morale was mentioned about nine times in section one alone. “I don’t know if the morale of the faculty will ever increase with the [administration’s] management style,” one individual said.

Numerous respondents commented that “morale is at the lowest point,” and some had even gone as far as to say they are looking for other places to work.

“I am looking for employment elsewhere as working at LCCC is not conducive to my personal health and welfare,” one employee said.

Another said, “The new policy changes have made me start to look elsewhere for a job.”

One respondent commented, “With all the changes, I cannot say that I will be here much longer if I can help it.”

“I do not see myself staying at this college for much longer,” one individual said. “The stress, lack of feeling valued and ignorance to how issues are affecting the classrooms and faculty/staff’s ability to be present for students are contributing factors.”

In section two, institutional goals, respondents were asked to use the same five-point rating scale.

Some 35 percent of individuals said their No. 1 priority goal was to retain more of LCCC’s current students to graduation. Following closely behind, 54 percent of respondents said improving employee morale was their top priority goal.

The highest rated second priority was improving the quality of existing academic programs with 39 percent of people voting. The top choice for third priority was a combination of the same three categories, with 26 percent, 31 percent and 23 percent ratings, respectively.

However, despite the positive outlooks of the five-point Likert rating results, the comments section was full of more complaints, not only about institutional goals but as well as the overabundance of administrators, low employee retention, and the possible loss of legacy status for classified employees seeking higher-paying jobs on campus.

“It is not a good thing that we are losing solid employees,” one respondent commented.

New advising model addressed

Other comments included talk of the new holistic advising model, adding that without faculty, it may sound great, but is actually a farce. Holistic, by definition, is relating to or concerned with complete systems rather than with individual parts. And with faculty saying they feel pushed to the side, it didn’t leave much room for faculty to have “a bigger role” in advising.

One individual said: “Advising is key to developing relationships with students that cause them to be successful in this setting. Assessing their skills set and guiding them into the best career direction is crucial for those advising students.”

The same individual went on to say: “Students need one key person as their point of contact for any issues that arise. They need to feel connected to someone at the college who feels that their presence matters.”

The concern about the human resources department continued into the section two comments, with one individual suggesting making significant changes in the HR department so that it is an area that is respected and builds trust.

One respondent commented that LCCC’s current HR department is making the college a hostile working environment.

Core section three involved statements on involvement in planning and decision-making. Respondents were asked to rate the involvement of types of individuals around campus on the five-point Likert rating scale, with one being not enough involvement and five being too much involvement.

The results of section three showed the employees voted the classified staff as the individuals having the lowest involvement in planning and decision making, with a value of 2.13. Students followed closely behind with a 2.18 value. Other individuals included trustees, alumni, faculty and professional staff. But the individuals with too much involvement in planning and decision making were senior administrators (VP, provost level or above) with a value of 4.06.

Although no open-ended comment area was provided for section three, numerous comments regarding the subject were noted in other sections. Many respondents said decisions are not made with everyone’s input.

One individual commented, “The current administration is making decisions which are disrespectful of staff and faculty, clearly designed to pad their résumés.”

“If employees are communicating that things are not going well, then someone needs to do something about it before you end up losing more people that work at this institution,” another respondent said.

Work enviroment satisfaction low

Section four, the work environment, was rated by respondents in the same manner as section one. Staff and faculty rated the ease of getting information at LCCC with an importance of almost 4.5. But their satisfaction on the statement was a 2.8.

Similarly, employees rated importance of having adequate opportunities for advancement in their work environment at a value of 4.47, and their satisfaction at a 2.69 (the lowest mean value in section four).

Another statement--I am fearful about my job at LCCC--was ranked an importance level of about four. But the 2.77 satisfaction value suggested faculty and staff are somewhat fearful for their jobs.

The overall satisfaction of faculty and staff with their job at LCCC was voted a mean value of 3.33 percent of five.

One of the open-ended comments in the final section regarding work environment at LCCC said, “Administration comes across as bullies and will step on anyone in their way.”

“I have never seen so many employees so unhappy or looking for other employment,” another respondent commented. And some individuals expressed the frustration that they have no desire even to provide feedback because their opinions are never taken seriously if even read.

In an email to President’s Cabinet, President Dr. Joe Schaffer shared with Wingspan, he offered his initial reaction to the survey results. Schaffer said, “Top goals identified for the institution (based on counts and percentages): 1. Retain more students to graduation PLUS increase students earning high value credentials…. 2. improve employee morale; 3. improve the quality of existing academic programs.” He then asked, “A question to explore is since #1 and #3 are so closely aligned with our major work/change efforts, is #2 an issue as a result of how this work/change is being carried out?”

Concerning employee involvement in decision making, Schaffer noted, “Respondents are more positive toward how much involvement administrators and trustees have in planning and decision making and more negative toward how much faculty, staff and students are involved,” he said.

Now College Council is analyzing the data of this Noel-Levitz survey.

In the meantime, one instructor lamented in the survey: “This institution is a sinking ship, and I wish I had time to look for another job. My spirit is crushed to the point that I think I am going to leave teaching all together at the end of the year. LCCC has killed all of my passion for teaching, and instead I have become the crusher of student’s dreams. On a daily basis I do not have the heart to encourage my students because LCCC has ripped my heart out of my chest and stomped on it.”

Satisfaction cannot
keep up with importance

Noel-Levitz Consultants website