Faculty, staff experience

Eighty-seven percent of Boston College employees said that they feel valued as a member of the University community, according to the Faculty & Staff Experience Survey that was administered to all full-time BC employees in the fall of 2015.

The survey, which yielded a 51 percent response rate from 1,607 BC employees representing a variety of demographics—including age, gender, years of service and areas of employment—assessed BC’s work environment and community characteristics as well as employees’ general satisfaction and perceived opportunities for professional development.

Overall, the survey revealed that faculty and staff are satisfied with their experience at Boston College and feel fulfilled in their efforts, despite some specific areas that call for improvement.

Among the notable findings:

*90 percent of BC employees agree or strongly agree that they like working at Boston College because of its mission, vision and core values.

*90 percent of employees said they feel moderately to extremely fulfilled at BC.

*78 percent of faculty described themselves as somewhat or very satisfied as a BC faculty member and 74 percent said they would probably or definitely encourage a colleague to accept a faculty position at Boston College.

*60 percent of respondents believe that they had sufficient opportunities for advancement and promotion.

*Overall, BC employees described the community as collegial, mission-driven and very supportive.

The survey also revealed areas for growth and improvement, including a desire among employees for a stronger work-life balance, especially among those with young children. A number of comments from both faculty and staff identified the length of the work day, the lack of standard flex-time guidelines and the perception of one’s individual unit as being understaffed as issues of concern. Female employees also expressed a lower overall satisfaction rate than male employees regarding opportunities for career advancement.

Among AHANA faculty and staff, while the majority responded positively to questions concerning their work experience, white respondents responded more favorably to questions regarding the number of campus diversity programs offered at BC and the prioritization of diversity among BC’s key executives. In total, 68 percent of AHANA employees and 69 percent of white respondents agreed or strongly agreed that Boston College welcomes open discussions regarding diversity and inclusion issues. 

In addition, LGBT faculty and staff had a less favorable view than their heterosexual peers of the University’s attitude toward sexual orientation.    

In general, respondents gave high marks to inquiries regarding their relationships with supervisors, with a total of 81 percent agreeing or strongly agreeing that their supervisor/manager treats everyone in the department fairly; 87 percent stating that their opinions are valued; and 91 percent responding that they are treated with respect.  

Faculty, who were surveyed for the first time in an attempt to gain a better understanding of their attitudes and experiences, expressed deep gratitude for the support they receive and the collegiality they experience at Boston College.

They cited as a strength the role BC plays in mentoring junior faculty, while recommending “peer to peer” mentoring as a potential area for improvement. 

In addition, 78 percent of faculty said they were satisfied with the resources BC provides to support their teaching, and 65 percent said they were satisfied with the resources BC provides to support their scholarship and research, though some cited a lack of space as a negative factor in their work experience.  Some faculty also expressed frustration with their role in University decision-making and governance, while others questioned the uneven distribution of service opportunities and/or responsibilities across their respective schools and departments, with female and AHANA faculty claiming a disproportionate amount of requests to serve on committees.   

The survey also solicited comments on the strengths and weaknesses of the overall BC work environment among all faculty and staff, with the goal of identifying steps the University could take to improve the employee experience. The most-cited strengths included generous benefits that contributed to a positive work environment, and BC’s “family feel” in which employees cited repeated examples where the campus community offered kindnesses, understanding and strength to  colleagues enduring difficult circumstances, a phenomenon that many attributed to BC’s Jesuit, Catholic heritage.

In addition to work-life balance issue and the need to maintain the University’s commitment to understanding and accepting differences within the community, the most-cited areas for improvement were parking and pay, with respondents voicing concern over the high price of campus parking and the lack of spaces, and the challenge of keeping salaries at pace with the high cost of living in the Greater Boston area.  

“This survey in concrete terms shows how special a place Boston College is, and how it is the faculty and staff who make it special,” said Vice President for Human Resources David Trainor.  “People clearly feel valued in their work at Boston College, and to continue that feeling, we need to redouble our efforts in certain areas to make sure that sense is shared equally by all BC employees.” 

“This is our first survey of Boston College faculty focusing on their professional experiences and will establish a helpful baseline going forward,” said Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley. “Initial results suggest that we are doing well on a number of fronts.  They also point to areas of focus for my office going forward, such as the need to explore ways of better supporting our faculty's efforts to maintain a healthy work-life balance.”  

Added Vice President for Planning and Assessment Kelli Armstrong, “"We are fortunate in that more than half of the members of the BC faculty and staff community voiced their opinions in this survey, and the responses reflect a wide range of roles and backgrounds on campus. This feedback allows us to see where we are doing well and where we need to be strengthened, and provides a roadmap for ways to continually improve the BC experience."

The survey, which was co-commissioned by Trainor and Quigley and administered by Armstrong and Director of Institutional Research and Assessment Jessica Greene, was offered confidentially in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Chinese and Russian to more than 3,000 BC faculty, staff and administrators, both online and through a paper version for employees without access to computers. It comprised 60 questions that were designed to identify strengths and perceived deficiencies with the goal of helping to improve the overall work experience for all BC employees.  

A survey of BC employees was last conducted in 2006. Trainor and Quigley said they plan to conduct the Faculty & Staff Experience Survey administer again in the fall of 2018, and repeat it every three years. Armstrong said she plans to analyze the data in more depth this summer and then meet with a variety of groups on campus in the fall to discuss the results.

“Our plan is to use the survey and its results as an opportunity to engage in conversations and gather further input from members of the community,” said Armstrong.  “It is an ongoing effort with the goal of enhancing the work experience for all of us at Boston College.”

By Jack Dunn | News & Public Affairs