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Utah colleges not among top U.S. education work sites

Published July 26, 2017 10:13 pm

Chronicle of Higher Education • Employee surveys boost Weber State's ranking, but U., Dixie State, Southern Utah University didn't make the 2017 list.
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For the second time in recent years, the University of Utah was not ranked among the top 79 U.S. colleges and universities considered great to work for by employees, but school officials say they do not find the omission too concerning.

The Chronicle of Higher Education released the results last week of its 10th annual Great Colleges to Work For study, which is based on employee surveys conducted at 232 higher education institutions across the country.

The survey, administered this spring, asks randomly selected employees about 12 workforce practices and policies, such as career development programs, confidence in senior leadership and respect and appreciation.



Being named a great college to work for "is certainly aspirational, but this is just a single tool we use to determine what to do with employee engagement," said Jeff Herring, the U.'s chief human resources officer. "It's a tool but it's not the definitive tool."

Employees at the U. were among those at four of the state's 10 largest higher education institutions who took the voluntary survey. Only those at Weber State University ranked it high enough to land in the top 79 spots, with Dixie State College and Southern Utah University also left off this year's list. Snow College could not be reached for comment.

Each Utah college and university has "different missions but I think we are largely together in what we do as institutions," said Charles Wight, Weber State president. "It's nice to be first among them" in 2017.

All accredited U.S. higher education institutions with student enrollment of at least 500 were invited to participate in the survey at no cost.

This year, 110,000 employees from 232 institutions — 155 four-year colleges and 77 two-year colleges — were asked to participate. Overall participation rate was 41 percent, or about 45,000 individuals, according to The Chronicle.

"Ten years in, the Great Colleges to Work For distinction is well-known by academic jobseekers as a sign that an institution's employees are valued and given opportunities for growth even when they face financial constraints," said Liz McMillen, editor of The Chronicle, in a news release. "Any college or university that's on the list is showing they emphasize valuable assets: their faculty and staff."

Weber State received an even higher ranking this year, in addition to landing in the poll's top 79 colleges: it was among 42 universities to receive the publication's Honor Roll distinction for high marks from employees in multiple categories.

"It's a great morale booster for our faculty and staff," Wight said. "They're the ones who are really responsible for this recognition. We put teaching first."

Weber State was recognized for nine of the survey's 12 categories this year, including tenure clarity and process, teaching environment and work-life balance.

But Wight said WSU officials have no intention of resting on their laurels. One of the areas they were not recognized in — diversity — is one Wight said he has sought for years to improve.

The WSU president said he wants "the diversity of the institution to be a reflection of the community." In the survey, diversity is defined as "the college makes a concerted effort to create a welcoming and fair environment for all employees."

Schools do not receive their official results until the fall, but Herring said one reason the U. did not land in the top 34 percent of colleges surveyed is because their participate rate was much lower than the national average, at 27 percent.

"This is only our second time so we're still growing [participation]," Herring said. "Our focus right now is increasing participation amongst our employee base."

Once U. officials receive the results, Herring said they will incorporate some of the findings into the school's long-term strategic planning.

"We do care about being an employer of choice and so much of our university depends on quality faculty and staff, so that's something we want to do look at," he added. "We find it a valuable tool."

Dixie State University previously has touted its use of the survey to gauge their employees feelings about the school's environment. The university, however, was missing from the list of top schools.

Joel Griffin, Dixie State spokesman, said school officials plan to make improvements based on the data because investing in faculty and staff is a major goal of the institution.

"As a growing institution, we are constantly looking for areas in which we can improve," Griffin said, adding that "receiving feedback like this is valuable and we welcome it."

Southern Utah University also participated in the survey this year but did not make the list of top colleges. SUU officials did not comment by deadline.

Westminster College and Utah Valley University did not participate in the survey this year but have in the past. Officials at those schools said they planned to ask employees to fill out the survey next year.

astuckey@sltrib.com

Twitter @alexdstuckey

 

 

 

 

 

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