Staff Engagement Survey Findings Previewed for Staff Council

Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Cheryl Johnson previewed early results of the Staff Engagement and Climate Survey at the Staff Council meeting on March 21, saying the survey will hone Pitt’s efforts “to really get crystal clear on who we would aspire to be, to be an employer of choice.”

Conducted November 2017 to January 2018 and sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of Human Resources, the survey focused on such areas as working conditions, the state of diversity and inclusion at Pitt and opportunities for workplace growth and autonomy.

All University employees were invited to complete the survey. It received 4,016 responses, for a 46 percent response rate, which is “statistically significant,” Johnson noted. Results will be benchmarked against similar surveys taken by 160,000 employees of 36 other higher education institutions.

Overall, the survey aimed to measure employees’ level of engagement with their work on behalf of the University. It found that Pitt employees were engaged at a slightly higher rate than peers at comparable institutions, Johnson reported. Organizations of all types see lower worker absenteeism and turnover when there is a higher employee engagement, she said, as well as fewer workplace accidents, increased productivity and, for institutions of higher education, greater rates of student retention and graduation.

In the brief preview, Johnson said that employees reported having clear expectations of their workplace responsibilities and an appreciation of the benefits available from employment at the University. Employees also found Pitt to be supportive of diversity and inclusion.

Employee engagement levels varied by job category, with more responsibility triggering greater engagement levels, she said.

Distinct levels of engagement were also seen among separate employee demographics, she said.

“We find that there are some material differences with people of color and we need to look into that,” said Johnson.

The survey’s analysis will likely result in a greater understanding of how to aid particular employee demographics, including African-Americans and millennials, in advancing their careers, she said. The survey found that Pitt’s workforce is composed of equal thirds millennials (born 1981-97), Generation Xers (born 1965-80) and baby boomers (born 1946-64).

Full results will be presented to University staff and faculty in the coming months.

Johnson expects the results to show further areas in which her department can improve the employee experience: “We believe that there’s an opportunity for more two-way communication and an opportunity for senior leaders to demonstrate their care and understanding,” she said.

New Paid Parental Leave Paying Off

The new paid parental leave policy instituted for Pitt employees this fiscal year is already paying off, not only for parents but for the University, Johnson told Staff Council.

According to Johnson, from July to December 2017, 51 women and 16 men took advantage of this new benefit, which offers up to 20 consecutive work days of paid maternity/paternity leave in the 12 months following a birth, adoption or foster care child placement. (Details of the policy, implemented at Staff Council’s suggestion, can be found in the University’s staff handbook.)

Only 7 percent of these employees chose not to return to work, compared to the 18 percent who used unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act across the previous three years.

Johnson explained that this 50-percent reduction in voluntary terminations effectively cuts in half the cost to Pitt of hiring new individuals to fill these posts — a cost estimated at 21 percent of an employee’s wages and benefits. Johnson calculated the savings to Pitt so far as in excess of $350,000.

Overall, she was happy with the new leave policy’s effect on employee well-being: “It really does help people find their balance and I was really pleased that both men and women are taking this opportunity.”


Marty Levine,, 412-758-4859