Overcoming the Employee Engagement Hurdle in Higher Education


According to a recent Gallup survey, employee engagement is a problem for the majority of colleges and universities. Only about one-third (34 percent) of surveyed faculty members feel engaged in their work, while 52 percent said they were not engaged. Fourteen percent of respondents went as far as to say they were actively disengaged.

A new report from Cornerstone OnDemand and Ellucian found that employee engagement is tied to employee recruitment and retention in higher education. Sixty-one percent of higher education institutions struggle to find top faculty, and 59 percent struggle to retain them. Similarly, 62 percent struggle to find top staff, and 69 percent struggle to retain them. Seventy-one percent see a correlation between faculty engagement and retention, while that number jumps to 80 percent for staff.

Employee engagement isn’t just about job satisfaction and retention. It’s also critical to improving student engagement and success, which have become high priorities as schools look to increase retention rates and help students complete their degrees on time. This has even led to the emergence of success tech tools to monitor and evaluate student performance and provide assistance to those who need it.

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, student success is no longer the sole responsibility of the student. Success is influenced in large part by engaged school employees. Obviously, faculty members play a key role — according to the Cornerstone OnDemand and Ellucian report, 80.5 percent of those surveyed agreed that faculty members have a significant impact on student success. But all employees contribute to that success, from student affairs staff (47.7 percent) to deans (35.9 percent) to support staff such as the registrar and bursar (33.6 percent).

Logic tells us that engaged employees will be more committed to student success. But employee engagement can also deliver financial benefits to the institution. Employees who aren’t engaged have little incentive to remain loyal and are more likely to jump ship. On the other hand, higher employee engagement results in lower turnover. According to the report, schools with lower turnover find sourcing and retaining talent to be much less difficult.

As the saying goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Schools must be able to measure and track engagement, compare this information with historical data, and determine what actions should be taken to improve engagement. The report finds that 47.1 percent of institutions do not measure or track engagement. Those that do are using tools such as engagement surveys (29 percent), employee reviews (27 percent), student surveys (16 percent) and employee retention data (15.3 percent).

Unfortunately, most schools are not using technology to measure employee engagement. Technology can be used to more accurately identify baseline levels of engagement and make a stronger business case for developing programs to improve engagement. These programs can include recognition programs, leadership development, team-building activities, and coaching.

Axiom makes it possible to automate virtually any function that requires the collection of information from employees. This allows your school’s employees to focus less on routine, administrative tasks so they can stay engaged and passionate about their work. By improving employee engagement, you improve retention and provide students with the support they need to succeed.