Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the UNC System Employee Engagement Survey?

  • The UNC System Employee Engagement Survey is sponsored by the UNC System. It is a regularly scheduled survey on workplace satisfaction that initially took place in 2018 and will be repeated every two years at all UNC institutions as part of the UNC System Strategic Plan.
  • The survey is administered to all permanent faculty and staff to create a comprehensive, longitudinal view of faculty and staff engagement at the various institutions and across the system.
  • The survey is administered through an outside vendor, ModernThink. ModernThink is the only entity that can access or view raw survey data and individual responses.

Why are we doing this?

  • The UNC System wants to measure workplace engagement. Studies have shown that the more engaged an employee is at their workplace, the more satisfied the employee is and the more productive the work unit is.
  • The UNC System has limited useful systemwide information about how faculty and staff feel about their workplace. The engagement survey collects data from both faculty and staff and helps the system identify areas of strength at each institution and areas that need improvement.
  • Some UNC institutions have done similar surveys in the past, but this is the first survey to be issued systemwide. It provides a common dataset for the entire UNC System.

Who is participating in this? Do I have to participate?

  • The 2020 survey was sent to all permanent full-time (75% time or more) faculty and staff employed as of December 2019.
  • Participation in the biennial survey is voluntary. You should not feel pressured to participate, but since this is a great chance for faculty and staff to be heard, we encourage your participation.
  • NC State aims for at least 50% participation but would like to see the number much higher than that. In both 2018 and 2020, we surpassed the 50% goal. It is important that the UNC System hears from as many faculty and staff as they can in order to get the most complete feedback.

When is this happening and how long will it take?

  • The 2020 survey is complete. It launched on Feb. 4 and ran through Feb. 25.
  • The survey took on average about 20 to 30 minutes to complete. The survey could be accessed using a computer or mobile device and was available in English and in Spanish.
  • Eligible employees received an email invitation directly from ModernThink that had a unique login and password.
  • Managers allowed employees at least 30 minutes to complete the survey during their normal working hours. However, employees who chose to complete the survey outside their regular work schedule, were not paid for that time. If they did not complete the survey in one sitting, they were able to save their progress and log on again later.

What’s on the survey?

  • Work Environment Questions: These relate to key dimensions of employee engagement, including job satisfaction, institutional pride, communication, and fairness.
    • Examples: “My job makes good use of my skills and abilities,” “People in my department work well together,” and “I understand how my job contributes to this institution’s mission.”
  • Benefits Questions: These relate to satisfaction with a variety of benefit programs provided by the state/system.
  • Open-Ended Questions: There are two open-ended questions for write-in responses.
  • Demographics Questions: These are for reporting purposes, such as race, gender, years of service, salary range, etc.

What happened as a result of the 2018 and 2020 surveys and what should we expect to happen following future surveys?

  • Systemwide topline data were shared with the UNC Board of Governors and posted publicly on the UNC System website.
  • Data points were used as a comparator for human resource metrics such as turnover data to see if trends could be determined.
    • The results were used to support key policy changes, including the introduction of paid parental leave. At NC State, colleges and units across campus have been working to enhance key aspects of the employee experience. They’ve conducted planning sessions and focus groups, upgraded computers and furniture, offered new professional development opportunities, improved recruitment and retention efforts, revamped employee recognition programs and enhanced communication channels to create a more welcoming, inclusive workplace.
  • In most cases, progress from this program will be incremental and not occur all at once, or it may not be visible to all employees as it happens. This means it may take time to address certain issues or take time for faculty and staff to see the positive effects of any actions taken.
  • Some faculty and staff concerns (e.g., higher salaries/raises, better benefits) may be outside the control of your direct supervisor, NC State or the UNC System.
  • Some suggestions from faculty and staff for certain changes may be cost prohibitive or may require legislative action by the NC General Assembly.
  • However, having data that identify these concerns and suggestions puts the system in a better position to prioritize ways to address them and to bring these issues to those who have the authority to make any necessary changes.

What about confidentiality?

  • Only the administrator of the survey (ModernThink) has direct access to individual responses. Data are stored on ModernThink’s servers, not the system’s servers. Direct supervisors and university leadership do not have access to individual responses. The system and NC State receive a variety of summary reports.
  • The UNC System supplies certain initial information to ModernThink for survey distribution and reporting purposes, including each employee’s email address, organizational unit, employee type (EHRA/SHRA) and job category.
  • Reporting is available only if there are at least five responses in a defined demographic group.
  • Note: The full narrative comments you submit in the two open-ended questions are shared with management. Consider how you phrase your responses so your remarks are not too identifiable.
  • ModernThink provides a helpline (888.684.4658) for participants to call if they have questions about confidentiality, and you can review a confidentiality statement online.

Where can I get more information?

  • ModernThink provides a helpline (888.684.4658) for participants to call if they have questions about confidentiality or about how to complete the survey.

Additional information on the program is available at