Faculty, Staff Grumbling About Comparative Comp

More than half of U.S. higher education faculty and staff (59%) responding to a recent survey think their voices aren’t heard at work and just 39% believe that their benefits and job perks are “unique and different” from what they could receive at another job.

Higher education staff satisfaction with workplace benefit packages reflects a marked difference from the average of 51% job benefit satisfaction data reported in the State of Work in America. The data is from a survey conducted in-house and online by the Human Capital Services practice of Grant Thornton LLP (GT), a Chicago-based consulting, audit and tax firm.

The survey responses by 559 full-time higher education workers were extracted as a subset of GT’s survey taken between May and June of 2022 of 5,200 American workers employed in multiple industries. The higher education sector — once viewed as a prime employment magnet because of its generous benefit packages — was highlighted as a subset as educational institution leaders struggle with ongoing retention concerns, survey authors said via a press release.

Other findings include:

  • While 59% of higher education employees say their immediate manager is supportive as they strive to succeed, just 41% believe institutional leadership understands campus culture and what it’s like to work at the institution;
  • 17% are actively looking for a job at another institution and 49%, while not actively looking, would consider a switch if a better opportunity presented itself;
  • Slightly more than one-third (37%) of higher education employees say their salary allows them to live their preferred lifestyle compared to 46% of State of Work in America overall respondents;
  • Just over half of higher education employees surveyed (56%) prefer to go into the office fewer than four days within a two-week period; and,
  • Only one-third (34%) think their institution understands their needs as an employee.“  

The value proposition for working in higher education has long been that benefits and job security will be an attractive counter to higher compensation in the private sector,” said Gary Setterberg, a GT managing director in Human Capital Services, via a release.

“But university employers are now discovering that today’s Millennial and Gen Z candidates come to their institution expecting significant workplace flexibility, favorable work-life balance and strong benefits, as well as ‘industry-competitive’ salaries in line with other sectors,” according to Setterberg.

The top two stressors affecting higher education employees — personal debt and medical issues — mirrored those of workers in other industries, with “political and social environment” ranking as the third-highest stressor for higher education faculty and staff. Political and social environment ranked sixth overall for all 5,200 surveyed workers, according to the results.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and sharp political divisiveness of our times has heightened the tension on many campuses,” said Dennis Morrone, national managing partner of GT’s Not-for-Profit and Higher Education practices. “The fact that ‘political and social environment’ ranks so high on employees’ list of stressors is even more of an indication that institutions need to prioritize engaging and listening to their people.”

Suggestions by the report’s authors include:

  • Respond with “next generation” employee value propositions by addressing additional financial concerns of new hires, their work flexibility demands or a desire for more personalized benefits;
  • Initiate refreshed listening strategies through traditional special interest groups, periodic focus groups, pulse surveys or a renewed commitment and effort to hear workers; and,
  • Create innovative “boomerang” strategies to recapture former valued employees, including maintaining good alumni relationships with former staff.

You can download the full report at https://gt-us.co/3zUbY5r