Listening to the Voice of the Employee in Higher Education Institutions

Written by Explorance.

Students reading

Explorance, renowned for its Student Feedback Analytic Solutions, helps universities around the world improve teaching effectiveness and student learning. From module and course evaluation surveys to ‘pulse’ surveys about the academic and wider student experience, 25% of the QS top 100 Higher Education Institutions currently use Explorance Blue, including over 20 universities in the UK alone.

Voice of the Employee at Newcastle University

What is perhaps not so well known is how Explorance’s Employee Feedback Analytics Solutions, which are leveraged by organisations in a range of sectors worldwide, can help HR departments within Higher Education Institutions effectively capture and respond to the Voice of the Employees (VoE). In the past 12 months, Explorance has received growing interest from a range of universities about how its survey platform can help them be more responsive to the needs of their people by enabling them to measure staff feedback and engagement better.

This led to Explorance Blue’s recent appointment by Newcastle University as its survey platform to collect and analyse data from employees across its global campus community.

Collecting and Analysing data Provided by Employees

Universities are becoming more and more interested in the principle of continuous listening. Individual institutions are seeking improved ways to collect and analyse data provided by employees. For some, these are annual surveys that allow them to track employee engagement and advocacy or cyclical surveys to capture key data and insight at significant points during the employee lifecycle. For others, it is iterative ‘pulse’ checks that inform HR practices regarding specific people initiatives and change management. And, for many, it is all of the above.

A common thread is a need for robust data, which is often missing in existing approaches to VoE, and the ability to receive and respond to that in real time. To have an organisational dashboard view of what is working well and where improvements could be made in terms of employee metrics and feedback is desired. Also, the ability to share the dashboard and reports with departmental/school leads, empowering them to take localised accountability for the results and relevant action plans.

Generating actionable insights and identifying opportunities for impact is the direction of travel for university HR departments. This is no mean feat, however, when you consider that in 2021-22 there were 233,930 staff (excluding atypical staff) employed at UK higher education institutions alone. Also, employees are often spread between different sites and across different countries and continents, meaning they may not necessarily be able to access surveys in the same way and at the same time. Accessibility is key.

One of the barriers is that universities often use a range of survey platform providers for a range of different purposes (academic and non-academic). The lack of consistency in features and capability of these platforms leads to challenges when conducting data-gathering exercises across target audiences. The need to administer well-designed surveys often exceeds the scale and capability of existing provisions.

Last year, Explorance attended and presented at the UK’s UHR (Universities Human Resources) Conference. Presenters spoke to HR professionals about how Explorance’s Feedback Analytics Solutions can accelerate their institution’s insight to action cycle and ensure their staff is happy, engaged, and effective at work. We also demonstrated the power and value of Explorance’s MLY, a purpose-built comment analysis solution that transforms employee open-text comments into in-depth analysis and actionable insights in seconds.

Fast forward to this year’s UHR Conference programme theme, ‘Working Well’ which touches on why universities need to ‘listen’ to their employees in a manner that fits the modern-day workforce and with modern-day approaches to gathering feedback.

“What does ‘working well’ mean? To be aware of our own well-being, to manage ourselves and our energies in ways that are sustainable? To support our colleagues in maintaining a good work/life balance? To work well with partners and to collaborate across the whole institutional ecosystem and beyond? To foster inclusive environments where the talents of the whole team can thrive and where we can all find our space to contribute fully? To be flexible about how and where we work, and to adapt as technology brings opportunities that didn’t exist before?” – UHR Conference Theme

So, what does the future of VoE in Higher Education look like? One thing for sure is that more and more universities are seeking positive survey experiences for their employees (as well as students). Applications could be for onboarding and exit surveys, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, mental health and well-being purposes, staff performance and development, or any other key people initiatives. But this must be enabled by a platform that includes powerful analytics, reporting tools, and technical support when needed to help universities navigate what, for many, is new territory.

Explorance looks forward to being part of the conversation in terms of empowering institutions with actionable decision-making by measuring employees’ needs, expectations, skills, knowledge, and competencies. Through our software and analytics, our role is to facilitate continuous improvement and support wider institutional enhancement.

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