Updated exit survey will expand to merit employees, retirees

A revamped exit survey for an expanded group of recipients should help university leaders -- and the Professional and Scientific Council -- better understand why staff leave Iowa State.

University human resources (UHR) in the past mailed an optional exit survey to P&S staff who left the university to take a job elsewhere. The response rate for the 220 to 250 surveys sent each year typically was about 30 percent, which is strong compared to industry averages, UHR benefits director Ed Holland told the P&S Council at its Jan. 3 meeting. But the survey has needed an update for years, he said. The questions didn't provide much useful information, and the data was difficult to access.

"There's been a lot of interest in changing that survey," Holland said. 

The arrival of Workday, new software for managing university business processes that will go live July 1, was an impetus for making changes because it will enable automatic delivery of an online survey, Holland said. A workgroup met several times last year to discuss topics and methods, resulting in a survey of about 50 questions that aims to gather "actionable" data, he said.

"Everybody understands there's a cost to losing a valuable employee," said Jason McLatchie, who represented the council on the workgroup.

The anonymous and voluntary survey, hosted via third-party vendor Qualtrics, will ask departing employees about various aspects of their experience at Iowa State, including workplace culture, pay, benefits, work-life balance, supervision, and opportunities for training and development. It also will solicit information about why an employee is leaving, where he or she is going and demographics. UHR will share any apparent trends from the exit survey with department and college leaders, and a summary that avoids identifying personal responses will be collected in a report to be shared with the council, Holland said.

"We feel like we're going to get some good data," he said. 

The survey strikes a balance between being thorough enough to be valuable but short enough to encourage participation, said McLatchie, a university library systems analyst. Participation also should increase because more staff -- merit employees and retirees -- will have a chance to take the survey. The survey won't be offered to staff who move to a different position at Iowa State.

Faculty responses to an exit survey are reported annually to the state Board of Regents, and the provost's office has found replies are more common if the survey is distributed when faculty are still on campus, said Brenda Behling, director of academic policy and personnel.

Once Workday goes live, a link to the survey will be included in the offboarding information departing staff automatically receive via the software platform, Holland said. Until then, beginning with employees who leave the university this month, a personalized link to the survey will be included in a letter mailed to them, he said.

Recommendations approved

In other business, the council unanimously approved its annual salary recommendation to university administration and a recommendation for overhauling the performance review process. The requests were first considered at the council's Dec. 6 meeting.

The council is advocating that P&S employees with satisfactory performance or better receive a pay increase between 3 and 5 percent for FY 2020, which begins July 1. The recommendation on performance evaluations suggests several steps to improve and standardize the process, including a new form and tracking system.