Faculty & Staff Engagement Survey

The ModernThink Higher Education Insight Survey© is specifically designed to measure the organizational dynamics and competencies unique to institutions of higher education and is used as the principal assessment tool in the annual Great Colleges to Work For® program. The survey instrument measures the extent to which faculty and staff are involved and engaged in your institution and ultimately, the health of the culture and quality of the workplace experience.

The survey statements in the ModernThink Higher Education Insight Survey© themselves, and the associated scales/dimensions, are derived not just from ModernThink research but also from existing employment engagement research. Insights into the drivers, competencies, and behaviors that influence employee engagement from The Conference Board, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), The Baldrige Foundation and more were all considered in the development and ongoing maintenance of our instrument.

Within higher education there are structures and dynamics that are unique to higher education , for example, the experience of shared governance; the dynamics between faculty and staff; and the perceived understanding and balance of an institution’s mission of teaching, research, and service. Such dynamics are rarely considered in generalized employee engagement research. However, given our understanding of how important these elements are within Higher Education we have developed survey items that specifically address these critical topics.

ModernThink regularly convenes a blue-ribbon panel of experts and professionals from across higher education to solicit input and review the ModernThink Higher Education Insight Survey© to ensure that it remains current and reflective of today’s academic workplace. The most recent panel was convened in 2021 to address workplace changes influenced by the Covid-19 Pandemic.

The core ModernThink Higher Education Insight Survey© includes 55 belief statements and 5 Faculty Experience statements, intended for Faculty and Adjunct Faculty respondents. The instrument utilizes a five-point agreement scale (Strongly Agree, Agree, Sometimes Agree/Sometimes Disagree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree), along with a Not Applicable response option. The core survey instrument also includes a 20-item benefits satisfaction component, two open-ended questions, and eight demographic questions (e.g., Gender, Age, Race/Ethnicity, Job Classification,School/College and Department/Division).

The belief statements of the ModernThink Higher Education Insight Survey© are typically grouped and reported out in a series of dimensions and indices (Note: we use the term
dimensions in lieu of scales, the composition of the dimensions is determined by confirmatory factor analysis).

  • Compare your campus climate to that of peer institutions by size, region, Carnegie, and more
  • Gather employee insights on a new initiative, project, or practice
  • Develop a strategic plan or evaluate the effectiveness of strategic plan implementation
  • Fulfill accreditation or funding requirements
  • Measure campus engagement before, during, or after a change in leadership
  • Assess differences in campus climate across a state or regional college system

In partnership with NCCI (the Network for Change and Continuous innovation in Higher Education) ModernThink initiated a research project to better understand any relationship between workplace quality and the institutional capacity to be innovative. After reviewing the academic and practitioner research, we identified 12 statements on the survey that could be connected to existing research on the organizational dynamics necessary to enable and support the creativity of its members and thereby influence the institutional capacity to be innovative. We then conducted a series of linear regression and factor analyses and ultimately identified six statements that were highly correlated. Today, we report those six statements in the Innovation Index.

The construct of “employee engagement” is an evolution of the construct of “job satisfaction.” While the term is commonly used, unlike other metrics such as the Generally
Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), there is not one definitive definition of employee engagement.

While there is not one universally agreed upon definition of employee engagement, there is significant overlap in the research on the key drivers of employee engagement. The most common “key drivers” of employee engagement including the experience and support of one’s immediate supervisor; job fit; autonomy; support for professional development; sense of belonging; sense of being appreciated and valued; connection to mission; the belief one is engaged in meaningful work can all be found in the dimensions of the ModernThink Higher Education Insight Survey©. The Engagement Index is a composite of items that are most cited as key drivers.

The standard ModernThink Higher Education Insight Survey© is also unique in that it maps its statements to accreditation criteria for each of the major regional accrediting bodies
Though this might not be the primary focus of this project, many institutions find the ModernThink Higher Education Insight Survey© to be an invaluable resource to provide the
required concrete data and external measures on key metrics for accreditation reviews. Additionally, ModernThink has developed a comprehensive “bank” of survey items, benefits, and

Survey themes include:
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