This year The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For survey is based on responses from more than 46,000 people at 281 institutions: 189 four-year colleges and universities (109 private and 80 public), and 92 two-year colleges. All accredited institutions in the United States with an enrollment of at least 500 were invited to participate, at no cost to them.
Of the 2016 survey respondents, more than 8,000 were administrators, about 17,000 were faculty members, an additional 1,195 were adjunct faculty members, about 13,000 were professional staff members, and nearly 7,000 were nonexempt employees in lower-paid job categories. The survey was sent to more than 116,000 people, with an overall response rate of 40 percent.
The assessment was administered by ModernThink LLC, a human-resources-consulting firm based in Wilmington, Del. Its survey is based on an assessment that has been used in 55 "Best Places to Work" programs and more than 4,000 organizations. A panel of higher-education experts helped customize it for issues unique to colleges.
Each institution was asked to submit a list of full-time employees randomly selected across four job categories: administration, faculty, exempt professional staff, and nonexempt staff. Adjunct faculty members were included for two-year colleges. The sample size, as large as either 400 or 600, was based on the number of employees in those categories. Institutions with fewer than 500 people in the designated categories were invited to survey the entire employee population.
The assessment had two components: a questionnaire about institutional characteristics and a faculty/staff questionnaire about individuals’ evaluations of their institutions. The assessment also included an analysis of demographic data and workplace policies, including benefits, at each participating college. The questionnaires were administered online.
In the faculty/staff questionnaire, people responded to 60 statements using a five-point scale, ranging from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree." The statements were categorized into various dimensions, and from those the Great Colleges recognition categories, such as collaborative governance, were determined. A list of the 12 categories and examples of the survey statements that form them is below.
The survey was conducted March 14 through April 15. Workplace satisfaction surveys provide insights into respondents’ experiences and opinions at a point in time. Results can change, positively or negatively, in light of leadership transitions, institutional crises, or financial exigency.
To determine the colleges to be recognized in each category, we divided the applicant pool into two classifications: four-year institutions and two-year institutions. Within each are three groups, based on total undergraduate and graduate enrollment: small (2,999 or fewer students), medium (3,000 to 9,999), and large (more than 10,000).
Recognition in each Great Colleges category, except for diversity, was given to the 10 highest-scoring institutions in each size for four-year colleges, and to the four highest-scoring institutions in each size for two-year colleges. In the diversity category, three four-year and four two-year colleges were recognized.
Honor Roll status, for four-year colleges, was given to the 10 institutions of each size cited most often across all of the recognition categories. For two-year colleges, Honor Roll status was given to the four institutions cited most often in each size category.
Faculty members play significant roles in decisions on academic programs. Employees agree with statements like "Faculty, administration, and staff are meaningfully involved in institutional planning."
Compensation & Benefits
Pay is fair, and benefits are satisfactory. Sample statement: "This institution’s benefits meet my needs."
Confidence in Senior Leadership
Leaders have the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary for the success of the college. Sample statement: "Senior leadership provides a clear direction for this institution’s future."
The college makes a concerted effort to create a welcoming and fair environment for all employees. Sample statement: "This institution has clear and effective procedures for dealing with discrimination."
Facilities, Workspace, & Security
Facilities meet employees’ needs, and the campus looks good. Sample statement: "The institution takes reasonable steps to provide a safe and secure environment for the campus."
There is an overall sense that the job is meaningful to the employee and to the college. Sample statement: "All things considered, this is a great place to work."
Professional/Career- Development Programs
Employees get chances to develop skills and understand requirements for career advancement. Sample statement: "Our orientation program prepares new faculty, administration, and staff to be effective."
Respect & Appreciation
Employees are regularly recognized for their contributions. Sample statement: "Our recognition-and-awards programs are meaningful to me."
Supervisor or Department-Chair Relationship
Supervisors or chairs solicit ideas and make expectations clear. Sample statement: "I believe what I am told by my supervisor/department chair."
Faculty members say the institution recognizes innovative and high-quality teaching. Sample statement: "Teaching is appropriately recognized in the evaluation-and-promotion process." (Faculty only.)
Tenure Clarity & Process
Requirements for tenure are clear. Sample statement: "Promotions in my department are based on a person’s ability." (Faculty at four-year institutions only.)
Policies give employees flexibility to manage their lives on the job and at home. Sample statement: "My supervisor/department chair supports my efforts to balance my work and personal life."