February 13, 2012

Working to Boost Employee Satisfaction

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Over the 2009-10 fiscal year, the University cut 672 staff positions — approximately nine percent of the total 7,000 non-academic workers at Cornell. The recently released results of a 2011 employee-wide survey show that these cuts may have strained the morale of those still at Cornell. According to the survey, 14 percent of the University’s employees are dissatisfied with their jobs. Though the University has said it will seek long-term solutions to this problem, more should be done in the short run to assuage employee concerns.

The 2011 survey demonstrates the problems facing the University’s staff. These problems may ultimately have long-term implications on the University’s ability to recruit and retain talented and productive workers. According to the survey, 14 percent of employees said that they were dissatisfied or strongly dissatisfied with their jobs, and 23.5 percent of the University’s non-academic staff either disagreed or strongly disagreed that they were compensated fairly for the work they do. These job satisfaction statistics show that Cornell has room to improve.

Despite these results, the survey showed some possible solutions. Staff said they hoped that administrators would make University policies clearer, and asked for “more of a voice in things that affect them,” according to Mary Opperman, vice president of human resources. That the University conducted the survey, and that it recognizes the areas for improvement are critical first steps. Opperman said that the University would analyze these results and develop comprehensive long-term solutions. While it is commendable that the University is responding to this survey, the University should seek out short-term solutions as well.

One way to address these concerns would be to maintain an open channel of communication with employees and to spread awareness of the ways in which the University can address their grievances. According to minutes from a Jan. 18 meeting of the Employee Assembly, members of the E.A. have voiced concerns that many employees lack awareness of the way in which Cornell’s Office of Human Resources can assist them and often take the HR department for granted. A campaign to spread awareness is one solution that should be implemented while the University weighs long-term solutions.

Such short-term strategies are necessary to improve workplace morale, which would allow Cornell to remain an attractive employer in the area. Outside perceptions of Cornell as a workplace are critical, as productive workers may be dissuaded from submitting an application to a workplace with high levels of dissatisfaction. Short-term solutions should be sought if the University wishes to experience the benefits that come from a productive and satisfied staff.