As chair of the Department of Civil Environmental Engineering and an accomplished researcher, Chuck Schwartz can tame a faculty meeting or wax poetic about the porosity of asphalt.

But three years ago, when he was new to his administrative post and read the responses from the first Thriving Workplace Initiative survey, he knew he needed some help strengthening the department’s culture.

“I didn’t have all the skill sets to accomplish this,” Schwartz said, “so the Thriving Workplace Initiative (TWI) and survey came along at just the right time.”

Now, with the help of consultants from the Center for Leadership & Organizational Change (CLOC), the department has made strides in workplace culture, from instituting regular one-on-one meetings with faculty to offering new social events and lunchtime talks, and is continuing to work on topics such as workload policies and strategic planning.

That’s one success story out of the Thriving Workplace Initiative survey, which Gallup is administering to all faculty and staff today through April 12 to learn about their workplace experiences. The Office of the President, which sponsors the initiative, encourages employees to take the online survey, as it did in Spring 2016 and Fall 2017, as part of the strategic investment to foster a culture of engagement, inclusion and empowerment across campus.

The survey link is available in an email sent from Gallup to all faculty and staff. CLOC and Gallup are also offering designated dates, times and locations to share paper surveys with employees who have limited access to technology or who need assistance with translation with the brief survey.

According to Gallup, how a person feels about life at work—if they’re engaged, whether they feel supported and valued, or if their opinions matter—has a direct correlation to their well-being and the organization’s success. In 2016, UMD partnered with Gallup to gain perspective and understanding of how people across campus experience their workplaces.
 
The Thriving Workplace survey helps campus leaders, managers and supervisors make meaningful change within their unit by examining anonymous employee responses to questions surrounding 24 critical metrics, including communication and feedback, teamwork, opportunities for development and inclusiveness.

CEE’s 2016 survey results were a springboard for conversations between Schwartz, Assistant to the Chair Pam Lloyd and CLOC. Lloyd’s affinity for communicating and addressing the nuances of workplace culture were a complement to Schwartz’s analytical strengths.

“If we would have just done the survey, that in itself would have been telling, but what was really helpful was when we took the results into a session with CLOC,” Lloyd said.

Unlike staff at the University of Maryland, faculty don’t have annual performance reviews; a desire for more feedback was illuminated in the department’s results. Schwartz began instituting regular one-on-one meetings with his faculty and in the 2017 survey, the metric improved substantially.

As the department’s TWI ambassador, Lloyd has worked to improve staff engagement, starting small with events that bring together the people of CEE. In addition, both she and Schwartz have encouraged staff and faculty to take full advantage of TWI programming, like Fearless Conversations.

This past year, thousands of faculty and staff took advantage of these TWI resources. Luke Chenevert, a Facilities Management manager, accessed nearly all of them in an effort to create a culture of transparency and candor.

“I saw the benefit of this initiative immediately,” he said. “For our group, breaking down barriers brings a lot of perspective, but also helps you learn what you need to know really quickly.”

Laura Tan, associate director in the Department of Resident Life, saw her scores increase from the first survey to the second by committing to fostering an environment where staff members feel comfortable sharing and fully engaging. “My hope for the 2019 survey is to collect additional feedback that will help our department continue to grow, improve and thrive.”