Office of the Chancellor

Staff Engagement Survey

Section 1

CACS Staff Engagement Survey Summary

March 28, 2013

The Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Staff is charged with advocating for staff, promoting career development opportunities, mitigating problems and creating a positive work environment. To assess the work environment and level of engagement of UC Irvine staff, CACS initiated a Staff Engagement Survey in Fall 2011. Initial results were shared with the campus through a town hall in May 2012. Reports for individual departments are being distributed throughout the 2012-13 year.


All general campus and School of Medicine career and contract staff (non-academic appointees are referred to in this report as "staff") were invited to participate. The survey was administered from September 6, 2011, through November 22, 2011. Among the 4,570 employees asked to participate, a total of 1,223 completed the survey, for a response rate of 27%.

Minorities and employees covered by a bargaining contract were underrepresented in the survey responses, while employees who decline to state their race/ethnicity were overrepresented. Representation of women closely mirrored the proportion within the UCI staff, while the proportion who self-identified as men was lower by the same margin as those who declined to state their sex. Representation of respondents by years of service closely matched the distribution among the UCI staff.

Definition of Engagement

The Corporate Leadership Council (CLC), the external administrator of the survey, defines engagement as "the extent to which employees commit to something or someone in their organization and how hard they work and how long they stay as a result of that commitment." The survey operationalizes employee engagement as comprised of four components:

  1. Emotional Commitment – employee belief/investment in own job and the organization,
  2. Rational Commitment – employee's perception of the organization's belief/investment in them,
  3. Discretionary Effort – work performance above and beyond required duties, and
  4. Intent to Stay – employee's desire to remain with the organization.

While each of these concepts influences the others, the CLC research suggests that the relationship between these four engagement components is not causal in nature.

The CLC identifies the level of engagement of employees into three categories, based on employees' average scores on a 7-point scale:

  • True Believers (Strong Engagement) are respondents who scored an average of 6 or above on both emotional and rational commitment.
  • Agnostic employees (Average Engagement) scored an average above 3 for both emotional and rational commitment, but had an average score below 6 for at least one of those two components.
  • Disaffected employees (Lower Engagement) are respondents who scored an average of 3 or below on either emotional or rational commitment.


Nine percent of respondents scored as True Believers with high ratings for emotional and rational commitment to the university. These employees believe they contribute to the university and believe that UCI is invested in them. The scores for 28% of respondents fell within the Disaffected (lower engagement) category; they scored low on emotional and/or rational commitment. The majority of staff respondents (63%) reflected average engagement and fell in the Agnostics category.

The groups with the highest percentage of strongly engaged employees included those who self-identified as Chicano/Latino, as a member of the LGBT community, or were among UCI's newest and youngest employees. African American and Native American respondents had the highest percentages that reflected lower engagement; they were also members of the least-represented racial/ethnic populations of the campus.

Initial results suggest that units that experienced a recent change or fluctuation (interim status) in leadership or had undergone a reorganization had a high percentage of staff who reflected lower engagement. Staff in units facing significant changes in leadership or under interim direction tended to report a lower score for discretionary effort and intent to stay. Rational commitment was lower for staff in units that faced reorganization.

Overall, UCI staff are proud of what they do for a living and believe in what they and their work team are accomplishing. To that end, they regularly seek ways to do their job better and are willing to put in the extra effort to get a job done.

The area of concern for staff overall is their rational commitment – their perception of the university's investment in them, defined by the extent to which employees believe that their manager, team, and the university have their self-interest in mind (financial, developmental, or professional). The survey results suggest that UCI employees tend to feel that staying with their current supervisor, team, and the university does not enhance their advancement and professional development opportunities, with 35% indicating that staying with UCI is not the best way for them to advance in their career and over a quarter (27%) indicating their intent to seek a job outside of the organization within a year.


As a follow-up to the engagement survey, CACS hosted a town hall forum open to the campus and shared the initial results. In addition, town hall attendees engaged in small group discussions on the topic of engagement. CACS members facilitated the discussions and compiled notes on the discussions. The main themes that emerged from the discussions were:

  • Mentoring is an important vehicle through which staff engagement at UC Irvine can be enhanced.
  • Public and ongoing recognition of staff accomplishments increases staff engagement.
  • Clear communication to all staff is valued, especially if it enables the sharing of professional development opportunities/trainings, accomplishments of the university and departments, challenges the university may be facing, and available resources to assist employees.
  • Employees want opportunities to develop relationships with other employees across the campus, and administrators who make personal connections with staff at all levels are models for creating a greater sense of connection to the university.

In summary, staff recognize the difficult budget times the university faces, and have taken on additional workload in many cases to help off-set the reduction in resources and staffing in their units. Many of the suggestions from staff at this town hall do not require investment of funds, but do require commitment from all levels to improve communication, recognize the work and contributions of staff, and invest time to mentor and connect staff.


The research shows that engagement is related to productivity, retention, and commitment to the organization and its goals/mission. Employee engagement can increase employee performance by 20 percentile points and reduce attrition by as much as 87%. According to research by CLC, for every 10% improvement in employee commitment, employees will realize a 6% improvement in discretionary effort, which in turn results in a two percentile point improvement in performance (10:6:2); for every 10% improvement in commitment, an employee's probability of departure decreases by 9% (10:9).

Action Items

Based on the results of this initial survey on staff engagement as well as the feedback collected through the town hall, CACS recommendations that the university engage in sustained efforts to increase the visibility of staff contributions, communicate with greater transparency and frequency, and invest in the professional development and advancement of staff at all levels. Specifically, the following actions are recommended:

  • Encourage university officials to communicate UCI's investment and commitment to its staff, articulating the ways in which the university is invested in the well-being and success of its staff as well as recognizing staff for their contributions and accomplishments in support of the university's mission.
  • Continue to provide high quality professional development opportunities to staff and increase the visibility and availability of these opportunities.
  • Urge managers and supervisors to invest in professional development for their staff.
  • Establish a formal mentoring program for staff at all levels.
  • Communicate with staff in advance any changes in leadership and plans for reorganization and discuss the impact those changes may have on the department and employees.
  • Conduct follow-up focus groups for employee groups that reflected higher percentages of lower engagement to identify specific concerns that the university may be able to address.
  • Continue to monitor the level of employee engagement and increase the participation of all staff in surveys and other initiatives designed to gather information about employee engagement.
  • Explore and implement methods and strategies to increase employee engagement.
  • Disseminate results from this survey and engage in campus conversations about employee engagement, opportunities for professional development, and advancement.