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Survey FAQ

Here is additional information regarding the staff survey conducted in fall 2015.

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General Questions

When was the staff survey?

The university-wide staff survey will be conducted Monday, October 12 through Friday, October 30, 2015.

Who was invited to participate in the survey?

All active staff who were hired as of September 1, 2015 were invited. Staff classified as exempt, non-exempt, bargaining unit, non-academic, academic-librarians and academic-researchers were able to participate.

How many staff participated?

Responses from 7,226 staff were submitted, either online or via a paper survey, which represented a 61% response rate, university-wide.

Who do I contact if I have questions about the survey and results?

For questions regarding the 2015 staff survey, please email the project team at or contact your school/unit survey liaison.

Survey Background and Analysis

What did the survey measure?

Research has found that in order for companies to create and sustain competitive advantage, they need a workforce that is engaged, aligned with the strategy, and agile related to change. Stanford’s survey measured these aspects of the employee experience, as well as other areas that are critical to the success of the organization, like collaboration, efficiency, and development.

What is Engagement?

Engagement is employees’ pride, energy and optimism, which fuels their discretionary effort. Engaged employees exhibit 57% more effort and are nine times less likely to leave an organization.

What is Alignment?

Alignment measures the connection between employees’ work and goals with those of the organization overall. This is a critical capability for ensuring employees’ engagement is directed towards activities that will drive the organization forward.

What is Agility?

Agility measures the organization’s ability to anticipate and respond to change. This is a critical capability in a rapidly changing work environment.

How did we decide which questions to ask?

Stanford worked with the Corporate Education Board (CEB), a global research organization, to design a framework based on talent research, results from leading global organizations, and important priorities for Stanford.

How do we define terms in the survey?

The items below were defined at the beginning of the survey:

"Stanford" or "University" The entire institution, comprised of all schools and VP areas.
My school/VP Area The organizational area that your work group and department "rolls up" to. Examples: the seven schools, Vice Provostial areas, Libraries, and Vice Presidential areas.
My work group The department, lab or work area to which you are assigned.
University leadership The top management of Stanford; e.g., President, Provost, Deans, Vice Provosts and Vice Presidents.
Management All employees who manage people at Stanford, including senior management.
Immediate supervisor The person to whom you directly report; usually the person who assigns your work and evaluates your performance.

What are “benchmarks”?

Benchmarks refer to external comparisons where the same questions were asked (obviously, employees in other organizations weren’t asked about Stanford, but were asked the same question about their own organization). The comparisons chosen for our results were the Higher Education benchmark and the High Performing Benchmark.   

What is the Higher Education Benchmark?

This comparison represents US employees working for four-year academic institutions.

What is the High Performing Benchmark?

This comparison represents employees from companies on Fortune’s Most Admired and/or Best Companies to Work For lists, many of which compete with us for staff talent in the Bay Area.


Who has access to the results?

Each school/unit will determine how reports are distributed. All of the results are reported to leaders in a summarized form, never on an individual basis.

Reports are only generated if five or more people from a business unit, job role or demographic group respond. Software used to generate summary reports guarantees this rule is followed. If there are fewer than five respondents in your business unit or group, your responses will contribute to the university's overall results and may be aggregated with those from other groups.

Comments will be available only when there are at least 20 comments within that organization; if not, they are rolled up.

Information referred to as “demographics” is reported only when there are at least 20 in a group; for example, there was a self-identify question about length of a one-way commute that had eight response options. Responses are reported only when there are 20 responses for each option.

Are the responses confidential?

Yes; Stanford does not have access to any individual responses and is not interested in identifying individual responses. Raw data is seen only by CEB, and not shared with Stanford.

What is the minimum number of people who need to respond for a report to be generated?

All items, categories, and reports need to have at least five respondents in order to be available in the reporting tool. If less than five people responded, that information will roll up to the next level in the organization.

What happens with the comments employee provided in response to the open-ended question at the end of the survey?

In order to protect confidentiality, comments are only viewable for a small number of staff with advanced access to the reporting tool. Additionally, in order for a report to include comments, 20 or more comments must have been submitted. If less than 20 comments are available in a group, those comments will roll up to the next level leader’s report.

Survey Results & Communication

What were the results of the 2015 Staff Survey?

A summary of the university-wide results will be broadly communicated in March 2016, after university leadership have been briefed.

Will I receive an update on the survey results?

Yes; in December 2015, the university-wide response rate (61%) was shared with all employees in the Cardinal at Work Insider newsletter; these results were also published on the 2015 Staff Survey microsite. From December through early February, Elizabeth Zacharias, VP for University Human Resources, debriefed leaders on the results.

In February and March 2016, an overview of the results will be shared more widely with all employees in the Stanford Report and the Cardinal at Work Insider. A summary of the results will also be posted on the 2015 Staff Survey microsite.  

If you don't learn about the survey results for your school or business unit by spring quarter 2016, ask your manager or contact your local Human Resources representative.

Who receives results?

Each school/unit has one or more Survey Liaisons who are partnering with their senior leaders to review the results of their specific organizations. If a manager had less than five people complete the survey within their group, they will not have results. His/her employees’ responses will be included in the report of the next level up in the organization, called “rolling up” the results. This protects confidentiality.

What will be done with the results?

After Survey Liaisons and managers review their results, they will communicate the findings and key areas of focus with the employees in their school/unit.

In order to begin the action-planning phase of the initiative, it was recommended that each school/unit conduct discovery sessions with employees to take a deeper dive and clarify some of the findings. These discovery meetings can be in the form of small group meetings, focus groups sessions, follow-up “pulse” surveys or polls.

From there, schools/units will identify their preferred approach to help assess the information gathered from discovery meetings and identify actions to pursue. There will be many initiatives at all levels of the organization to respond to employee feedback and improve the employment experience, as well as the organization’s success.

How will I learn more about the results?

University Human Resources will communicate a summary of the results broadly starting in late February in the Stanford Report, and in March in the Cardinal at Work Insider. A summary of the results will also be posted on the 2015 Staff Survey microsite.

In addition, within each organization, you can expect to hear the results of the university-wide survey and local school/unit feedback from your manager, senior leader, or Survey Liaison.

The results posted on the Staff Survey microsite are general. Will I receive results related to my school/unit?

Each school/VP area has received their own results, including benchmark data, and has developed their own timeline for how and when to share results at the local level. Some schools and VP areas will share results in all-hands meetings while others will have smaller group/team discussions. To learn more about how results will be shared in your school or unit, please contact your survey liaison or human resources representative.

Will actual raw data from the 2015 Staff Survey be shared with employees?

No, raw data from the 2015 university-wide Staff Survey will not be shared broadly because it was not provided to Stanford. For confidentiality purposes, raw data was specified in our contract with our survey vendor, CEB, as information we would not receive.

How will the university respond to concerns regarding cost of living, housing and transportation?

The 2015 university-wide Staff Survey focused on questions and dimensions that specifically impact employee engagement such as collaboration, agility, alignment, and efficiency to name a few. While the cost of living, affordable housing and transportation/commuting are certainly important issues, and were common concerns shared by employees in the open-ended question, “What else do you want to add about working at Stanford,” these are topics that are broadly affecting all employers throughout the Bay Area. Identifying the right strategies to address these broader challenges is a part of the university’s ongoing planning.

Is it possible to see a ranking of each school/unit’s overall engagement results?

University Human Resources (UHR) is not communicating school/VP area results nor comparative data across the schools/units. The purpose of the 2015 Staff Survey was to provide each leader a snapshot of employee engagement at the local area, along with benchmark data. While comparative data is not being shared, the opportunity to collaborate and share best practices across the university is something being discussed at the leadership level. Each school/VP area has one or more survey liaisons to support local communications and the distribution of results at the local level. To learn more about how and what results will be shared in your school or unit, please contact your survey liaison or human resources representative.

When will I learn more about what actions will be taken?

The results from the survey’s 51 rated questions are the main focus of ongoing discussions among the university’s leaders. Throughout April, schools and VP areas will share local results with employees; some areas will schedule “discovery meetings” to clarify the quantitative results. In April and through June, schools and units will begin developing action plans.

The goal is to integrate action plans from the 2015 university-wide Staff Survey with other initiatives currently underway. In addition, UHR is working with each school/VP area survey liaison to identify ideas to address areas of university-wide concern, and we expect to report progress this summer.