At a celebratory dinner held March 8, The Morning Call presented Lehigh President John Simon with its Leadership Award and the university was named a 2017 Top Workplace. With Lehigh employing more than 1,700 combined faculty and staff, the university and Simon were both honored in the large employer category.
Described by employees responding to the survey as “approachable and transparent,” Simon has made a positive impression across campus in his first two years at the helm. One employee noted, “He gets to know his employees…He is accessible to and trusting of his team.” Another added, “We outdid ourselves in getting him.”
Accepting his award, Simon said, “Our employees take pride in making a difference in the lives of our students. Parents trust us with their sons and daughters, at an age when they are seeking their identities and forming their aspirations for how they will lead and contribute to society. This is a daunting responsibility. This award is a wonderful validation of the culture we have built at Lehigh to meet those expectations.”
This is the first year that Lehigh has participated in the survey. While the potential honor of being named a Top Workplace was enticing, Associate Vice President for Human Resources Chris Halladay said the information that senior officers would have access to about the satisfaction of their employees was a more powerful draw.
“The questions asked on this survey produce valuable data for managers across the university,” Halladay noted. “They measure things like engagement, alignment, effectiveness and connection. The results tell us how well we are all pulling in the same direction.”
In addition, Halladay hopes being part of the Top Workplaces survey would raise Lehigh’s profile as a local employer. “Even though we are a fairly large employer in the Lehigh Valley, people don’t necessarily look at Lehigh as an organization that hires anyone other than faculty,” he said. “Many don’t realize we employ over 1,000 non-faculty staff members.”
Sixty four percent of Lehigh staff and faculty responded to the survey, a rate significantly higher than the survey’s national average. Halladay noted Lehigh employees gave great thought and care to their answers and were willing to spend time in particular on several open-ended questions. Overall, he said, employees felt positively about Lehigh’s benefits and salary structure, but indicated they’re looking for more training and development opportunities.
One question asked of respondents to the survey was whether they would recommend Lehigh as a place to work. “To me, that’s the million dollar question,” Halladay said. “We scored well on that. But then we need to dive into the data to take that apart a bit.”
Survey data has been separated out into reports by department and is being presented to the appropriate university senior leadership. “I’m sharing leading indicators with them as we go forward with President Simon’s vision,” said Halladay. “Each senior officer I’ve met with so far has had a ‘light bulb’ moment where they saw a place they could spend their time and energy.”
Vice President of Finance and Administration Patricia Johnson believes the time was right for Lehigh to take stock of employee satisfaction and engagement.
“We are thankful to our employees for making us a 2017 Top Workplace, and we are also glad to have their honest survey answers to help us improve Lehigh,” said Johnson. “Now we have a responsibility and commitment to respond to this information, because making Lehigh a great place to work and ensuring our faculty and staff are engaged will allow us to successfully realize our ambitious vision for the university’s future.”
The Top Workplaces lists are based solely on the results of an employee feedback survey administered by WorkplaceDynamics, LLC, a research firm that specializes in organizational health and workplace improvement. This year, more than 2 million employees in over 6,000 organizations will participate in the Top Workplaces campaign—a program WorkplaceDynamics conducts in partnership with more than 40 media partners across the United States, including The Morning Call.
“The Top Workplaces award is not a popularity contest. And oftentimes, people assume it’s all about fancy perks and benefits.” said Doug Claffey, CEO of WorkplaceDynamics. “But to be a Top Workplace, organizations must meet our strict standards for organizational health. And who better to ask about work life than the people who live the culture every day—the employees. Time and time again, our research has proven that what’s most important to them is a strong belief in where the organization is headed, how it’s going to get there, and the feeling that everyone is in it together.”
Story by Hillary Kwiatek