Two construction workers looking at the top of building frame
Workers peer over the top of framework at The Green at West Village. Design and Construction Management is one of several campus services that took customer feedback very seriously from the Academic and Staff Satisfaction Survey, earning higher scores every year for four years. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Satisfaction Survey Results 'Fuel' Improvements to Campus Services

You won’t be asked to take the Academic and Staff Satisfaction Survey this year, but that hasn’t stopped your feedback from making a difference.

UC Davis has adjusted its survey schedule for employees, so that the Satisfaction Survey will take place in odd years, next up in 2023. (It will alternate with the Staff Experience Survey in even years, which is open now for staff input.)

Interactive results are available from the 2021 Satisfaction Survey, which was the fourth year in a row that UC Davis employees rated campus administrative services, to help assess their effectiveness.

Take action now

  • Explore interactive results from the Academic and Staff Satisfaction Survey, with four years of trends from dozens of campus services.
  • Share your feedback now on the Staff Experience Survey, which will now alternate years with the Satisfaction Survey.

“What’s so incredible about what UC Davis is doing is now we have multiple years of data,” said Angela Song, senior director and industrial/organizational psychologist for the UC San Diego team that administers the Satisfaction Survey. “That first year is the baseline, and then Year 2 is interesting because you can start to see directionality, and at Year 3 you can start seeing trends. By now we can see if our improvements are making an impact.”

Some units, like the UC Davis Fire Department and the Arboretum and Public Garden, have consistently “Excellent” ratings across the board, seemingly from all campus constituent groups.

But many other service teams at UC Davis — from construction to custodial to human resources — have been identifying weaknesses and making changes in response to survey feedback, incorporating responsive goals into their strategic planning.

"I think the most important part of these surveys is what action you take afterwards, and UC Davis is doing a fabulous job of taking action in response to the surveys," Song said.

UCD? Even campus construction can respond to employee feedback

In his first days on the job at UC Davis back in 2018, Jim Carroll learned that his leadership of Design and Construction Management would start off with both an extensive audit and a wave of comments from fellow employees via the first-ever Satisfaction Survey.

“What a welcome to campus,” he says now. “But honestly both of them were very good for me because they created a baseline. It was a little painful, but I was able to learn a lot, and we made a lot of changes from these surveys.”

Top 10 Most Improved - All-time

  1. Capital and Space Planning
  2. Custodial Services
  3. FOA Communications
  4. Design and Construction Management
  5. Real Estate Services
  6. Travel and Entertainment
  7. Procurement and Contracting Services
  8. FOA Business Partners
  9. Staff and Faculty Health and Well-being
  10. Employee and Labor Relations

Increase in ratings for "overall experience" across all four years of survey. See interactive results for more details, and service lines for clarification on group definitions.

In that first year, Carroll says he took hundreds of comments and categorized them across a dozen categories to identify top points of feedback, which he eventually distilled into four priorities focused on improving speed and lowering costs.

“You don’t want everybody in the institution to live through ‘UCD,’ you know, under construction daily,” he said. “This is a large, complex campus. DCM has many projects to accomplish in support of the university’s goals, and we try to be as expeditious as we can. Those surveys delivered a lot of the fuel we needed to drive some of these changes forward.”

Carroll explained that construction projects on campus are heavily process-driven, but strategies to bundle and recombine projects — such as bid alternates for construction jobs, multi-year contracts for some types of job orders, and open-ended design contracts — have been able to speed up and lower costs for some (not all) processes.

It’s also been important to increase transparency and outreach to tell campus constituents what’s behind the construction barricades — from improved signage at project sites to an interactive map, improved website, quarterly email newsletters and Capital Project Reports.

So, have their scores gone up? All three of the service lines under Design and Construction Management’s umbrella are among the top 10 most improved since the Satisfaction Survey first started. (Besides Design and Construction Management, the other two service lines listed in the Satisfaction Survey are Capital and Space Planning and Real Estate Services.) Their scores are higher in particular among staff members and administrative unit employees, which Carroll posits may be because they’re more likely to be involved in the physical management of campus.

"The truth is I don’t think there’s a tape at the finish line that we’re going to cross. We’ve gone up every year, and we’re still trying,” Carroll said. “We’ll always strive to be better.”

Surprising ways the pandemic affected survey ratings and responses

During 2021, the total number of responses to the Academic and Staff Satisfaction Survey were just 25-30% that of previous years. While the pandemic may have been an obvious source for some of the reduced response rate, there were two other potential factors: UC Davis Health employees did not participate, and no swag gifts were offered as an incentive to complete the survey.

Most Improved - 2020 to 2021

  1. Workforce Strategies
  2. Real Estate Services
  3. Employee and Labor Relations
  4. Distribution and Logistics
  5. Shared Services Organization: HR Services
  6. Staff and Faculty Health and Well-being
  7. Campus Budget Office
  8. WorkLife
  9. Custodial Services
  10. Travel and Entertainment

Overall score increases between 2020 survey results and 2021 results. See interactive results for more details, and service lines for clarification on group definitions.

Though responses were down, ratings of “Excellent” went up. About 65-73% of service lines earn an overall “Good” rating each year, but in 2021 service lines that were rated “Excellent” overall jumped from 5% to 17%.

“We went through something similar at UC San Diego,” said Song, from the survey administration team. “It might be that people aren’t using the services like before. What was really important for us was, as we transitioned to virtual offerings, did this impact our service?  Our data showed it to be as good or even better, so that was reassuring.”

One of the UC Davis units that saw a significant increase in its 2021 ratings is Employee and Labor Relations, a team in Human Resources that manages things like employee disciplinary actions, layoffs and collective bargaining. At the beginning of the pandemic, this team started routine “Ask ELR” sessions to answer questions for hundreds of managers, supervisors and HR professionals.

The discussions often dig into pandemic details such as changes to public health policies, remote work and COVID-19 leave, with experts from Safety Services and Payroll Services. With this information, departments are able to better manage performance concerns before moving to formal discipline and quickly resolving grievances before they escalate.

And ELR’s satisfaction scores went up across the board too, moving from “Marginal” averages to “Good” in the majority of categories.

Outreach and transparency are common goals to increase satisfaction

Facilities Management is another unit that responded quickly to their first Satisfaction Survey results by increasing outreach and engagement with some of its most concerned customers.

“We recognized the need to better inform our customers of who we are and what we do,” said Christina Blackman, operations manager for Facilities Management. She was charged with launching behind-the-scenes customer tours as well as a Customer Advisory Board in 2018, after results from the first Satisfaction Survey were released.

Though now paused for the pandemic, the customer tours brought Aggies behind the curtains of campus infrastructure like the wastewater treatment plant, solar farm, electrical sub-station, key shop and more.

The Customer Advisory Board meets monthly to garner ongoing feedback and improve transparency, with representatives from 23 campus departments.

One staff member, Andrew Ross, says being on the board has been rewarding and beneficial.

“I have served on many committees during my 14-plus years here at UC Davis, but I can’t think of any that were more constructive or necessary than this one,” he shared in a testimonial. “The Customer Advisory Board has done an amazing job opening up lines of communication and improving transparency between facilities management and the faculty, staff and research lab personnel in my two departments.”

Explore for yourself trends across four years of Academic and Staff Satisfaction Survey results.