UNC System Employee Engagement Survey

The UNC System Employee Engagement Survey is an ongoing project developed to achieve the goals of the UNC Strategic Plan.

  • The data collected will establish a baseline metric for engagement to track over the coming years in concert with other human capital metrics.
  • This will allow UNC System and institution-level leadership to address those areas in which employee engagement challenges may exist and to recognize those areas that are successfully fostering employee engagement.
  • The survey results may also assist the UNC System in advocating for improvements to human resources policies at the statewide level that are generally beyond the University’s institutional control.

System-wide Engagement Survey Results (February 2020)

  • The overall participation rate for the 2020 engagement survey across the UNC System was 52 percent (increased from 50 percent in 2018).
  • The overall positive response (strongly agree or agree) across the UNC System was 61 percent (decreased from 63 percent in 2018)
  • The 60 survey belief statements were rated on a 5-point scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

System-Wide 2020 Results







General Information

What is this?

The UNC System Employee Engagement Survey is a program sponsored by the UNC System Office. It is a survey on workplace satisfaction that takes place at all UNC institutions every two years as part of the UNC System Strategic Plan. The survey goes to all permanent full-time faculty and staff and began in 2018, then was conducted again in 2020. A shorter pulse survey is being conducted in 2022 to focus on a set of baseline trend data, diversity and inclusion, and institutional responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey is administered through an outside vendor (ModernThink).

Why are we doing this?

The University is seeking to measure workplace engagement. Studies have shown that the more engaged an employee is at their workplace, the more satisfied the employee is and the more productive the work unit is. The University previously had limited useful system-wide information about how faculty and staff feel about their workplace. The engagement survey collects data from both faculty and staff and helps the University identify areas of strength in individual work groups, at each institution, and across the System, as well as areas that need improvement.

When is this happening?

The first survey launched January 29, 2018 and ran for three weeks. The 2020 survey launched February 4, 2020, and ran for three weeks. The third survey will launch March 28, 2022, and run for two or three weeks.

Faculty and staff receive an email invitation directly from ModernThink. The survey takes on average about 15 minutes to complete. Faculty and staff can take the survey either on work time or off work time using a laptop or mobile device. (Note: If you decide to complete the survey outside your regular work schedule, then you will not be paid for that time.)

Who is participating in this?

Surveys are sent to all permanent full-time (75% time or more) faculty and staff. Some institutions also survey additional populations, such as adjuncts or part-time employees.

Participation is voluntary. Although no one should feel pressured to participate, this survey is a great chance for faculty and staff to be heard, so participation is strongly encouraged. It is important that the University hears from as many faculty and staff as we can in order to get the most complete feedback.

How does this relate to other surveys?

Many UNC institutions participate in the COACHE survey, which addresses a wider variety of faculty-related issues but does not cover staff issues. It will be valuable to review COACHE information along with this engagement survey information, so we encourage faculty to participate in both programs.

Some UNC institutions have done similar surveys in the past, but this is the first survey that was conducted system-wide. It will provide a common dataset for the entire UNC System.

What’s on the survey?

The 2022 survey is roughly half the length of previous surveys and will focus on a set of baseline trend data, diversity and inclusion, and institutional responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, campuses may have found it difficult to address 2020 survey results in the ways they may have planned. With that in mind, we believe it is most appropriate to focus on specific topics for this survey while still capturing a snapshot of particular engagement areas to build out trend data for analysis.

Open-Ended Questions: There are two open-ended questions for write-in responses.

Demographics Questions: These are for reporting purposes, such as race, gender, years of service, salary range, organizational unit, etc.

What about confidentiality?

Direct supervisors and university leadership will not have access to individual responses. Only the administrator of the survey (ModernThink) will have direct access to individual responses, and the data are stored on ModernThink’s servers, not the University’s. The University will receive a variety of summary reports.

Reporting will be available only if there are at least five responses in a defined demographic group. For example, for a report specifically on Black female faculty, we would receive the report only if at least five respondents completed the survey that fit that full demographic profile (i.e., Black, female, and faculty).

Note: The narrative comments submitted for the two open-ended questions will be shared with institutional leadership. Faculty and staff may wish to consider how they phrase their responses so that their remarks are not too identifiable.

ModernThink provides a helpline (888.684.4658) for participants to call if they have questions about confidentiality, and faculty and staff can review a confidentiality statement.

What changes came as a result of the 2018 and 2020 surveys and what additional changes may happen after future surveys?

  • System-wide topline data were shared with the UNC Board of Governors and posted publicly on the UNC System website.
  • Data points were used as a comparator for human resource metrics such as turnover data to see if trends could be determined.
  • The results support efforts to pursue key longer-term policy and program changes, including the introduction of paid parental leave and enhancements to University benefits programs where possible.

In most cases, any progress that comes from this program will be incremental and not occur all at once, or may not be visible to all employees as it happens. This means it may take time to address certain issues or take time for faculty and staff to see the positive effects of any actions taken.

Some faculty and staff concerns (e.g., better salaries/raises, better benefits, etc.) may be outside the control of your direct supervisor or the University.

Some suggestions from faculty and staff for certain changes may be cost prohibitive or may require legislative action by the NC General Assembly.

However, having data that identify these concerns and suggestions puts the University in a better position to prioritize ways to address them and to bring these issues to those who have the authority to make any necessary changes.

Where can I get more information?

ModernThink provides a helpline (888.684.4658) for participants to call if they have questions about confidentiality or about how to complete the survey.

2020 Results

Below are the topline summary reports for each UNC System institution. These reports show the overall positive response by employee type for each of the 15 survey dimensions.

2018 Results

Below are the “topline” summary reports for each UNC System institution. These reports show the overall positive response by employee type for each of the 15 survey dimensions.

“The University will systematically focus on recruitment, retention, and development of the most talented and diverse workforce possible at all levels over the next five years.”

–UNC Strategic Plan