survey sent to

87,000 Employees

responses received from

38,629 Employees

In 2021, the Great Colleges to Work For® survey received responses from almost 39,000 people at 196 institutions: 120 four-year colleges and universities and 76 two-year colleges. All accredited institutions in the United States with an enrollment of at least 500 were invited to participate, at no cost to them.

The Great Colleges to Work For® program was designed to recognize colleges that have been successful in creating great workplaces, and to further research and understand the factors, dynamics and influences that have the most impact on organizational culture in higher education.

2021 marked the 14th anniversary of the Great Colleges to Work For® program, which included 196 colleges from across the country: 120 four-year colleges and 76 two-year colleges. All accredited institutions in the United States with an enrollment of at least 500 were invited to participate, at no cost to them.

At the core of the program was a two-part assessment process. The first component was a faculty/staff survey (The ModernThink Higher Education Insight Survey©). The survey was sent to over 87,000 faculty and staff, with an overall response rate of 44%. Of the responses received, 6,428 of them were administrators, 12,229 were faculty, 11,827 were exempt staff, 6,709 were non-exempt staff, and 1,436 were adjunct faculty.

In an effort to deliver the most timely and thorough workplace engagement survey possible to our clients, we redesigned our ModernThink Higher Education Insight Survey© for the 2021 Great Colleges program to better align with the current themes of workplace engagement. Our updated instrument included eleven new survey statements and four new survey themes including Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging; Faculty & Staff Well-being; and Performance Management. We also added a Faculty Experience survey theme, which drills down to assess hurdles that are specific to Faculty and Adjunct Faculty so that colleges can more accurately pinpoint issues unique to their instructors, and remedy them more effectively.

The updated survey also included substantial revisions to our demographics. New questions around remote work and gender identity were intended to create a more inclusive experience for those completing the survey, and yield actionable data for today’s college workplace.

A panel of our colleagues from across higher education helped shape the final survey instrument. The panel included representatives from two- and four- year institutions, hailing from departments in research, diversity, administration, and more. We also included panelists from respected higher education organizations like CUPA-HR.

The core survey contained 55 statements, plus an additional 5 Faculty Experience statements for faculty and adjunct faculty only. It utilized a five-point agreement scale (Strongly Agree, Agree, Sometimes Agree/Sometimes Disagree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree), plus a Not Applicable response option. The survey instrument also included a 20-item benefits satisfaction component, 8 optional demographics, 2 pre-loaded demographics (employees were tagged with these demographic choices), and 2 open-ended questions.

The ModernThink Higher Education Insight Survey© measured ten core dimensions, plus a Faculty Experience dimension, reflecting managerial and organizational competencies. These dimensions were determined and confirmed through a series of factor analyses and provide the basis for the recognition categories.

Each Great Colleges to Work For® participant was asked to submit a list of full-time employees randomly selected across four job categories: administrators, faculty, exempt staff, and non-exempt staff. Adjunct faculty members were included for two-year colleges. The sample size, as large as either 400 or 600, was based on the number of employees in those categories. Institutions with fewer than 500 people in the designated categories were invited to survey the entire employee population.

The second part of the assessment process was an institutional audit (The ModernThink Institution Questionnaire© or “IQ”) which captured information detailing various institution demographics, policies and practices. This information enables us to examine which benefits and programs are most effective, identify best practices and compile benchmark data based on different categorizations of the program participants.

Recognition was primarily determined through the feedback provided by faculty and staff collected from the ModernThink Higher Education Insight Survey©. For analysis and recognition purposes, ModernThink first segmented the participating institutions into four-year and two-year categories. Colleges within each of these categories were further classified into three sizes based on student enrollment: small (500 to 2,999 students), medium (3,000 to 9,999 students), and large (more than 10,000 students).

Recognition in each Great Colleges category was given to the ten highest-scoring institutions in each size for four-year colleges, and the four highest-scoring institutions in each size for two-year colleges. In addition to the responses collected through the ModernThink Higher Education Insight Survey©, recognition scores take into account overall response rate, data broken down by demographic subsets, benefits data, and information collected through the IQ.

Honor Roll status, for four-year colleges, was given to the ten institutions in each size that were cited most often across all of the recognition categories. For two-year colleges, Honor Roll status was given to the four institutions that were cited most often in each size category.

In accordance with this year’s upgrades to the ModernThink Higher Education Insight Survey©, our recognition categories were also updated. We are now honoring Great Colleges participants in Faculty & Staff Well-being and Mission & Pride, in addition to mainstays in college employee engagement excellence like Shared Governance, Confidence in Senior Leadership and Professional Development.

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