Your Voice matters, now more than ever

- September 25, 2020

Dalhousie’s faculty and staff trust their leaders, are motivated to do a good job, feel that they make a positive contribution and have a sense of accomplishment from their work. However, in the current COVID-19 climate they are experiencing challenges with workload, concerns about job security and want to see continued support for online teaching.

Those are just some of the highlights from the 2019 Your Voice workplace survey and Pulse Check survey that are now available to the Dal community.

The university conducted the Your Voice workplace survey last November, part of its regular biennial check-in on how employees, university-wide, are feeling about their work at the university. Dalhousie Human Resources then followed up with a Pulse Check survey in July 2020 to ask specific questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We designed the Your Voice survey to give faculty and staff the opportunity to share their feedback on how they are experiencing Dalhousie as a workplace, and what they like and dislike about their employee experience,” says Jasmine Walsh, assistant vice-president of Human Resources. “Then the world changed, so we introduced the Pulse Check survey this summer to find out how employees are coping and adapting through the pandemic. Together, both surveys provide us with valuable information that will inform the approach we take in the coming years to support our employees’ needs.”

View the full reports: Dal’s 2019 Your Voice workplace survey and Pulse Check report on the HR site of myDal [log-in required]

The Your Voice survey, conducted by Vendura Wellness and Narrative Research, was distributed to all full-time/part-time faculty and staff (50 per cent FTE or greater) in November 2019. There were separate surveys designed for faculty and staff. In July 2020, the Pulse Check survey was conducted as a follow-up to the Your Voice survey. Both surveys were strictly confidential and no personally identifiable information was shared.

The Your Voice survey was created just for Dal and was designed from consultation sessions held earlier in 2019 with leaders and employees to understand what they wanted from the survey. Compared to previous Quality of Work Life surveys, the Your Voice survey contained fewer personal health questions, and provided leaders with more data and recommendations.

The Your Voice response rate (42 percent) improved significantly on the 2017 survey, with more than 395 faculty members and 1,200 staff participating. In addition, the Pulse Check saw more than 350 faculty and 960 staff respond to the follow-up survey.

“Work has changed for all of us and this presents us with new challenges,” adds Walsh. “We want to help folks with those challenges. Since March, we have provided tailored wellness sessions, online learning and development sessions and other online resources, including resources dedicated to mental health to help employees cope. The Pulse Check helped us learn more about how folks are doing and what they need more of from the university. As many of us continue to work remotely this fall, we will provide more support and resources based on these survey results.”

A closer look

The results show that more than 80 per cent of faculty and staff at Dalhousie report feeling motivated to do a good job, feel a sense of accomplishment, and feel they work with people who are committed to their work. More than 70 per cent of faculty and staff say they look forward to coming to work, while a majority of both staff and faculty feel a sense of pride in the university’s accomplishments and would recommend Dalhousie as a good place to work.

That said, the survey also identifies areas for Dalhousie to improve. Notable numbers of faculty (61 per cent) and staff (39 per cent) report feeling highly pressured at times while working at Dalhousie. Others – 31 per cent of faculty and 21 per cent of staff do not feel recognized for their achievements. Plans are underway to consult with employees to learn more about how they would like to be recognized.

In addition, Human Resources will be working with the caucuses of underrepresented groups, such as the Black Faculty/Staff caucus, to develop customized wellness and development plans for their members.

The Pulse Check survey, done in July, identified specific concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic: for faculty, ensuring support for online teaching; for staff, concerns about job security, and for both groups, a desire to be more involved in decision making.

Since COVID-19, additional resources have been offered to support those teaching remotely, including an investment in online technologies, a dedicated online learning website, and the Centre for Learning & Teaching (CLT) developing a Foundations in Online Course Design that ran earlier this summer. (See: Ready for online teaching: faculty boost skills as they prepare for digital course delivery).

Other areas of focus from the survey that Human Resources will be working with faculties and units to address include addressing workload, resilience and burnout.

Data collection

The Your Voice survey, along with the Pulse Check, provides results across the organization – institutional and departmental.

Snapshots of results for each faculty and large administrative department that have sufficient participation (greater than 10 respondents) have been reviewed earlier this summer with leaders, and various forms of communication and dialogue on the results are underway.

“The leaders are committed, more than ever during these challenging times, to develop department- and faculty-specific action plans, particularly focused on employee health and well-being,” adds Walsh. “Human Resources will work closely with them to offer support in building their plans.”

Next steps

The Human Resources department will host a virtual presentation to provide an overview of the university’s survey results on October 2, 9:30-10:30 a.m. via Microsoft Teams. All faculty and staff are invited to attend and learn more about the institutional results. Register here to attend.

“Now that we have both sets of survey data, we can build the university’s action plan, and help leaders build their individual department and faculty ones, to celebrate what’s working and address the concerns identified,” says Janice MacInnis, manager, organizational health. “We know some of the areas that we will focus on include mental health and recognition, given the way our work has changed so dramatically since the pandemic, creating additional stress and anxiety, and less connection with our colleagues and teams.”

If you have questions about the Your Voice workplace survey results, please send them to


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