Guidance for Remaining Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey Communications (March 23–April 10, 2020)

by Todd Benson

This post serves to offer some communications guidance for the COACHE partners with three weeks remaining in the Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey period. We understand that many other priorities are in play right now: these points are offered strictly to reduce your cognitive load, not to add to it. As mentioned in Kiernan’s update last week, you do not have to do any more work.

 

Some general guidance

First, remember your survey-eligible audience. If you are considering changes to your communications about COACHE to your faculty, keep this in mind: all of the faculty you choose to reach now will receive the message you communicate, but only survey-eligible faculty who have not yet completed their COACHE survey will receive our reminder. For reasons that even the current circumstances do not change, we cannot “reopen” or “reset” the survey for those who have already responded.

Second, be mindful of the tone of your communications. My concern right now is that asking faculty to do anything more in these unprecedented times may come across as insensitive. Communicating these points via intermediaries on the faculty—like the faculty senate or equivalent—or via deans and associate deans in each school or college, should help temper that concern.

Third, brevity is encouraged. I suspect that faculty are not reading lengthy messages from administrators unless they deal directly with their migration to online teaching or related COVID-19 responses. Keeping the message short should increase the number of people who actually read it.

 

Suggested language for further communications to faculty

The suggestions below are just that—suggestions. Pick what sounds right for your institution and audience.

As you craft your communication’s content, always lead with an acknowledgement of the current situation. Thank faculty for all the work they are doing. Here is some specific language that might follow:

  • “As you continue to do the work on the front lines, the administration is working to better understand how it can support faculty both in times of crisis and in the times that follow. That is why we joined the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education. COACHE is a national, comparative study of the academic workplace. Their research helps us to understand the issues that are important, in the short-term and the long-term, to you.”
  • “The survey does not ask questions about the global pandemic, but your answers about the supports you need to teach, conduct research, or work in a clinical setting will certainly be viewed through the lens of our current circumstances.”
  • “The final question on the survey asks, “What is the one thing your institution could do to improve the workplace for faculty?” This is an especially important question to ask right now. When things eventually return to normal, we will need to reflect on what could have been done differently. Collecting your perspectives now will help us know where we are now and how we can do better in the future.”
  • “The survey is being administered across the institution but is designed with adaptive branching so that faculty are asked questions that are most pertinent to their experience. For example, there are specific paths for clinical faculty.”
  • “Understanding that faculty have very different experiences depending on a range of roles, environments, and circumstances, COACHE disaggregates and delivers comparative analysis by specific professional and demographic categories. We are committed to sharing the results—and inviting you to help us analyze them—after we receive them this summer. (To increase the chances of engagement in the survey now, it is critical that you are committed to delivering on this promise.)”
  • “Later this week, anyone who has not completed it will receive a reminder message about the COACHE Faculty Job Satisfaction Study. If you do not receive it by Friday—and you did not complete the survey earlier this term—then you can request your unique link from COACHEfaculty@abtassoc.com, until the close of the survey on April 12.”
  • “As always, the survey is completely voluntary, but I hope that you will choose to complete it.”

Finally, be sure to put thought into—and solicit your colleagues’ diverse perspectives—crafting the subject line. If you lead with, “We want all faculty to respond,” you are likely to confuse or upset faculty who have already responded and those who are not eligible to participate. More accurate and constructive subject lines might read something like, “Continuing to solicit faculty voices during tumultuous times.”

If you are adjusting your COACHE communication plan, I invite you to share it with us at coache@gse.harvard.edu so that we can help others in the COACHE community support their faculty in the right way.

 

 

See also: Todd Benson