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How do you feel about your job?
Student compiling data
February 22, 1999

A partnership between a UConn doctoral candidate and the University's Department of Human Resources is building a foundation for a data bank of employees' opinions about their jobs that will be regularly updated through exit interviews of people leaving the University.

Steven Rumery, a doctoral student in psychology, is using information gleaned from his work, based largely on a four-page survey of UConn employees, in preparing his dissertation.

Rumery hopes the survey, which is currently being sent to more than 4,000 UConn employees, will substantiate his theory that the amount of turnover in individual departments - or an entire company - can be predicted by the culture of that unit or firm. If a department is comprised of people who regularly change jobs, Rumrey theorizes, they will influence other people in the department to consider new jobs. Conversely, he believes, fewer employees will leave departments where the employee culture is opposed to switching jobs.

Rumery contacted UConn's human resources office when he began his work, to gain approval to survey all UConn employees. What he did not know was that the human resources department was concurrently discussing ways to learn more about improving employee morale and training, and how to build a database of reasons why workers leave the University.

It was a match made in Storrs.

"This process - Steve's survey and our exit interviews - will help us with job analysis. It will help with recruitment, retention, training, and supervisory issues. We'll be able to use the data to do positive things to improve the UConn employee's work life," says Barbara Proulx, associate director of human resources.

It will also help Rumery, who is being advised by Janet Barnes-Farrell, an associate professor of industrial and organizational psychology, earn a Ph.D.

Rumery, who matriculated to Storrs from the Avery Point campus, says that, while he is very interested in all his results, he has a particular interest in the opinions of regional campus employees.

"The role of the regional campuses is very important to UConn, and the attitudes and concerns of employees there are different" from those at the Storrs campus, Rumery says. "This is an opportunity for those workers to voice their concerns and also the positive aspects of working at the regional campuses.

"I'm keen on getting everyone's point of view. People should think of this as a tool, and an opportunity to talk, to get out their feelings and attitudes. There's a lot of change occurring at UConn, and this is an opportunity for employees to talk about how they feel about their role within the University," he adds.

Rumery's survey, which takes about 20 minutes to complete, seeks information on employee attitudes in 11 areas, including their feelings toward UConn, their work load, job satisfaction and prospects, information on the culture of their workgroups and their influence there, and several baseline personal questions. It is what's called a "double- blind" survey, meaning that the envelope stuffing, collating, analysis and other aspects of the survey will be handled by different groups to guarantee anonymity and confidentiality.

Distribution of the survey has been approved by University unions and administrators.

Rumery also has helped the human resources department fashion a survey that will be given to workers who decide to leave the University. That survey seeks information on why the employee decided to leave, why the employee chose the new employer, the quality of supervision at their office, and a variety of workload, workgroup and personal questions.

Proulx says that if enough employees answer the survey, the results will help the department determine what, if any, additional or different training courses should be offered, what new employee benefits should be considered, and whether UConn supervisors need more or different training.

It may also point out a number of positive aspects of working at UConn, which will help in recruiting new employees, says Virginia Miller, assistant vice chancellor for human resources.

UConn's turnover rate is not high - since July 1998, 270 people have left UConn, including 48 end-date employees and about 20 who have retired. During the previous fiscal year the number was higher - 606 employees left UConn between July 1, 1997, and June 30, 1998 - but that number was artificially inflated by the state's Early Retirement Incentive Program, which lured 383 people from the University's ranks, nearly two-thirds of the workers who left during the year.

Proulx says the exit interview questionnaire will be provided to departing employees for the foreseeable future. One-on-one interviews will be conducted if an employee wishes.

Richard Veilleux