Portland State University
Faculty and Staff Communications Preferences Survey
Summary of Findings
During Spring 2007, the Employee Communications Team conducted a survey in collaboration with the Office of Institutional Research and Planning to identify current communication methods and topics, assess employee preferences for the frequency of communications, and their perceptions of how well informed they are. The Employee Communications Team is charged with making recommendations on ways to enhance campus employees’ access to information about the University based in part on the survey results. The on-line survey asked faculty and staff to rate their satisfaction with and the effectiveness of communications they receive from the University regarding university initiatives, current news and events, and employment or personnel issues.
All faculty and staff currently employed at Portland State University who could be reached via PSU e-mail addresses were included in the sample (N = 2,379). Not quite one-fourth of the employees in the sample were classified staff (23.5%); 57.2% were full-time faculty ,16.0% were part-time faculty, and 3.3% were administrators.
Of the employees in the sample, 633 responded to the survey resulting in a response rate of 26.6%. Figure 1 shows the response rate by employee group. The response rates for classified staff and full-time faculty were similar, but the rate for part-time staff was only 9.4%, suggesting that findings for part-time faculty respondents are less likely to reflect overall part-time faculty views at Portland State. The response rate for administrators was higher than the rate for other employee groups.
More women (31.3%) than men (20.8%) responded to the survey and more Caucasian employees (27.2%) than ethnic minority employees (20.9%) responded to the survey. Respondent ages ranged from 22 to 74 years (M = 45.81 years), which was similar to the age of non-respondents (M = 45.79 years).
This report summarizes overall employee responses to the survey items and compares responses by employee groups (e.g., classified staff, part- and full-time faculty, and administrators) and by faculty type (e.g., teaching / research full-time faculty and non-teaching full-time faculty). Where group differences are reported, they are statistically significant unless otherwise noted.
Current Levels of Satisfaction with Communication
Respondents rated their satisfaction with University communications on a scale of 1 (Very dissatisfied) to 4 (Very satisfied). Overall, more than half of respondents were somewhat or very satisfied with communication at Portland State. Figure 2 shows that respondents were more satisfied with communication about current news and events than with communication about university initiatives, or employment or personnel information.
Administrators were more satisfied than full-time faculty or classified staff with the communication they receive about university initiatives. (See Figure 3.) Full-time faculty were more satisfied than classified staff with communication about employment or personnel information. Although only marginally significant, classified staff were less satisfied than full- or part-time faculty with current news and university initiatives information.
Figure 4 compares the mean ratings of full-time teaching / research faculty to full-time non-teaching faculty. Teaching / research faculty rated their satisfaction with University communication about university initiatives lower than non-teaching faculty did. Teaching / research and non-teaching faculty did not differ significantly in their ratings of communication about employment issues or current news and events.
Ratings of How Well Informed Respondents Feel
Respondents used a scale of 1 (Not at all informed) to 4 (Very well informed ) to rate how well informed they feel about university initiatives, employment or personnel issues, and current news and events. In general, respondents were somewhat or very well informed, but they felt less informed about university initiatives than they did about employment or personnel issues or current news and events (see Figure 5).
Figure 6 shows mean ratings of feeling informed by employee group. Administrators considered themselves better informed about university initiatives than any other employee group. Full-time faculty also rated themselves better informed than classified staff about university initiatives.
Differences were also present when comparing ratings of feeling informed about employment or personnel issues by employee group. Administrators have higher ratings than classified staff and part-time faculty, but do not differ from full-time faculty. In addition, full-time faculty rated themselves better informed than classified staff about personnel or employment issues. Respondents did not differ significantly by employee group on their ratings of feeling informed about current news and events, however, the pattern was similar to that for other communication topics (i.e., administrator mean ratings were higher than those of other employee groups).
Full-time teaching / research faculty and non-teaching faculty did not differ in their ratings of how well-informed they felt about university initiatives, employment and personnel information, or current news and events at Portland State.
Preferences for Frequency of Communication
Respondents used a 6-point scale (1 = Immediately, as info is available, 2 = Weekly, 3 = Monthly, 4 = Once a term, 5 = Twice a year, and 6 = Once a year) to rate how frequently they prefer to receive communications about university initiatives, employment or personnel issues, and current news and events. Regardless of the topic, more than 75% of respondents indicated a preference for receiving University communications monthly or more frequently; more than one-fourth preferred to receive information as it becomes available. (See Figure 7.)
Respondents prefer to receive information about employment or personnel issues more frequently than they prefer to receive information on current news and events. More respondents indicated that they prefer to receive immediate communication about employment or personnel issues (42%) than about current news and events (27%). In addition, more respondents prefer to receive weekly information about current news and events (51%) than about employment or personnel issues (18%).
Respondents were more evenly distributed in their preferences for the frequency of information they receive about university initiatives. Roughly one-fourth of respondents prefer to receive such information immediately, weekly, or monthly.
The distribution of responses for preferred frequency of University communication did not differ significantly by employee group. However, full-time teaching / research faculty and full-time non-teaching faculty differed in their preferences for the frequency of communication about current news and events. As shown in Figure 8, non-teaching faculty preferred to receive information regarding current news and events more frequently than teaching / research faculty.
Ease of Finding Information
Respondents used a scale of 1 (Very difficult) to 4 (Very easy) to rate how easily they can find information about university initiatives, employment or personnel issues, and current news and events. As shown in Figure 9, the majority of respondents indicated it was easy to find out about current news and events, but fewer respondents (less than half) could easily find information about university initiatives or personnel and employment issues when they needed it.
Figure 10 shows mean ratings of how easy it is to find information by employee group. Administrators reported finding information about university initiatives more easily than classified staff and full-time faculty; otherwise respondents did not differ significantly in their ratings of these items.
Effectiveness of Communication Methods
Respondents rated the effectiveness of a variety of communication methods using a scale of 1 (Very ineffective) to 4 (Very effective). Figure 11 shows that employees found electronic modes of communication to be most effective, regardless of topic. Broadcast announcements via E-mail, electronic newsletters and e-mail list-servs received the highest effectiveness ratings. Opportunities for direct interpersonal communication, including departmental or staff meetings and informal conversation with a supervisor or department chair were also rated as more effective than most other communication methods. Although the PSU Website is considered an electronic communication method, respondents did not indicate it was as effective as other electronic methods. Paper flyers and memos received the lowest effectiveness ratings.
The perceived effectiveness of most methods of communication did not differ by employee group; however, part-time faculty found broadcast announcements via voice-mail to be less effective than other employee groups. (See Figure 12.)
Among full-time faculty, teaching / research faculty rated some communication methods as less effective than non-teaching faculty. Regardless of the communication topic, broadcast announcements via voice-mail and e-mail and administrative briefings were less effective forms of communication for teaching / research faculty than for non-teaching faculty. Full-time teaching / research faculty and non-teaching faculty differed in their effectiveness ratings of other communication methods and these differences varied by topic. Overall, the consistent direction of these differences indicated that Portland State is communicating less effectively with teaching / research faculty than non-teaching faculty.
Other Preferred Forms of Communication or Information Needed
The survey included questions about other ways respondents preferred to receive communication about university initiatives, employment or personnel issues, and current news and events. The survey also asked respondents to identify additional information they would need to feel informed about communication topics. The Employee Communications Team is currently reviewing the verbatim responses to these open-ended questions with an eye to identifying ways in which to improve communication.
Overall, employees prefer frequent communication about university initiatives, employment or personnel issues, and current news and events. Although they are generally satisfied with the communication they receive and feel informed, they are less satisfied and less informed about university initiatives than other topics. Employees also find it more difficult to find information they need about university initiatives than other topics.
Electronic modes of communication are the most effective methods for communicating with all employees regardless of topic; however, broadcast announcements via voicemail were less effective means of communicating with part-time faculty than other employee groups. In general, Portland State is communicating less effectively with classified staff and faculty than administrators and with full-time teaching / research faculty than non-teaching faculty.
Considered together, the findings suggest the need to improve communication about university initiatives and to utilize electronic means of communication to maximize effectiveness. Furthermore, the findings suggest that the effectiveness of communication varies by employee group; therefore it is important to consider these differences and tailor communication strategies accordingly.
For more information about these findings, please contact Juliette Stoering in the Office of Institutional Research and Planning, 503-725-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org.
 "Classified" includes full- and part-time OPEU staff.
 "Full-time Faculty" includes teaching / research and non-teaching employees (including academic professionals) with >= 0.5 FTE, but excludes those with an EEO code of "10".
 "Part-time Faculty" includes unclassified teaching / research or non-teaching employees with < 0.5 FTE. The majority are adjunct faculty.
 "Administrators" are full-time faculty with an EEO code of "10".
 Demographic data were unavailable for 4 respondents. Although their responses are included in the overall results, they are excluded from analyses by subgroups.