UCSF Focuses on Developing Managers in Response to Staff Engagement Survey

By Lisa Cisneros

UC San Francisco is working on multiple fronts in efforts to continue improving staff engagement in its quest to be a great place to work.

“The results of the 2019 Staff Engagement Survey have validated that our goal to foster an environment where everyone who shares our mission can have a sense of belonging is spot on and directly correlated to increased staff engagement,” said Jeff Chiu, interim Human Resources chief.

UCSF continues to measure and monitor staff engagement as a strategic business imperative since research shows that engaged employees are more likely to be energetic, productive, eager to take on challenges and have a can-do attitude that positively affects their teams.

Since 2011, UCSF has enlisted Gallup to conduct seven engagement surveys focusing on staff, which make up the majority of its 27,000 employees. Participation in the 2019 survey administered to all UCSF staff increased by 2 percentage points to 72 percent. All reported demographic groups showed an increase in participation in this year’s survey.

Overall, results show that the campus and UCSF Health grand mean score – their level of engagement – continues a slightly upward trend of improvement over the last two years. UCSF’s grand mean score of 3.96, on a five-point scale, increased by 0.02 to 3.96 in 2019, compared to the 0.01 increase between the 2017 and 2018 surveys.


Connection to Mission, Quality of Work

As in previous years, the strongest areas for UCSF remain in staff’s connection to its mission and the quality of work done here.
The results show two distinct layers of engagement within UCSF, although the gap closed a tiny bit from 2018. Managers, non-represented staff, whites and Asians, as well as those working within a small team, experienced a more inclusive and engaging environment than non-managers, represented staff, Black and Hispanic staff and members of large teams.

The varying levels of engagement among members of large and small teams and black, Hispanic, Asian and white employees, also reported in the 2018 staff survey results, led UCSF to dig deeper into the reasons why by conducting focus groups with those populations to explore underlying issues and contributing factors. The additional data helped formulate the UCSF-wide action plan sponsored by Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, and introduced at the 2018 staff engagement follow-up town hall.

Chancellor Hawgood considers the staff engagement survey a key indicator of how well UCSF is doing as an employer. “I am pleased that overall our response rate increased and that more staff from all demographic groups, across age, gender and ethnicities, shared their opinions in the survey this year,” he said. “But the gap between populations of employees who are more and less engaged remains significant. It is clear that we need to continue to foster ongoing dialogue around engagement and to build a sense of belonging so that all staff feel welcome and supported here.”

With the 2019 survey results in hand, UCSF is embarking on the second year of its four-year action plan that calls for a three-pronged approach: creating a roadmap for staff to navigate UCSF; reducing unconscious bias and micro-aggressions through targeted interventions; and conducting training for managers so that they can be better support and be advocates for their staff.

One of the key points that UCSF leaders want to emphasize is that when managers and their teams analyze the survey results and work together to develop and implement action plans, their teams show greater improvement in engagement scores year over year.

“What this means is that leaders and managers have a great opportunity to foster a sense of belonging by just sharing the survey results with their teams. And by engaging their teams to co-create action plans that are meaningful, they can collaboratively make real progress,” says Nancy Duranteau, UCSF’s Chief Learning Officer and director of Learning and Organization Development. “And UCSF as an institution will continue to focus on creating an environment that supports staff in feeling a sense of belonging that spans the entire employee experience.”

Focusing on Managers as Advocates

Realizing that one of the main drivers of engagement is ensuring that staff have a great manager, UCSF is offering training sessions designed specifically to help managers be stronger advocates for their staff.

At the most basic level, this means coaching managers to be more mindful of conducting themselves according to UCSF’s PRIDE Values (Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Diversity and Excellence), and listening and being responsive to staff concerns.

Managers are encouraged to help staff navigate UCSF by sharing the resources they need, seeking out ways to support top-performing staff and enabling team members to pursue professional development opportunities. Managers also need to effectively resolve conflicts when they occur so that staff members feel heard and valued.

two workers stand in a parking garage

Tim McNeil (left) is a parking operation manager based at Mission Bay. In the 2019 Gallup Survey, his team’s scores improved in nearly every section. Photo by Susan Merrell

Tim McNeil, a parking operation manager based at Mission Bay who has worked at UCSF for 31 years, says these practices are part of his daily routine. He believes that managing is about being accessible, listening to staff and being responsive to their needs. When parking attendants told him that the sliding doors on the glass booths weren’t working properly, he had them replaced. When they talked about the labor issues that they face, he explained that negotiations are conducted at the UC Office of the President and urged them to contact their union leaders.

“I come to work to do my job and it is important for me to have a good working relationship with my staff,” McNeil said. I think staff know when you are real and I treat people like I want to be treated.”

McNeil’s efforts are proving to be effective. His team had an overall grand mean score increase of 0.74. His team had improved scores in nearly every section on the 2019 survey. His case confirms that when there is dialogue around engagement at the local level, there tends to be much greater improvement.

“Engagement is a two-way street,” McNeil said. “When staff have questions and suggestions, I listen to them. I may not have all the answers, but at least they know that I will do what I can to address them.”