Metropolitan State University of Denver strives to be one of Colorado’s best places to work. Reaching this goal requires listening and responding to the needs of faculty and staff members and student employees to better understand where the University is succeeding and lagging in supporting employees. 

The importance of measuring employee engagement 

In January, MSU Denver participated in the Top Workplaces Energage survey, which gave employees a platform to share honest, anonymous feedback on their work experience. MSU Denver thanks all employees who participated, as this is a key tool in achieving MSU Denver’s goal to be one of Colorado’s employers of choice. 

The decision to pursue 2022 Top Workplaces status followed the 2021 Universitywide Engagement, Leader and Self-Identification Survey, which showed an impressive 84% engagement rate among employees. Switching from the Universitywide Engagement Survey to the Top Workplaces tool also gave the University additional benchmarking data and a more complete perspective of the employee experience toward the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, helping leaders better understand the full impact of the prolonged public-health crisis.

Survey shows employees feel included and informed but desire greater appreciation and improved processes 

While MSU Denver didn’t achieve Top Workplaces status, insights gained from the survey were extremely valuable. The candid and thoughtful feedback highlighted areas where employees need the most flexibility and support, primarily via: 

  • Increased compensation 
  • Providing training and development for leaders and supervisors
  • Fixing inefficient systems and technologies 
  • Employee-retention strategies 
  • Recognizing and celebrating employee achievements and contributions 
  • Leveraging Alternative Work Arrangement opportunities 

The survey uncovered several promising and positive themes but also highlighted the stress and fatigue many employees felt during this period. 

Points of pride 

  • Employees feel encouraged to share different points of view. 
  • Employees feel informed about important decisions. 
  • Several groups reported a strong culture and a high level of engagement. 

Areas of opportunity 

  • Employees reported not feeling genuinely appreciated. 
  • Employees expressed frustration with inefficiency and quality of work, perceptions of poor or inadequate leadership. 

Based on these findings, the University received the following recommendations, many of which were already under development at the time of the survey and have since been instituted: 

  • Provide salary increases.  
  • Encourage alternative and flexible work arrangements. 
  • Focus on leadership development and culture. 
  • Promote from within and improve succession planning. 
  • Expand Roadrunners Who Soar and overall employee-recognition efforts. 
  • Conduct “stay conversations.”  

“I want all employees, and especially those who participated in the Top Workplaces survey, to know how closely we reviewed these findings and that we took all insights to heart,” said President Janine Davidson, Ph.D. “These results helped affirm what we understood to be our pain points, and we’ve been actively working to alleviate them through investments in compensation, technology, better facilities, more efficient systems, improved hiring processes, training to help managers lead more effectively and opportunities to celebrate our people.  

“I look forward to participating in the survey again in the spring semester to understand how our ongoing work is being felt across the employee community.” 


MSU Denver maintained retention rates despite pandemic trends

The Covid-19 pandemic sent shock waves across all industries in 2021 and had a profound effect on employee retention. 2021 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Society for Human Resource Management show: 

  • Across all industries in the United States, the average turnover rate was 47.2%. 
  • Among education professionals as a whole, the turnover rate was 25.5%.
  • Across the western region, the average turnover rate was 45.5%. 
  • Across Colorado, the average turnover rate was 25.5%. 
  • Within the Denver/Boulder region, the average turnover rate was 25.2%. 

It’s important to note that MSU Denver averages do not match these trends.  

The University maintained a much more stable workforce even at the height of the “mass resignation” with a turnover rate of 15% at the end of fiscal 2021. However, that rate increased to 17.8% by July 2022.  

Among noninstructional staff members, turnover was higher among younger employees, those who identified as Hispanic/Latina/o/x and employees with lower median salaries. 

Turnover rates continue to be much lower among faculty members. Within this group, higher turnover is seen in lower-salaried faculty members; however, the faculty turnover rate has improved slightly since last fiscal year from 4.7% to 4.4%.  

Leaders will develop action plans to address findings with a focus on appreciation 

Human Resources provided survey results and turnover data to all branch senior leaders, who will continue to measure, listen to and identify retention and engagement solutions (both quick wins and longer-term strategies) within their respective groups.  

Top Workplaces/Energage analytics recommend that the University focus on employee responses to the statement “I feel genuinely appreciated at MSU Denver.” They suggested that all supervisors meet one-on-one with their employees to identify how supervisors can better meet employees’ unique needs in the short and long term. The survey will be administered again next spring, and your feedback is crucial to efforts to continually improve rates of employee satisfaction and retention across the board. 

University leaders will continue to make inclusive decisions that steer the University toward a stronger, healthier culture. However, all employees share in building and maintaining a positive and engaging workplace. So please keep caring for one another, showing appreciation for one another and sharing ideas for how we can collectively achieve the goal of not only becoming a Top Workplace but retaining and celebrating our people.  

Thank you to all MSU Denver employees for your compassion, commitment and ongoing engagement.