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Improving CEP’s Foundation Staff Survey

Date: June 18, 2015

Austin Long

Senior Director, Assessment and Advisory Services, CEP

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Gathering feedback and data and helping foundations act on that information is at the heart of what we do here at CEP. But we need feedback to improve, as well. To that end, in 2015 CEP commissioned Harder+Company Community Research to conduct an independent assessment of CEP’s Staff Perception Report (SPR). The full report from Harder+Company, including short case examples of changes made by foundations in response to staff survey findings, is available on our website.

We asked Harder+Company to interview CEOs and other senior leaders at foundations that had used the SPR in the past two years in order to better understand the extent to which our foundation staff survey has helped funders become more effective — and to help us identify ways we can make the SPR even more useful.

Harder+Company spoke to 24 CEOs or senior staff members at 21 different foundations. We were pleased to see that SPR users shared very positive feedback about the utility and quality of the tool. Here are some highlights of what we learned:

  • Three-quarters of users said they plan to repeat the SPR in the future (no users said they were not planning to repeat)
  • Nearly all of the SPR users interviewed reported that they had made important organizational changes as a result of SPR findings, often in the areas of organizational culture, internal communication, diversity and inclusion, and professional development
  • A third of respondents said that foundation-specific benchmarking was the most valuable part of the tool, while others cited the value of CEP’s recommendations and summary of findings, the in-person presentation of the report, and small group discussions
  • All respondents indicated satisfaction with CEP staff responsiveness and helpfulness, and most were satisfied with the presentation of results at their foundation.

We also heard some clear suggestions about how we can continue to improve the SPR. In particular, users suggested that CEP could add new survey questions that address more aspects of employee engagement. Many users also expressed interest in shorter, periodic pulse surveys to help gauge progress and improvement in between regular staff survey cycles.

I’m excited to share that we’ve already made several changes to the SPR survey as a result of this feedback. We’re currently piloting pulse staff surveys with several funders. We also added several more employee engagement questions to those already in the survey, and we will develop comparative data and research on these new questions.

As I’ve written in the past, the importance of having an engaged and empowered staff can’t be underestimated. But knowing whether they are engaged and empowered or not can be difficult without a confidential channel through which staff can provide candid feedback about strengths and opportunities. I’d encourage every foundation to consider gathering regular, confidential feedback from staff (and to benchmark that feedback!) in order to make sure you’re really taking advantage of your greatest asset — your people.

Thank you to all of the recent SPR users who took the time to provide us with their feedback, and to Harder+Company, for this report. We always welcome more feedback, so please get in touch with me or one of my colleagues if you’d like to share your thoughts, as well.

Austin Long is director, assessment tools, at CEP.

Editor’s Note: CEP publishes a range of perspectives. The views expressed here are those of the authors, not necessarily those of CEP.

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