Mason Recognized for Exceptional Work Environment

Posted: July 16, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro and Robin Herron

In a survey conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education, the premier publication for academic news and issues, Mason was named as one of the “Great Colleges to Work For” in 10 different categories.

The survey of faculty and staff at 89 colleges across the country reported on 27 different work environment issues. The results were published in the Chronicle issue dated July 18. This was the publication’s first survey recognizing institutions that have created exceptional work environments.

One of the categories in which Mason was lauded was “healthy faculty-administration relations.” An example cited in a separate article in the same issue is Mason Provost Peter Stearns’ practice of hosting small get-togethers with faculty members several times a semester. Over tea and cookies, Stearns engages professors in discussions about creative teaching approaches and whatever else might be on their minds.

“One of the goals of the administrators at Mason is to try to react quickly when professors or other employees have good ideas,” Stearns was quoted as saying in the article. “If a faculty member comes to me with a great idea, I want to be able to tell him or her that I want to help make it happen and not that we’ll get back to them in a year.”

In the survey results, Mason joins the ranks of universities such as Emory and Stanford as having the best practices and policies in these categories as well:

  • Work-Life Balance: Policies give employees the flexibility to manage their personal lives.
  • Internal Communications: Ideas are fully considered and issues debated for better results.
  • Connection to Institution and Pride: Employees have a strong sense of loyalty to the institution.
  • Supervisor or Department Chair Relationship: Supervisor makes expectations clear and solicits ideas.
  • Perception and Confidence in Fair Treatment: Confidence in fair treatment, particularly regarding compensation and performance.
  • Respect and Appreciation: Employees are regularly recognized for contributions.
  • Policies, Resources, and Efficiency: Institution is well run and prepares employees to be effective.
  • Engagement Index: The emotional connection employees have to an organization.
  • Disability Insurance

“Obviously we are very pleased by what these results mean for Mason,” says Stearns. “The results challenge us to work harder on some of the other categories.”

Balancing Work and Play

As an employer that received an honorable mention in Washingtonian Magazine’s review of “Best Places to Work” in 2005, Mason strives to keep open communication with its employees and offers them a dynamic environment where their ideas and creativity can flourish.

One of many benefits offered to employees is the ability to adjust their work schedules to something other than the traditional workday. With their supervisor’s approval, some employees can also arrange to work at home or on an alternative campus that is closer to home for a portion of the workweek.

Many employees take advantage of free or discounted cultural and recreational activities on the campuses. Employees receive special pricing at Patriot Center events, including season basketball tickets, and for series tickets to performances at the Center for the Arts.

To help employees balance the responsibilities of work and caring for elderly family members, the Eldercare Services, a partnership between Human Resources and Payroll (HR) and the College of Health and Human Services, is available to provide guidance that promotes employee and family wellness.

Developing Employees’ Job, Life Skills

Employees can also take advantage of a large array of training programs provided by HR that help develop job and management skills.

For example, the SUPERvisor Series program is designed to educate relatively new Mason supervisors on their responsibilities and duties and help them navigate human resources issues.

Workplace coaching is another option for faculty and staff members who need help addressing a workplace issue they are facing. The Workplace Coaching Program is staffed by trained Mason employees who help other employees understand both what they expect of others and what others expect of them. They can also serve as a sounding board to help employees process their thoughts.

By offering employees classes and seminars on such topics as health and wellness, personal financial management and leisure time interests, Mason stresses the importance of work-life balance.

Soon, Mason will offer faculty and staff housing that will help the university continue to attract and retain a talented workforce.

Recognition for a Job Well Done

Mason is noted for its extensive and growing employee recognition program that rewards both small achievements and large. Awards range from teddy bears and chocolate bars to bonus checks for hundreds of dollars, depending on the accomplishment.

The university’s semiannual awards program now includes nine separate competitive award categories, including the newest, the Sustainability Hero Award. Supervisors and co-workers can also present smaller awards of appreciation to their employees or colleagues at any time throughout the year.

“George Mason University is honored to be included in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s 2008 Great Colleges to Work For Program,” says Linda Harber, associate vice president and chief human resources officer. “Mason’s energy, passion and commitment to excellence are derived from its faculty and staff. On behalf of the administration at Mason, we sincerely thank all faculty and staff for everything they do every day to make Mason a great place to learn and a great place to work.”

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