Long-Time QWL Task Force Members Reflect on Successes

Posted: June 15, 2011 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: June 14, 2011 at 8:27 pm

By Lea Lubag

Every three years, the Quality of Worklife Task Force (QWL) administers a survey to all university employees about work life at Mason, including sources of stress and satisfaction on the job, as well as areas in the workplace that need improvement.

The 22 members of this team represent units from all over the university, from University Life to the School of Management. Linda Harber, associate vice president for Human Resources and Payroll, and Sandra Scherrens, vice president for University Life, are the current co-chairs.

Lou Buffardi, associate professor of psychology, and Stacey Remick-Simkins, undergraduate program coordinator for the Department of English, are two of the longest serving members of the task force, which was first commissioned in November 1999 by President Alan Merten.

Taking the Temperature of Employees

Lou Buffardi, associate professor of psychology. Mason Gazette photo

In Buffardi’s words, “We perform sort of a medical check-up — we’re taking the temperature of the employees in terms of their work attitudes and work problems and seeing what satisfactions they’re getting from work. It’s a very useful exercise.”

As an industrial-organizational psychologist, Buffardi finds serving on the QWL task force especially rewarding on a personal basis.

“I thought it was a natural kind of marriage, if you will, between my professional interests and skills and the university’s interests, in terms of how to make Mason strive for being a model employer,” he says.

Remick-Simkins says that for her, “it’s a matter of pride.”

“I’ve watched a really profound change in culture here, making the university not only a place where all groups of people are considered important, treated as important, but who are taken seriously as well,” she says.

She gives all the credit to President Merten and his administration.

Getting to Know You

Stacey Remick-Simkins, undergraduate program coordinator for the Department of English. Mason Gazette photo

Buffardi and Remick-Simkins both agree that the fruits of the task force’s labor should not just be seen through the construction of new buildings, but through its invaluable “contribution to the knowledge base of the administration.”

“There’s no real way for the upper levels of administration to really get to know everybody as much as they try to. So this QWL survey is a way of doing that,” says Buffardi.

He adds, “The more people feel supported, the more they’re likely to be committed to the organization.”

One of the most significant impacts the QWL task force has had in the past was addressing the need for the Child Development Center. In August 1992, the center first opened, occupying three modules on Patriot Circle. In 2007, the center moved to its new building near the water tower, where it doubled its facility and enrollment sizes.

Buffardi notes that since 2000, Human Resources has significantly responded to employees’ comments in surveys of feeling “under recognized.” Besides the Employee of the Month award, employees have opportunities to win gift cards and small cash awards for several categories, including Outstanding Achievement, Exceptional Support, Safety Recognition and Team Excellence.

Remick-Simkins adds, “The rewards program here is extraordinary. It’s a wonderful program, and they keep building on it. The university has really tried in creative and constructive ways to address the compensation issues.”

Other accomplishments of the task force are online.

Response Rate

Despite the task force’s commitment, survey response rates have declined from 29 percent in 2006 to 27.7 percent in 2009.

Remick-Simkins believes this is still positive: “I think for an institution of this size, that’s probably going to be considered a very good response rate. And you can be reasonably sure that those people who respond are very engaged in the university.”

Buffardi also explains that now that the survey’s pattern has been established, some people may feel like they won’t contribute anything new to the equation.

Still, both members strongly encourage all employees to participate, adding that the task force is thinking of shortening the 2012 survey in order to increase response rates.

“It’s important for employees to be aware that the administration is fighting for them, even if they aren’t always successful,” says Buffardi. He notes that the salary increase announced earlier this month was specifically built into Mason’s budget by the university’s administration and did not come from the state.

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