Karolinska Institutet carries out employee surveys at regular intervals. The results from the latest survey were recently compiled and presented to the University Board. It is a gratifying and positive read.
Allow me to start with the basics: the response rate. Nearly 9 out of 10 employees responded (76 per cent if you include affiliates). This is excellent, knowing that there is a downward trend in the response rate to this kind of survey. The willingness to respond indicates a true engagement in issues related to the work environment, leadership, and organisation. This is important; universities thrive on engaged and active employees – and on engaged and active students. Students were not included this time around, but there will be other opportunities to solicit their opinions.
Source of information
The current survey provides the University Management with an excellent source of information for the planning of various initiatives, priorities, and measures in the ongoing work to ensure and improve the work environment and quality here at KI. We should never be complacent – there is always room for improvement. This stance is firmly embedded in the very idea of a university.
So, what do the results show? First, the survey tells us that our employees are proud to work here. The survey includes a specific part that measures the participant’s willingness to recommend their department to friends or acquaintances – to act as an ambassador for the organisation, if you like. The ENPS (Employer Net Promoter Score) scale goes from -100 to 100 and KI recorded a score of 29 in this year’s survey. This can be compared with the results of the previous survey carried out in 2017, when the score was 9. Compared to other universities and institutions that have carried out similar measurements, KI is second on the list, with only SciLifeLab reporting a higher score.
My spontaneous reflection on this is that, over the past five years, KI has not only recovered after a difficult period with the Macchiarini affair, but it has also taken considerable steps forward. If we look back to the employee survey from 2014, the corresponding score was only 4 – and that was at a time when KI was very highly regarded and demonstrating very high levels of trust.
Having good ambassadors is essential for recruiting skilled employees and for garnering interest in our various courses and programmes. Active and engaged employees who share their engagement and positive attitude about their workplace are a huge strength for any organisation.
As stated above, we must not take this attitude for granted. Keeping up a good work environment requires daily efforts from us all. We must be vigilant – reacting to any kind of discrimination or harassment. We must be attentive and tolerant to opinions that differ from our own. We must realize that our colleagues and peers thrive on our feedback and attention. And we must duly recognise that excellence, be it in research or education, rests on a good work environment characterized by trust and inclusiveness.
There are many other things to highlight from this year’s employee survey. The high confidence in leaders and leadership at all levels is worth mentioning. Most likely this positive outcome reflects the efficiency by which KI as a whole responded to the pandemic and helped society cope by providing high quality research, education, and evidence-based information.
There is also a positive trend in responses relating to topics such as work-life balance. This is likely to do with a combination of improvement measures as well as the opportunity to work from home.
We included two new questions about work and physical activity. The responses indicate that we are sitting still for too long and are not sufficiently physically active. In this area, we need to take a collective approach and enhance our efforts and motivation for employees to use their wellness benefits, also during work hours. It is an investment that undoubtedly will pay off in the long run. Research conducted by KI scientists have demonstrated the negative consequences of sitting still as well as the positive effects of being physically active. KI Health promotion does a fantastic job and I would like to encourage everyone to take a look at the physical activity opportunities on offer.
KI is a university with a focus on health. There is no better prevention than being physically active. Let us practice what we preach. Try taking a five-minute break to get moving after a meeting or take a walk down the hallway after sitting in front of a screen for an hour. And if a meeting runs for more than three quarters of an hour, why not allow ourselves to regain energy (and health) by engaging in some physical activity before resuming discussions and deliberations with a more alert mind. Simply put: let us introduce an evidence-based “health break”.
The survey indicates that most things are pointing in the right direction when it comes to work conditions at KI. I have already touched on the importance of leadership in this respect, but I would also like to highlight the extensive work we have collectively carried out in developing and implementing our university-wide Strategy 2030. This strategy has contributed to the positive development and will continue to play a major role in the future. We have now initiated a follow-up of the strategy, which is actually three years old already.
Finally, I would like to thank all the employees who responded to the survey and who on a daily basis contribute to making KI to something we can all be proud of.
Read more about the employee survey on the KI website.
PS The students are an extremely important group for KI and there are plans for a student survey as well. Stay tuned!
A few links on the importance of physical activity:
Publication from KI researchers:
“In stratified analyses, more frequent interruptions to sedentary time were associated with lower odds of depression/anxiety symptoms, except among those in the lowest interruptions categories (never/25% of the time). More regularly interrupting sitting during leisure-time may reduce the odds of experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety.”
A meta-analysis with contributions from KI :
“Higher sedentary time is associated with higher mortality in less active individuals when measured by accelerometry.”