U-M chosen as a top spot to work

The University has been named one of the 2008 Great Colleges to Work For by the Chronicle of Higher Education. U-M was in the unranked top five in 13 of 27 categories for institutions with 2,500 or more employees in the Chronicle program that addresses faculty-administration relations, compensation and benefits, and work/life balance.

The categories for which the University was recognized include: Healthy Faculty-Administration Relations, Collaborative Governance, Compensation and Benefits, Facilities and Security, Job Satisfaction, Work-Life Balance, Confidence in Senior Leadership, Physical Workspace Conditions, Policies, Resources, and Efficiency, Career Development, Research and Scholarship, 403b or 401k, Vacation or Paid Time Off and Disability Insurance.

"We strive to make the University of Michigan an exceptional place to work," says President Mary Sue Coleman. "We believe strongly in engaging faculty and staff in all aspects of the institution to create a vibrant and rewarding workplace."

The University was selected based on its responses to an extensive questionnaire that asked about salary, benefits and programs that support faculty and staff, leadership development and the structure of governance, among others. The Chronicle also conducted a survey of some 600 randomly selected U-M faculty and staff.

"We are very pleased to have been recognized as a great place to work by the Chronicle of Higher Education," says Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for human resources. "It is particularly gratifying to know that part of the consideration for this award was based on such favorable input from our faculty and staff."

Institutions chosen for the inaugural recognition program were announced July 14 during a special session at the National Association of College and University Business Officers, attended by Cheryl Soper, controller and director of financial operations. U-M was singled out in separate Chronicle coverage for its approach to leadership development and shared governance. Phil Hanlon, vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, says the two areas at U-M go hand-in-hand.

"We are by nature broad and decentralized as an institution, which means that faculty, staff and student involvement in decision making goes on at all levels," Hanlon says. "Governance that is so widespread and imbedded in multiple levels only works because we work so hard to prepare people for those roles."

As one example of a program to prepare faculty for roles in shared governance, Hanlon notes, LSA and the College of Engineering offer the Leading Excellence Program for newly promoted full professors, one aim of which is to get these faculty thinking about their new roles and responsibilities.

The report submitted to the Chronicle also highlighted the University's:

Provost Seminars that periodically bring together some 100 faculty to learn about and exchange ideas on teaching-related issues, such as how students learn, technology and collaboration, and the philosophy and practice of grading;

Faculty Ombuds program that seeks to facilitate the resolution of faculty problems and dilemmas with respect to policy administration or conflict resolution;

Committee on Institutional Cooperation — Academic Leadership Program involvement, which includes participation with 11 other member institutions in a series of three, two-day seminars on the themes of leadership and human resources, long-range planning and budgeting, and motivating change at public research universities; and

Program for Chairs and Associate Deans that includes a focus on budgeting and managing staff and colleagues.

In terms of shared governance, the Chronicle noted the formal and informal ways administration, faculty and staff communicate and make decisions. Among these are the use of advisory groups by executive officers and at other levels of the organization; regular interaction between administrators and faculty in meetings, the Senate Assembly and Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, college and department faculty executive committees, and programs like the VOICES of the Staff, which provides a formal mechanism to help staff members define the most widely shared concerns or opportunities to improve the workplace, and put them on the agendas of University leaders.

Again, Hanlon points out, the decentralized nature of the University — which he says is like no other that he knows — allows such things as financial decisions to be made at all levels, hiring to be conducted largely at the unit level, and a merit system that is very often based on joint recommendations at the department and college level.

In an editor's note in the Chronicle Editor Jeffrey Selingo said the new program began with the observation that many people were using the publication's career postings and forum series.

"It was clear to us from reading those postings and from the popularity of our columnists that people interested in employment in academe or those already employed there needed more information about the best places to work in higher education," he wrote. "So more than a year ago, we set off to create academe's version of Fortune's popular 100 Best Companies to Work For issue."

The survey was administered by ModernThink LLC, Wilmington, Del.