TWI FAQs 2017 – The Survey

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What is the survey?

Gallup will be administering an engagement and inclusion survey on behalf of the university to all employees: faculty and staff, both full-time and part-time; contract, contingent, regular, hourly, and tenured/tenure track. It is 25 questions in length.


What about Graduate Assistants?

There is a related survey that seeks Graduate Assistant input on the environment in which they receive their training in teaching, research, or administrative capacities. This training is critical to their current and future success, and they should be thriving too. The Graduate Assistant Experience survey is being administered by Gallup as well, beginning October 16 and ending October 27. Those dates partially overlap with the Thriving Workplace survey so that there is concurrent information, and it is composed of engagement and inclusion questions as well.


Is the survey voluntary?

Yes, the survey is voluntary and we strongly encourage everyone to complete it. The success of this initiative is a collective effort. Completing the survey gives everyone a voice about their workplace experience.


Will we be doing this again? How often will we take the survey?

Yes. Creating a thriving workplace is a continuous process not a destination or one-time event. Conducting a survey repeatedly over time helps maintain our focus on this initiative. With sufficient time and effort between administrations of the survey, action on the findings can take place. Periodic administration of the Thriving Workplace and Graduate Assistant Experience surveys allows for an analysis of change over time and fosters accountability. The next survey administration date has not yet been set, but Gallup recommends less than a two-year window between administrations to maximize the benefit of the assessment.

Taking the Survey

When can I take the survey?

The employee survey will be available from October 9 – 20, 2017; the Graduate Assistant Experience survey will be available from October 16 – 27, 2017.


I work at UMD but I didn't get an email or code from Gallup. What do I do?

We want you to take the Thriving Workplace survey! Contact Gallup Client Support by sending an email to or by calling 1-800-788-9987. Gallup will need your full name, UMD email address, and UID number. Ask to be included in the University of Maryland Thriving Workplace Initiative survey. Gallup will then send you instructions on how to complete the survey and a unique and confidential access code. Support is available 24 hours a day from 7 p.m. Sundays through 6 p.m. Fridays, U.S. Eastern Time.


What if I didn’t take the first survey?

You can still take this one. Completing the survey is your chance to be part of a collective conversation about creating a thriving workplace.


How long will the survey take? Are you sure my supervisor wants me to stop working and take the time to complete this?

On average, it takes 10 minutes to complete. All supervisors have been asked to provide their employees with sufficient time and accommodations to complete the survey. However, please talk with your supervisor about the specifics prior to taking the survey.


How do I take the survey?

All employees who have a UMD email address will receive a confidential link via email from Gallup to take the survey online. Graduate students who have a paid Graduate Assistantship will receive a similar email and link. If you need help with the survey, you can contact Gallup Client Support by sending an email to or by calling 1-800-788-9987. Support is available 24 hours a day from 7 p.m. Sundays through 6 p.m. Fridays, U.S. Eastern Time.


In what languages will the survey be available?

The online survey will be offered in English and Spanish.


What about staff who don't speak those languages or don't have computer access?

Gallup will administer paper versions of the survey at designated locations, dates, and times during the survey field period. These surveys will be available in 8 languages: English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese/Mandarin, Amharic, French, Haitian/Creole, and Filipino/Tagalog. This on-site administration schedule will be available here as soon as it is finalized.


What if the composition of our team has changed since we took the first survey?

The current workgroup should take the survey. If the majority of the group remains the same, comparison data can be provided. Remember, too: The results are just a starting point for discussion and actions that can strengthen the workplace environment going forward.

Survey Content

Can someone explain the meaning of these items? 

Gallup does not recommend interpreting survey items. They advise that questions about interpretation are best answered with: “It is an individual measure. Your interpretation may be different from your coworkers’ interpretations. Answer the item based on what you think it means.” If managers/organizations explain what they think the item means, employees’ answers can become biased.


What “organization” am I rating?

You are rating your current environment from your own perspective; interpret the term “organization” based on what it means to you. Think about the entirety of your workplace or training experience, which is made up of many things. The overarching concern is whether your needs are being met.


What if my colleagues and I interpret the questions differently? What if I’m thinking about our department, and they are rating the university as a whole?

The intent of this process is for everyone to have the opportunity to discuss the survey results with their colleagues. This allows them to understand how colleagues interpreted the questions and lets the entire group identify the barriers to engagement and inclusion at both the local and the organization level.


Some of the questions ask about “UMD,” but I don’t know about ALL of UMD; I only know my part. What am I supposed to rate?

Rate your current work experience and environment from your perspective. Everyone has an experience at UMD to rate, regardless of where they work and what exposure they have to the rest of the institution.


Will the best friend question be asked again?

This item – "I have a best friend at work" – is clearly the most controversial of the traits of highly engaged workgroups. In answering this item, many employees do not question the word "friend," because they have many friends at work. Instead, they get stuck on the word "best," because they feel the term implies exclusivity, and they have trouble identifying one "best friend" among their coworkers. And some believe that a best friend is something irrelevant in the work environment. This is a powerful item.  The strongest agreement with this statement is found in the most productive workgroups—which are also the most engaged. Gallup has tested softening the word to "close" or "good," or excluding the concept of "best" entirely. When this was done, however, the item lost its power to differentiate highly productive workgroups from mediocre workgroups. This suggests that the use of the word "best" actually pinpoints a specific dynamic of great workgroups. This item also points to the issue of trust between co-workers. When strong engagement is felt in a workgroup, employees believe that their coworkers will help them during times of stress and challenge.


Why is there no question about salary?

Money is important. But it is only one of many aspects that comprise our experience at work. The ability of individual managers, supervisors, and leaders to increase salary is limited. Creating a thriving workplace, however, is actionable and something every single employee can make happen. Taking part in the Thriving Workplace survey gives each of us a chance to express our perspectives on what it's like to work at UMD; taking action on the findings allows each of us to be involved in real change.


Why is the wording of some of the items extreme? 

Some of the questions, such as “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day,” have extreme wording. Gallup uses extreme wording because research has demonstrated that this kind of language differentiates high-performing teams from low-performing teams on crucial outcomes such as productivity, profitability, safety, and retention.

Survey Confidentiality

Who will see my responses?

This survey is completely confidential and responses will not be linked to individuals. Gallup, completely independently of the University of Maryland, administers the entire survey. No member of the University of Maryland has access to data that identifies specific employee responses. Only the aggregated results are returned to the University, which means data will be reported in groups and cannot be linked back to one person. Specific rules are used to ensure confidentiality of individual responses; no aggregate results are reported for groups with fewer than 5 respondents, and group engagement ratios are given for groups with 30 or more participants.


Can I be identified from my responses? Will my supervisor know how I responded?

No. The reports contain totals for the group only. To protect each person's confidentiality, a report will not be generated for groups with an insufficient sample (fewer than 5). This means supervisors will receive a summary of the feedback only if enough people participated to keep responses anonymous.


Could what I say in the survey affect my PRD?

No. Your individual responses will not be linked to you as an individual, and therefore can have no impact on your PRD.

Understanding the survey results

I have heard the numbers don’t matter. If this is true, why are we doing this?

The numbers are one data point. They allow us to see trends and are a springboard for conversations and action that can make a difference in the workplace at UMD. Simply increasing the scores and means, however, is not the goal of the Thriving Workplace Initiative. Changing and supporting behaviors that create an environment of engagement and inclusion is.

An analogy is your bathroom scale. When you step on it, you get a numerical representation of your weight. The number itself does not affect change. It is what you choose to do with that information that really counts. Using the number on the scale (or the numbers from the Thriving Workplace Survey) gives you information about your progress. The number without context or action means very little. When you step on the scale regularly (or take the survey regularly), you are able to see trends and take action from that data.


What does it mean if a group’s scores decline?

Many factors can cause a decline in scores. Sometimes changes like reorganizations, getting a new supervisor, or experiencing high turnover can impact people’s experiences and therefore the survey results. In addition, scores can decrease even when a group has been working to make improvements. Because the University has chosen to shine a spotlight on creating and sustaining a thriving workplace, people may develop an awareness that factors such as engagement and inclusion are important, and they are now able to more accurately assess their presence or absence.


What does it mean if a group’s scores stay the same?

Sometimes when a group works on a particular item and makes progress on their action items in that area, scores for the other items may decline thus affecting the overall GrandMean. Static scores can also be an indication that the group did not do anything with the previous survey results. Gallup reports their research shows that “neglected survey results are a proven way to undermine employee engagement.”


What is going to happen if the numbers go up? What happens if the numbers go down? Will I lose my job?

The results from the Thriving Workplace survey are neither report cards nor performance reviews. Changes in results can be understood from various perspectives and are most meaningful when interpreted in the context of what a group has or has not paid attention to regarding engagement and inclusion in their workplace.


Will we be able to compare our survey results to a normative group of higher education institutions?

Gallup has created a higher education database, which will allow us to understand how we perform compared to other higher education institutions. There are, however, not enough institutions of our size and type to create an even more precise database. Other schools are quickly coming on board, though they haven’t gotten as far in the engagement work as UMD has, so there isn’t a large enough base for comparison.

Comparisons to the higher education database can be made only on the Q12 items – the engagement questions at the beginning of the survey. These are the only commonly asked items across all the institutions.

GallupOnline, the platform for sharing results, will still show our scores in comparison to Gallup’s national database of 27 million. You will be able to use the GallupOnline resource library to access the quartile scores for the higher education database.