U of T — An “Outstanding” Place To Work
In 2014, the University of Toronto has been recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 employers, one of the best diversity employers, a top employer for Canadians over 40, and one of Canada’s top family-friendly employers.
The policies, practices and benefits that support faculty members’ lives outside of the University are very important in ensuring faculty satisfaction with the work they do within U of T. The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) survey asked tenure-stream faculty a number of questions which looked at their satisfaction related to personal and family policies as well as their health and retirement benefits.
To give a sense of how the University of Toronto did in relation to the overall cohort for the survey and against our five selected peers, COACHE provides a summary benchmark for each theme. For both personal and family policies as well as health and retirement benefits, U of T outperformed all of our peers and scored well in relation to the cohort overall. Compensation is not included in these benchmarks and is an area where we score very well. It is discussed at the end of this article.
Personal and Family Policies
The COACHE survey measures faculty’s satisfaction with the effectiveness of various policies – many of which are related to work-family balance and support for families. COACHE has learned that the vast majority of faculty are married or have partners (79%) and that many have children. At U of T, family responsibilities breakdown as follows:-
|COACHE||U of T||COACHE||U of T||COACHE||U of T|
|Children under 18||62%||29%||53%||43%||33%||30%|
|Infants & toddlers||32%||29%||16%||21%||4%||7%|
|Elder care or care for a dependent adult||10%||5%||n/a||12%||14%||13%|
While U of T does well on questions related to personal and family policies overall, the questions within this benchmark show varied degrees of satisfaction. For instance, only 44.7% of faculty indicated that they were satisfied with what U of T does to make personal/family obligations and an academic career possible yet 50.9% felt that they have been able to find a satisfactory balance between their professional and personal lives.
The University has recognized that there is frequently a “two-body” opportunity when top-notch faculty are hired to the University. A number of years ago hiring programs were put in place for both non-academic and academic spouses and partners. Only 33% of faculty who had an opinion or experience with these programs indicated that they were satisfied (the peer score was similar at 31.2%). Seventeen per cent of all respondents indicated that they did not know about them and 39% stated that they were not applicable to their situation.
Through the Faculty Housing program the University has attempted to ease the transition to Toronto for many new faculty, particularly those coming from cities with a much lower cost of living. Offering subsidized housing to new faculty families within the first three years of their appointment, this is an incredibly popular program. For many faculty members who are well established at the University, questions about housing benefits are not particularly relevant (Of the total respondents, 18% indicated “don’t know” while 27% responded “not applicable”). Of those who expressed their opinion, 43.1% of faculty indicated that they were satisfied with the housing benefits offered by the University which included the real estate services, subsidized housing and mortgage programs.
“The University offers a range of housing programs – from our great community of new faculty housing, to the visits with realtors that the Faculty Relocation Service can arrange, to our staff-faculty housing loan program – we have developed some ways to support new faculty as they transition to Toronto,” says Edith Hillan, vice provost, faculty & academic life.
Junior faculty express greater satisfaction when it comes to policies which specifically address work/life balance for them. For instance, 77.9% of assistant professors were satisfied with the ability to ‘stop-the-tenure-clock’ for family reasons, while 68.9% of all tenure-stream faculty indicated that they were satisfied with parental leave policies. Fewer faculty (19.7%) indicated that they were satisfied with eldercare policies and and an additional 36% of the total respondents indicated that they were not aware of these policies.
Childcare remains an issue for young families across Toronto, not just faculty at the University of Toronto. The University has 7 childcare centres across the three campuses and also provides a back-up childcare service through Kids & Company. Nonetheless only 34.5% of faculty indicated that they were satisfied with the childcare support offered by the University. This is significantly better than our peers (16.5%) but still an area where there is room for improvement. In addition, through a childcare benefit negotiated with the U of T Faculty Association, faculty can receive up to $2000 per year per child aged 7 and under, towards childcare expenses. Forty-five per cent of the total respondents indicated that questions related to childcare did not apply to them, perhaps because childcare issues tend to resolve themselves as children grow older. More relevant for some of these faculty members were the education assistance programs that are available for children of faculty. In this case 51.4% of faculty who know about these programs indicated their satisfaction (compared to 21.7% for our peers); although again, for 23% this was not applicable or was an unknown (23%).
“It’s not enough to be able to say we’re a family-friendly place, it’s vital that there are policies and programs in place to demonstrate that we do more than just pay lip-service to work-life balance” says Angela Hildyard, vice president human resources & equity. “We continue to think creatively about ways to support our faculty to ensure fairness and equity”.
Health and Retirement Benefits
It is perhaps not surprising that U of T scores well against our American peer institutions when it comes to health and retirement benefits. The Canadian system more broadly mandates provision of these benefits in a way that is very different from the United States. Our faculty indicate a significant amount of satisfaction with the benefits that are provided. The survey looked at two general areas in regards to benefits for faculty — health and retirement benefits.
Tenure stream faculty were asked about their satisfaction with the health benefits provided by the University for themselves and for their family. Faculty were very satisfied with the benefits available for themselves, with 82.5% indicating that they were satisfied or very satisfied. Likewise, 82.3% indicated that they were satisfied with the health benefits for their families. This compared to 64.3% and 59.7% respectively for our peer institutions.
Faculty were also asked about retirement benefits. In response to this question, 62% indicated that they were satisfied, with 17% indicating that they didn’t know about the retirement benefits. This response was similar to that of our peer institutions at 59.1%. One retirement incentive that COACHE looked at specifically was phased retirement. Here 59% of tenure-stream faculty indicated that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the phased retirement program, with 37% of the total indicating that they didn’t know about this program. It is likely that the large proportion of faculty who indicated they didn’t know about retirement benefits or the phased retirement program were more junior faculty.
The final area that COACHE examined in relation to the benefits offered by the University was salary and retention. Most faculty (79.4%) indicated that they were satisfied with their salary, which compared favourably to our peers (where only 46.2% indicated satisfaction).
The survey asked faculty why they might choose to leave the University and the most frequent response (21%) was to retire. This was followed by 11% who would like to find an employer with more resources in support of research, 11% who wanted to improve their quality of life and 10% who would prefer a different geographic location. In terms of our peers, 19% indicated that they would retire, 15% wanted to improve their salary or benefits, 13% were looking for more resources to support research and 11% wanted to work at an institution with different priorities.
If you were to choose to leave your institution, what would be your primary reason?
|U of T||Peers||All|
|find an employer w/ more resources in support of your work||11%||13%||11%|
|improve your quality of life||11%||7%||8%|
|move to a preferred geographic location||10%||7%||7%|
|work at an institution w/ different priorities||7%||11%||10%|
|employment opportunities for spouse/partner||6%||5%||4%|
|improve your salary/benefits||5%||15%||15%|
|find a more collegial work environment||5%||4%||4%|
|for other family or personal needs||5%||6%||6%|
|pursue an administrative position in higher ed||4%||4%||4%|
|pursue a nonacademic job||2%||1%||1%|
Of tenured faculty, 39% indicated that they were likely to remain at the institution for ten years or more, while only 13% indicated that they were likely to leave within the next 5 years. For our peer institutions, 25% plan to remain for more than ten years while 19% say that they will leave within five years. Forty-two percent of pre-tenure faculty plan to stay at U of T for ten years or more (score for our peer institutions was 32%, and 9% stated they would stay for no more than 5 years (which was on par with our peers).
One Associate Professor stated, “This is a great workplace. I’m not sure we’ll be able to get into the childcare facility when we’re ready to start a family, so some more spaces there would be welcome. In general, however, I’m very happy. I’ve worked at another institution and enjoyed it, but U of T is outstanding”.
“Creating an environment in which colleagues feel respected and valued can be a challenge,” says Hildyard. “I am delighted that so many of our faculty believe we are making clear progress in these areas.”
The COACHE survey was conducted in October of 2012 by the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University. Almost 50% of our tenured and pre-tenure faculty participated in this round (pre-tenure faculty had been invited to participate in 2007).
This month, we’ll conclude our article series by looking at some of the results by gender. In previous weeks we’ve discussed some overall results of the survey, department culture, tenure, promotion and mentoring, the nature of faculty work and appreciation, recognition, interdisciplinarity and collaboration and leadership.
Article: Office of the Vice-Provost, Faculty & Academic Life
Graphics: NATIONAL Public Relations