Employee Experience Task Force

The Employee Experience Task Force was asked April 5, 2024 to provide short-term recommendations to Chancellor White to improve the employee experience in Fall 2024.

The UAF Employee Experience Task Force has the following responsibilities:

  • Review survey data available from the UA Employee Experience Survey results released in February 2024 
  • Provide recommendations on how to grow areas of strength identified in the survey.
  • Provide recommendations on how to address areas in need of improvement identified in survey data.
  • Provide specific recommendations to improve the employee experience for groups disaggregated in the data (faculty, staff, remote, etc.)

The group provided short-term recommendations on May 6, 2024 around specific areas that influence how employees feel about working at UAF, and included a number of recommendations which build on existing program strengths.

Summary of findings

Three-fourths of respondents are proud of the university’s efforts to positively impact the communities we serve and would recommend the university to people seeking education or job and technical training. Nearly 90% of respondents reported favorably that they felt their work is meaningful, and 82% of respondents indicated their work gives them a sense of personal accomplishment. Additionally, 83% of respondents said they routinely collaborate to get their work done. This level of commitment and collegiality is part of UAF’s competitive advantage.

Three-quarters of respondents indicated the frequency of meaningful communications with their supervisors is adequate. Favorability drops, however, when asked about “open, honest, two-way communication” at the university level (42%). Nearly 40% of executives and more than a third (34% of 251) of faculty responded unfavorably to this question. The dashboards are available for employees to view. 

In its recommendations to Chancellor White, the task force focused on six areas where leaders can have the biggest impact, and help ensure that employees feel their feedback has been heard and considered. The task force's short-term recommendations and chancellor's responses to them are summarized here. 


It's important to engage leadership at all levels to leverage employee feedback and resources to identify unit-level actions, and update employees on actions that have taken place to reinforce the importance of their voice in shaping the university’s future.

  • Recommended actions:
    Charge university leaders (provost, vice chancellors, deans and directors) with reviewing data in their areas of responsibility and proposing 2-3 actions they will take based on the feedback.
  • Charge leadership to work with the communication team to share steps taken to act on employee feedback, as well as major initiatives and timelines from the System Office that may impact the overall employee experience.

Chancellor White's response on May 17, 2024:

Task Onboarding and Engagement Manager Carla Browning to collaborate with UAHR to develop and deliver an engagement training for deans and directors to encourage all levels of leadership to use the survey data in Qualtrics to improve the overall employee experience at UAF.

Communicating and clarifying UAF’s mission and vision to employees can lead to better understanding and rationalization of expectations overall. Fostering a sense of purpose and connection is also strongly associated with employee well-being and helps to reduce employee burnout. Onboarding and other efforts help to increase a sense of belonging and ensure employees understand the mission, vision and goals, as well as how their individual and department’s contributions support UAF’s stated objectives.

Recommended actions:

  • Continue, and strengthen, new employee events, faculty orientation, and development activities; add/enhance onboarding programs for remote workers, and automate processes where possible to ensure new hires have what they need to be successful.
  • Consider hosting a series of small, department listening sessions to strengthen communication between executives/faculty and leadership.
  • Implement a faculty/staff mentoring program to increase employee connections and well-being. (See attached proposal from this year’s Academic Leadership Institute.)

Chancellor White's response May 17, 2024:

Charge Provost Prakash with exploring formal staff and faculty mentorship opportunities at UAF.

It should be noted that onboarding and faculty development are continuing to add to offerings for new and existing employees. 

The task force recommends a number of strategies to foster communication and ensure exceptional leaders and communicators throughout the organization.

Providing transparent, two-way communication about high-level issues such as institutional finances, restructuring and other major initiatives, will advance trust across the organization. Such communication should include soliciting feedback and
sharing decision rationales. Leaders should empower in-house communications professionals to identify solutions and implement plans.

Recommended actions:

  • Build upon the existing structure and frequency of the Chancellor’s Forums to make them more interactive by including live conversation and questions. Allow participants to provide ideas and input directly to leadership during the forum. Replicate the forums at the vice chancellor/dean/director levels.
  • Focus on improving internal, two-way communication.
    • Look for opportunities, and develop communication plans, to share information with employees early when there are proposed changes to process, and ask for feedback — especially when changes impact internal/external customers, workflows, or program structure.
    • Create secure opportunities for people to share concerns and ideas anonymously, without fear of judgment or reprisal (e.g., suggestion boxes, online input methods or Q&A website), and ensure procedures for acting on feedback in a timely fashion.
  • Work with in-house communications to find the most effective ways to communicate the financial position and improvement plans of the university (e.g., visuals, such as a story map or infographic).
  • Consider hiring a consultant to work with leadership, communication teams and engagement staff to streamline internal communications.

Chancellor White's response May 17, 2024:

  • Work with UAF Events Manager Kara Nash to update Chancellor’s Forums in Fall 2024 with the goal of increasing two-way communication and interactive elements.
  • Explore improved communication mechanisms around proposed changes when they may have an impact on internal/external customers, unit workflows, or a program structure.

In addition to the recommendations around communications, UAF leadership should emphasize the importance of employee well-being to include encouraging check-ins about workloads, flexible work arrangements, and training to help supervisors manage work agreements effectively.

Recommended actions:

  • Implement improvements where possible and reinforce the availability of family-friendly services and policies such as child care options and lactation rooms to support balancing work and family responsibilities.
  • Communicate the availability of employee assistance programs and wellness initiatives, such as stress management, mindfulness sessions, or flexible work arrangements.
  • Provide training to managers and supervisors on ways to support employee well-being and engagement (e.g., recognizing signs of stress and burnout, facilitating open communication on wellness issues, etc.).

Chancellor White's response May 17, 2024:

Communicate the availability of resources and training available to support employee well-being (e.g. Employee Assistance Program, family-friendly policies, wellness initiatives, outdoor activities, financial resources, etc.)

Professional development and training were a recurring theme in the survey. The recommendations around training on effective leadership, team building, supervision and employee communication support the employee experience.

Recommended actions:

  • Provide training for leaders and supervisors to develop people and teams to ensure clear expectations, improve decision-making at the lowest level possible; and extend trust to help employees perform at their best.
  • Continue to provide opportunities for employees at all levels to be exposed to new ideas, approaches, and technologies to encourage innovation in teaching, research, and service.
  • Develop programs, training or workshops on topics such as:
    • Effectively managing flexible-work/hybrid, remote employees
    • Employee development and career coaching to include, giving and receiving feedback, setting boundaries and communication/collaboration

Chancellor White's response May 17, 2024:

Task the EETF to explore the following additional opportunities when they meet this fall. 

  • Opportunities where we can recognize employees and celebrate achievements;
  • Opportunities for employees to influence their employee experience at UAF;
  • Opportunities to improve the employee experience around successful collaboration and innovation across units and work teams;
  • Improving the employee experience for UAF’s diverse workforce including hybrid and remote employees.

While compensation isn’t a strong driver of engagement, it does have an impact on satisfaction and can drive down engagement, and retention, if not competitive. Leaders should consider focused efforts to address consistent, fair practices around performance increases and other mechanisms to reward and recognize employees. Additionally, benefits are a top reason people work at UAF and should be presented in an engaging format to increase understanding and accentuate benefit packages.

Recommended actions:

  • Share information about the purpose and progress of the UA Compensation Committee, including proposed actions to address salary compression. Provide updates on the progress toward a new compensation framework.
  • Explore options for salary equity and alignment.
    • Request all UAF supervisors compare salaries to the market median to determine if staff are out of alignment.
    • Work with Human Resources to ensure supervisors understand compensation options available through policy and regulations (e.g., performance bonuses, in-grade step increases), and work with communications professionals to create engaging benefits materials and presentations.

Chancellor White's response May 17, 2024:

Communicate with Provost’s Council to increase awareness of compensation options available through policy and regulation, and options to reward and recognize employees.


  • Sept.—Dec. 1, 2024 — Long-term recommendations to improve the employee experience and final report due.
  • July 29, 2024 — Engagement manager and UA director of talent acquisition and development to deliver training for deans and directors to encourage all levels of leadership to use the survey data to improve the overall employee experience. (Dates are July 29 and 31, and Aug. 1)
  • June 2024 — An Internal Communications Advisory Team formed to review current communication practices. 
  • May 17, 2024 — Chancellor response to EETF May 17, 2024.
  • May 6, 2024 — EETF makes short-term recommendations to improve the employee experience for implementation fall 2024.
  • April 5, 2024 — Chancellor White appoints an Employee Experience Task Force 

Task members

Carla Browning, chair, Onboarding and Engagement, Manager
Kacey Miller, Staff Council/College of Indigenous Studies, Staff
Marine Gillespie, Alaska Center for UAF Integration, Staff
David Hooper, Facilities Service Staff
Hannah Robinson, Center for Alaska Native Health Research, Staff
Kristin Summerlin, University Relations, Public Information Officer, Staff
Richie Berndt, Faculty Senate, Community and Technical College, Faculty
Holly Dean, Rasmuson Library Faculty
Kay McMonigal, College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Faculty
Zoë Marie Jones, College of Liberal Arts, Faculty
Nima Farzadnia, College of Engineering and Mines, Faculty
Kathy Kitts, Associated Students of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Graduate student
Margo Griffith, Ex-Officio Member, UA HR Talent Acquisition and Development, Director