Staff Survey: The History

Are you new to HLS? Would you like a review of why the survey was conducted? The following FAQs were gathered by APT members from Law School staff and relate to the background of the survey. If you'd like to read general FAQs and recently asked questions, please go to FAQ. Wondering about the definition of a certain term used for the survey? Then check out the Terminology section below.

Background FAQ

Q: I'm new to HLS. What's all this about a survey?

A: In March 2006, the University conducted its first-ever University-wide staff survey entitled "What's Your Harvard Like? The survey was voluntary, anonymous, and accessible to the entire University. The goal of producing the survey was to gain insight into the Harvard employment experience. Results were published for all staff the following fall. Locally a committee was formed to review the data from the survey and to pinpoint areas for improvement.

Q: Why did Harvard commission a survey?

A: According to Harvard's Central Human Resources, 89% of leading employers conduct annual or biennial employee surveys: "Organizations with engaged employees grow faster, have lower turnover, and higher productivity." One of objective of the survey was to learn how staff feel in a comprehensive way about their employment experience at Harvard. Another objective was (and remains) to attract, retain, inspire and motivate talented people at Harvard Law School.

Read more about why this survey was conducted. (Please note, you will have to log in to Harvie to access this link.)

Q: Why did the University select Hewitt to conduct the survey?

A: Hewitt Associates is an internationally recognized HR consulting firm, which provides a variety of services to help companies manage their costs, the human resource function, and improve as places to work. Hewitt has also published a number of articles and briefs on its methodology and the research behind engagement modeling.

Learn more Hewitt's methodology and the engagement modeling research. (Please note, you will have to log in to Harvie to access this link.)

Q: In the past, other Schools at Harvard used the Great Place to Work (GPTW) survey. Why wasn't that survey used again?

A: The Law School choose not to participate in past Great Place to Work (GPTW) surveys. The GPTW survey established baseline data about Harvard as a workplace and resulted in a number of new initiatives, but unlike the 2006 Staff Survey, it was not a University-wide initiative. Read the history of GPTW. (Please note, you will have to log in to Harvie to access this link.)

Q: How was the survey administered?

A: Most employees filled out the survey electronically. Those who did not have computer access at work received paper surveys, along with postage-paid return envelopes addressed directly to Hewitt. The paper survey was available in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. Staff were given paid time during the regular workday to complete the survey.

Q: Wasn't there a HLS-wide presentation about this a few months ago?

A: Yes (and we're so pleased you asked), an all-staff presentation was given at the Law School in October 2006. If you're looking for a good overview of how and why the survey was conducted, consider watching the kick-off forum webcast hosted by the Action Planning Team and HLS Human Resource Services.

Q: Where can I learn about the specific results?

To view the results of the survey in its entirety (all 532 pages!), go to and sign in.  HLS staff received login information via email. Please contact HR at 5-4611 for login information.

You can also, of course, send questions HLS Employee Survey Response Action Team (; members of the APT are:

  • Marie Bowen, Assistant Dean for Human Resources
  • Juliet Bowler, faculty assistant, East Asian Legal Studies
  • Ayanna Hines, administrative director, Criminal Justice Institute
  • Josh Kantor, reference assistant, Law Library
  • Ken Lafler, director, Student Financial Services
  • Karen Pemstein, assistant director of Human Resource Services
  • Bridget Testa, director of Advancement Services, Alumni Center
  • Kathy Long Thurman, assistant director of Human Resource Services

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Staff have commented that some questions included terms that were couched in business-speak. Although a combined Harvard-Hewitt team collaborated on the survey design so that the questions were heavily customized for Harvard, there were some questions about jargon. To follow is a quick glossary of terms that have been used frequently for the survey. Please let us know ( if we need to update this glossary. To read a more complete review of the language used in the survey, log in to the survey, select the link "Site Overview" and then "Definition of Key Terms."

"Local leadership"

At HLS, local leadership refers to our School or major departments (the dean and administrative and academic deans).

"Engagement score" or "good engagement"

In a nutshell, staff who are engaged in their employment are vested in their work, are successful, and are more likely stay with their employer. The "Best Employers" in Hewitt's database had an average engagement score of 76. That is, 76% of their employees had an average of 4.5 or higher when rating their agreement with the six key engagement statements. The "Best Employers" are the top-scoring 20% of the Hewitt's survey clients. Among all their clients, 52% is average, and 61% is average among "high-performing" organizations.

Please see the PDF file, "Engagement Model," which expands on the elements that create staff engagement. See also pages 518-532 of the online survey results for a detail of the Law School's engagement priorities.

"Say, stay, and strive"

These words--used by Mary Ann O'Brien, Director of Communications in OHR, in the HLS October presentation and subsequent in documentation--are a short-hand for employee engagement. For instance, what do people say about working here, and how long do they intend to stay?


Hewitt identified 16 major drivers or categories of workplace issues in the survey. Drivers effect engagement.


This moniker was dreamed up by HLS, not Hewitt, and it stands for Survey Action Planning Team. These folks were requested by Human Resource Services to act as representatives of a cross section of employees at the Law School. The volunteer group is made up of exempt and nonexempt employers. Please see the list of APT members.

Do you have questions related to the Harvard University Employee Survey in general or the Law School's survey response in particular? Please send your questions or comments to the HLS Employee Survey Response Action Team: (


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Last modified: September 10, 2008

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