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Organizational Culture

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (to read the Employee Experience Survey Report)

by Alena Akselrod

Later this year, Leading Edge will release a report sharing insights from the 2021 Employee Experience Survey. We want to share some thoughts in advance about what our annual survey report can—and can’t—tell us about the Jewish nonprofit sector as a whole.

What is the Employee Experience Survey?

The annual* Leading Edge Employee Experience Survey is a people analytics tool that helps Jewish nonprofit leaders and managers better understand their workplace culture. It’s designed to capture as much of the employee experience as possible in order to help organizational leaders identify their strengths, challenges, and growth opportunities. The survey asks questions ranging from management practices to internal communications, from mission alignment to confidence in leadership, and much more. In addition to the robust data set that organizations gain access to, Leading Edge continues to support participating organizations on their journey to become even better places to work by offering one-on-one consultations, ongoing technical support, and curated resources and best practices.

*Leading Edge didn’t run the Employee Experience Survey in the Spring of 2020. Organizations were facing a pandemic, office closures, cancelled events, potential budget shortfalls, and other challenges. We chose to offer a quicker, simpler, self administered Pulse Survey instead to help leaders stay informed on how their teams were doing and what were their most immediate needs. (The Pulse Survey remains available, both for organizations that don’t take the Employee Experience Survey and for those that do, as a supplement to it.)

Why does Leading Edge do this survey? 

At Leading Edge we believe that prioritizing employees as key stakeholders is an essential part of creating dynamic, healthy, and thriving organizations. With that in mind, the primary purpose of the survey is to help organizational leaders do just that—by asking the right questions and then providing individual support and field-wide resources.

As more and more organizations opt into taking the survey every year, Leading Edge is also able to distill themes, trends, correlations, and other insights that can inform the entire field about how to create the kind of workplace experiences that will help attract, retain, and develop talented people. This is what you can look forward to reading in the survey report this fall.

Who takes the survey?

Since 2016, more than 35,000 people working across over 300 unique organizations have taken the survey.  In 2021, more than 17,000 people working for 221 organizations received the Employee Experience Survey. (This figure counts the 200+ professionally staffed Hillel campuses across the globe as one unit, and Hillel International as another unit.) More than 11,000 people responded. Sixty percent (60%) of the 2021 participating organizations have taken this survey at least once before, and 40% took it for the first time. More than 80 organizations have taken the survey at least three times.

A broad range of Jewish organizations take the Employee Experience Survey, including JCCs, Federations, human service organizations, social justice organizations, camps, umbrella organizations (like denominations, Jewish Federations of North America, JCC Association, etc.), and more.

Employees of every rank and job function are strongly encouraged to take the survey, with one exception: CEOs. (By “CEOs” we mean the top professional leader of the organization, including those with other titles.)

Why don’t CEOs take the survey?

In past years, CEOs have taken the survey, and they’ve told us that some of the questions don’t apply to them. So many questions about employee experience relate to the supervisor, but the CEO’s supervisor is a board of directors. That’s a very different dynamic and experience.

This year, in order to capture the unique experience of top leaders, we offered some CEOs a chance to pilot a new CEO Survey with questions specifically geared towards their experience as top leaders, instead of the Employee Experience Survey. We’re preparing reports for both surveys so that the field can benefit from insights about both experiences (leader and employee) in our sector.

What does Leading Edge do with the survey results?

The first thing we do is provide an interactive set of results to the leaders of the participating organizations. Using the platform of our survey partner, Culture Amp, organizations can look through their results in countless permutations, looking at different answers, themes, subgroups, and trends, and browsing action ideas for how to improve people’s experiences in the items they identify as growth areas. We then provide a set of two one-on-one consultations, at no cost, to each organization to help them understand and interpret their results (it’s a lot of data!) and help them create action plans to build on strengths and address challenges.

While organizations are busy working through their results, Leading Edge analyzes the aggregate results from the survey to see what sector-wide trends and insights can be gleaned that can help the entire sector improve workplace culture and people’s experiences working at Jewish organizations.

What kinds of findings will be in the Employee Experience Survey report?

Here are some (not all!) of the topics we’ll cover:

  • How do 2021 responses differ from 2019, and what can that tell us about the effects of 2020 and the pandemic on our sector’s workplace experience?
  • What aspects of employees’ experience most strongly correlate with “engagement”? (By engagement we mean a combination of pride in the organization, feeling motivated to do great work, recommending the organization as a great place to work, and wanting to stay with the organization in the future.)
  • What key workplace differences are driving people to want to stay at their organizations—or leave them?
  • How do employees feel about their organizations? Their managers? Their leaders? 
  • How psychologically safe do employees feel? How cared for?
  • Do people feel like they belong? Do they feel the organization demonstrates good DEI practices? 
  • Do employees understand how pay works at their organizations and feel their salary is fair?

In addition to insights about all this and more regarding the entire range of participating organizations this year, we’ll include tips for improving common experience issues, true stories from the field, and more. To get an idea of what’s to come, you can read the most recent previous report (2019) here

What about demographics? Isn’t this like a census of the field?

The report will present the demographic makeup of the people who took the survey. This is in no way a census, poll, or scientific study of all the people who work in the Jewish nonprofit sector as a whole. Participating organizations are not a random sample. Organizations that opt in to take the survey are prepared and eager to improve their employees’ experiences and willing to commit to acting on what they discover. Which organizations are ready to take that step is not a randomized group, and therefore that group of Jewish organizations can’t be assumed to be representative of all Jewish organizations. 

Additionally, when it comes to trends over time, the group of participating organizations is not the same from year to year. This makes it difficult to assert overall longitudinal trends for the sector. This doesn’t mean we can’t draw  some conclusions about the field. Indeed, we believe we can glean many insights into the state of work and workplace culture for the Jewish nonprofit sector. When we see recurring themes year over year, or a common set of challenges facing most participating organizations, we can start to look deeper at these emerging trends. No spoilers here—you’ll need to read the 2021 report for more on this.

When will we get to see the final report?

This autumn. While you’re waiting, browse our Resource library and learn all about how organizations can become Leading Places to Work.

About the Author
  • Alena Akselrod is Senior Program Director at Leading Edge.

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