Bernie Goldie

The ‘Wollongong way’ sees UOW top for employee engagement

The University of Wollongong (UOW) is ranked in the top 2% of universities globally and for more than a decade has achieved outstanding graduate outcomes as ranked by the independent Good Universities Guide.

Outcomes like these do not occur by accident and it is clear that one of UOW’s competitive advantages is the commitment of its staff.

Thirty eight Australian and New Zealand universities have been surveyed by the Voice Project, a consultancy that has grown out of research at Macquarie University and that specialises in workplace surveys. UOW continues to rank number one on the key indicator of employee engagement. UOW has conducted the survey three times (2007, 2010 and 2012) and remains the clear leader on employee engagement – actually improving on its performance this year.

The Director of the Voice Project, Dr Peter Langford, said UOW was an outstanding example of how a university can overcome many of the special challenges of the Australian higher education sector. Commenting on UOW’s position in relation to the Voice Project’s ‘all industry’ database, Dr Langford observed “not only has Wollongong continually topped the list of universities, but it also ranks in the top 15 per cent of all organisations throughout the Australian economy”.

The most recent survey was conducted in August this year with a very strong 81% participation rate. UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings described the outcomes as extremely encouraging.

“Scores for most survey dimensions have improved against already strong results in 2010, including significant growth in understanding of the strategic direction of UOW. Achieving such strong results in three successive surveys over five years demonstrates the underlying strength and health of the organisation and positions us very well to address the many challenges facing the sector – particularly in the attraction and retention of high calibre staff,” Professor Wellings said.

Director of Human Resources at UOW, Mr John Steele, spoke of ‘The Wollongong Way’, a culture of openness and mutual respect throughout the University, combined with accountability and a commitment to putting the University first.

"Too often at universities there is a more adversarial relationship between staff and management, but at UOW there is a clear respect and humour in the relationships, combined with a genuine commitment and co-operation to advance the success of the University.”

The survey instrument developed and refined by the Voice Project measures the correlation of a range of management practices with key indices of employee engagement and organisational progress.

There is a strong correlation between engagement and how well the organisation is fulfilling its mission and achieving its stated objectives. At the 2012 University Human Resources (UHR) conference in the United Kingdom, Mr Steele and Dr Langford outlined the value of using the rich data stemming from engagement surveys to measure and drive organisational culture and change.

Such surveys allow organisations to measure the quality of people management, compare results across work units and employee groups, identify gaps, prioritise actions, and track improvements over time.


  • UOW continues to rank number one on the key indicator of employee engagement