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Case studies:

St Mary’s University: Putting Data to Work

st marys university employee survey, People Insight

Headline Stats


Response rate increase





Who are St Mary’s?

Getting to know St Mary’s University

Known for their top-notch teacher training, law and health science courses, St Mary’s University, Twickenham is a popular choice for students who want a close-knit campus experience whilst still only being a stone’s throw from Central London. Plus, their stunning grounds with hundreds of years of history help them to stand out from other universities in the UK.

But here’s what’s even more remarkable – St Mary’s is all about diversity, growth and opportunities. Whether you’re joining the university as a student or an employee, they are big believers in taking care of people’s “whole-selves”. To make this possible, they needed to know exactly how their people felt. That’s where Felicity Morath, the Head of Learning and People Development, comes in – she’s the driving force behind their employee survey journey.


“People Insight are fabulous and what they do is fabulous – their impact on St Mary’s was phenomenal”

Felicity Morath, Head of Learning and People Development, St Mary’s University

Spotting the need for change

St Mary’s takes diversity seriously and keeps up with the latest EDIB accreditations. But when they put together their pitch for the Athena Swan award and Race Equality Charter, they saw a few problems with their old employee engagement data:

· Surface-level data from old surveys

· Only quantitative data, no real insights

· No action taken based on the data

· Weak response rate (approximately 30%), leading to unrepresentative data

“Previously, there was a lot of scepticism. People didn’t believe we would do anything with the data and so wouldn’t participate. We were lucky if we got a 30% response. When I saw that our People Insight survey reached 70%, I cried to be honest!” – Felicity Morath

That’s when they found us! We had just what they needed:

· A people-centred approach: we offer an intuitive survey platform backed by organisational psychology expertise.

· Platform excellence: we excel at capturing both quantitative and qualitative data with AI analysis and comment theming for deeper insights.

· Action-oriented support: we provide dedicated project management and top-notch assistance from pre-survey workshops to results presentations and strategy planning.

The approach

Despite some interest from colleagues in going for a hard copy survey, Felicity firmly believed in adopting a more modern approach. Not only would it be easier to track and analyse responses in digital format, but completing a digital survey is a seamless experience compared to dealing with pages and pages of content.

Connecting Sustainability with Survey Participation

To encourage participation, we introduced a creative incentive for survey completion. Instead of the usual free coffees they had tried before, they decided to embrace our partnership with the ‘Eden Reforestation Project’, aligning the digital approach with their sustainability commitments. Each response to the survey meant a mangrove tree would be planted in places like Nepal, Mozambique, or Madagascar. Not only that, but they also hire locals to plant and protect the forests, lifting people out of poverty – talk about a win-win!

Strengthening Credibility: Collaborative Workshops and Senior Leader Endorsement

We didn’t stop there – we took it a step further and collaborated closely with St Mary’s Senior Leadership Team and Executive Committee in a pre-survey workshop, delving into the intricacies of our platform and discussing the broader vision of how it would measure and impact engagement. Felicity firmly believes that these workshops played a crucial role in enhancing the project’s credibility, especially among the university’s decision-makers. As a result, the survey received significant senior leader endorsement, a major driving force behind the outstanding response rate to our survey compared to the earlier iteration of surveys.


“The pre and post survey workshops were a really key part of the journey, it was great to show the SLT that there were other people as passionate about employee experience as me! Gaining senior buy-in was essential to our success.”

Felicity Morath, Head of Learning and People Development, St Mary’s University

The survey results

A Turning Point

Drum roll please… We boosted their previous average response rate by more than 130% with the new surveys, going from a previous average of approx. 30% to a whopping 70%! Their Engagement score was a stellar 72/100, right on par with other Higher Education institutes.

They succeeded in areas like purpose (75%) and culture & values (63%), scoring above the average benchmarks for other universities. The survey also highlighted some areas for improvement, like leadership, rewards and creating a stronger community atmosphere.

From data to action

St Mary’s went all-in on their post-survey strategy, totally embracing a quick and responsive approach. For example, to address the concerns around the quality and quantity of employee benefits, St Mary’s launched an immediate review of their benefits and have already expanded their range of EAP providers to be more inclusive and flexible.

Furthermore, efforts are underway to enhance the sense of community on campus by promoting the existing diversity networks and their mission of fostering allyship. The SLT is committed to increasing their participation at in-person events to show their unwavering support for these initiatives.


The Start of Something Awesome

This is just the beginning of St Mary’s journey of enhancing the employee experience. Together, we’ll keep the momentum going with more frequent and shorter pulse surveys – measuring how their planned actions impact future engagement.

We extend our sincere appreciation to Felicity and the entire St Mary’s team – you have all been phenomenal! Additionally, we want to offer a special acknowledgement to our outstanding team members – Hannah, Anna and Jane from People Insight – their dedication and expertise have truly elevated this survey to a game-changer!

Join the Engagement Party

Ready to elevate your employee experience and create a workplace where everyone thrives? Reach out to us here to start your adventure!