Engaged employees are the key to delivering our 10-Year Plan. The 2016 Staff Engagement Survey provided insights into how our employees feel about working at the University, but the survey will only have an impact if action is taken to improve some of the issues raised. Sixty four Engagement Champions have been playing a pivotal role in making these improvements happen. These members of staff have been working alongside their colleagues to develop plans in their respective areas, focusing on two or three achievable goals.
Debra Morris, Projects Innovations and Development Manager for the Library, took on the role of champion as it was a natural fit with the communications and staff development responsibilities of her job role.
After receiving the 2016 staff survey results and assessing the feedback, Debra said: “The survey confirmed that Library staff feel trusted to organise their own work; that they are treated with respect and overall and they are comfortable with the work expected of them. However, we also learned that colleagues were keen to have more opportunities for development and wanted more feedback from their manager.”
Since the survey, the Library has tried to embed staff survey action-planning into the day-to-day operational activities of the department. “We have made the Staff Engagement Survey a regular agenda item at our Library Policy and Strategy Forum meetings. At the first meeting, all managers discussed their first thoughts on the results and ways in which we might respond, then they discussed these ideas with their teams. This cascading approach has enabled us to confirm the areas of prioritisation.”
The department has taken a number of actions to increase their focus on staff training and development, says Debra:
A new Library Staff Development Strategy was published in autumn 2016 and a new programme of training activities was organised for 2016/17. This month, we launched the Library Placement Scheme, allowing Library staff to work in other areas of the department. This initiative will support collaboration across our complex, multi-site library and allow staff to share good practice, as well as improve communications.
However, Debra would like to see more work done to improve internal training opportunities across the whole University. “We recognise that staff benefit from improved opportunities to develop within their own teams, but there is a significant benefit to be had from training with colleagues across the University.”
The Faculty of Medicine Engagement Champions Group meets monthly to share best practice and discuss delivery of action plans. The group is comprised of nine colleagues, from across the academic units and the Faculty Operating Service; Regina Teo (Clinical and Experimental Sciences); Caroline Childs, Penny Nestel and Sarah Kehoe (Human Development and Health); Beth Stuart (Primary Care and Population Sciences); Kathy Kendall (Medical Education); Lindsay Smith (Cancer Sciences); Ruth Pullen (NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre); Susan Greenwood (Faculty Operating Services).
Beth Stuart is one of the group’s members. Reflecting on the sentiments of the group, she explained:
We’re a group of individuals who share a commitment to making change happen and improving working conditions for colleagues in our faculty. Several group members are also on the Athena Swan Action Committee and saw that this role linked well with being an Engagement Champion.
The survey results for Medicine showed that staff are generally positive about working at the University. The group focused its action plan on the concerns that emerged, which included bullying (a red-flag issue across the University), the management of change and organisational structures, and improving communication.
The actions the group has taken since the survey include raising awareness of Harassment Contacts and the Employee Assistance Programme. The group encourages colleagues who experience or witness bullying to contact the relevant person. The group is also exploring training around behaviours at work. The champions are encouraging line managers to both ensure that they are conducting appraisals and using this as an opportunity to discuss the Career Pathways. The group is also working with HR partners to roll out a talk for all academic units on key issues such as Career Pathways, parental leave and flexible learning.
As a group, they decided that it was best to focus on those aspects that they each had direct control over as an academic unit. As a result, some champions have influenced more localised changes in their own areas, such as introducing coffee mornings and improving internal communications. In one academic unit, there has been some streamlining of the management structure and filling of vacancies to reduce additional workload for other colleagues.
For the future, as a group we’d like to see higher awareness of the role that engagement champions are playing across the University and of what we are trying to do. More visible commitment to taking action in response to the staff survey from all members of UEB would also be valuable, including more University-wide activities. Greater visibility of the wider leadership group would pave the way for us to influence change at a local level.
Jon Inegbedion, Interim Director of International Student Recruitment, was enthused by the response of his team to the staff survey. He said: “I was pleased that a good proportion of staff completed the survey, and I was glad to see that our staff engagement score is 85 per cent. The survey also affirmed what I already knew: that we are fortunate to have a highly motivated and committed team that takes pride in the work that they do.”
Like Debra from the Library, Jon also found the results revealed that improvement is needed to ensure staff are fully supported in their personal and career development.
“We decided to prioritise the relatively low scores we had in terms of the team receiving regular feedback on their performance, and perceived opportunities for personal growth. Although scores were similar to, or better than average, they had not improved since the last survey and we felt these were the areas where we could make a difference.”
To identify the areas needed for staff development, the team implemented a mid-year review of Personal Performance Development (PPDR) objectives to discuss career pathways. Jon says:
Now that appraisals have been completed, we have a better idea of the training required and we are planning skills workshops that are relevant to the team’s needs. We’ve also introduced virtual meetings for staff who are required to travel a lot, so they still have regular catch-ups with their managers.
Jon admits finding the time to follow through with action plans has been a challenge, but agrees the exercise has been beneficial for his team. “The emphasis on ensuring that key actions from the survey are agreed and delivered has been really positive, and I’m grateful for the support provided to help with this. There was a degree of scepticism among those who had completed the last staff survey, but the way the 2016 survey has been managed has helped to reverse that.”
The Engagement Champions have made a significant contribution to the success of both rolling out the Staff Engagement Survey and encouraging teams to put together action plans. But Andy Cast, Associate Director, Client Service, People and Strategy, emphasises that it is everyone’s responsibility to make the survey worthwhile. He says:
Staff engagement is owned by every single one of us and the employee voice is so important. Not only this, but when we empower people to make their own working lives better, they feel so much more engaged. We are a year away from our next survey and to maintain a culture of action we need every colleague to keep asking ‘What’s happening with Staff Engagement in our area?’
The Engagement Champions will report back to the University Executive Board in July 2017 with further progress and a document detailing the Action Plan for each area. Between now and May 2018 there will be major consultation with the Survey Champions and key stakeholders, including the Unions, to determine the questions and other plans to ensure the direction we take from the 2016 survey to the 2018 survey is consistent and appropriate.
The poll in this article is optional and anonymous. The polls are covered by Ethics 17326.