UHR Awards 2020 Winners

Category: Organisational Development and Culture Change


WINNERS: Manchester Metropolitan University

The HR and OD team at Manchester Metropolitan was instrumental in shaping and taking forward a new vision for Professional Services at the University under the brand ‘One PS’ (One Professional Services). HR led in shaping the behaviours and shared identity for ‘One PS’ whilst delivering a university-wide structural change programme. Throughout this work HR sought to ‘walk the talk’; not only developing new ways of working for the University, but exemplifying these behaviours, connected with co-creation and collaboration in their own work and interactions. Utilising feedback from stakeholders and benchmarking in the Professional Services Quality Survey (PSQS), the HR&OD team improved customer experience and confidence in their service. Transformation work involved re-structuring and realigning HR&OD resources to support University priorities and customer focused service improvements. It also extended to collaborating with other services to implement and share best practice in the use of technology to manage and measure performance and introduce innovative ways of significantly streamlining processes through Robotics Process Automation. Further changes to complement this work included a new recruitment website, ATS, and recruitment collateral co-created with stakeholders. As well as short-term improvements, positive impact on customer service, reductions in volume of work and increased engagement from quality applicants, the University continues to reap longer-term benefits associated with this work. This includes a planned increase in its Professoriate, related improvements in performance against research measures and enhanced engagement across all Professional Services to work on strategic, collaborative projects. 

JOINT RUNNERS UP: University of Kent

In 2018/19 Kent undertook a suite of projects to respond to number of shared interests between the University and UCU, and which sought to resolve issues related to the employment of Hourly-Paid Lecturers (HPLs) and Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs); known as the Workforce Profiling Programme. Through the transfer of staff (where appropriate) to substantive academic contracts, or to newly-created teaching (professional practitioner) and teaching (academic cover) contracts (enabling schools to engage temporary lecturers and industry specialists more easily and appropriately), Kent reduced its reliance on HPLs by 66%. Contractual decision trees were created, enabling schools to more easily determine the most appropriate way to engage staff moving forward, and recruitment and authorisation processes were streamlined making ‘direct hires’ for fixed term roles easier. Where HPL contracts continue to be the most appropriate way to engage staff, clear guidance sets out where this is appropriate, and the multiplier rate payment method has been replaced with a new university-wide standardised payments menu; something both schools and UCU alike were keen to achieve. The programme also encompassed an existing project - Recognising Excellence in Academia. Initially focused on providing clearer career progression opportunities for teaching & scholarship staff, the project was brought into the programme of activity once it became clear it needed to expand to create a framework for all academic staff - which clearly lays out the expectations and opportunities at every career stage, regardless of contractual type; leading to the creation of Kent’s Academic Career Map (the ACM). 


JOINT RUNNERS UP: University of Wolverhampton

Employee Engagement within the University was at an all-time low.  It consisted of the sending out of two staff surveys per annum and providing minimal feedback on results. In 2018 change was abundant – amongst other things, the Augar review was announced in February and the Office for Students commenced activity in April. The University recognised that the following years would bring a significant amount of change, and that the current methods of employee engagement were not supporting staff to respond effectively or perform well in this environment. A more holistic model of engagement was adopted – the “4 E’s” (engaging, empowering, enabling and enhancing). This model was implemented to both raise engagement and drive cultural change. This entry charts the progress of the University in implementing this “4 E” model. It combines ‘moonshots’ (big ideas) with ‘marginal gains’ to provide not only the catalyst to spark cultural change and but also a plan to sustain momentum long term.  The plan aims at supporting employees to work effectively in an uncertain environment. The University is almost 2 years into this change.  A lot has been achieved and there is still more work to be done.  Change will not stop but the 4 E’s are now part of “how we do things around here”.  This “4E” model, combined with the iterative ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’ cycle, is creating the flexibility required.  Change is visible not only in the data which sits within the entry but also in the behavioural change that is tangible. 

Shortlisted Nominee: Cranfield University

The Cranfield Values Project: the ‘big conversation’, was an innovative project to help Cranfield articulate a set of shared values. From the outset, the project team’s key objective was to ensure that the University’s values captured the authentic voice of Cranfield colleagues and that they were developed by everyone, not decided upon by senior management. This has subsequently increased ownership, engagement and uptake of what we value. We believe this level of buy-in, engagement and recognition is rare in our sector. The sheer breadth and depth of engagement in a short space of time and on a minimal budget has had a far-reaching impact – from prospective candidates citing our values during interviews to values-based conversations during P&DRs. Our people have really embraced the values – one way we have brought them to life is through a series of striking posters showcasing our community, what the values mean to them and how they are lived day-to-day. We are focused on using the values to create a positive culture, and highlight Cranfield at its best, rather than using values as a compliance tool. This was brave in the context of the HE sector, and a daring approach for Cranfield. 


Shortlisted Nominee: Durham University

Job Families, Career Pathways and online Personal Development Workbooks for Professional Services Staff have provided greater staff engagement, enhanced employee experience and organisation culture change at Durham University. The Job Family framework supported structural change programmes in PSS being used to develop a consistent PSS support model and career structure in each academic department, with increased opportunities for staff to move across departments / Faculties. The framework has created HR efficiencies by streamlining recruitment processes as PSS roles now have generic profiles which has reduced time involved for recruiters as there is no longer a need to create a new job description for every vacancy. There are also efficiencies within HR as grades are based on generic HERA role profiles and no longer require a detailed role evaluation. The establishment of Job Families and development of Career Pathways is a well-structured approach to the career development of PSS which brings clarity and transparency to PSS roles by linking roles, skills and behaviours with careers. It has provided a way of addressing staff needs and allowing transparent access to information for staff so they are encouraged to be responsible for their own learning and to take ownership of their career development. It has also increased flexibility and broken down the “silo” mentality that existed in some departments, with staff learning from each other and working across departments and Faculties in “Communities of Practice”. 


Shortlisted Nominee: Edge Hill University

Our ‘Wellbeing for All’ programme is a whole University approach to improving mental health and resilience at Edge Hill with Student Services, HR, Edge Hill Sport, Student Experience, Student Union and a strong representation of academic colleagues working collaboratively to impact positively on key student and workforce performance indicators, such as student satisfaction, retention, employee attendance and productivity.  


Shortlisted Nominee: University of Glasgow

Team Science Research Careers 

Academia is rooted in a tradition of individual and small team research where the emphasis is on leadership and independence – but what about the increased use of complex teams where there are multiple strands of science interacting? The University of Glasgow has broadened its career pathways to promote team science and support flexible career options. New career pathways have been published and many staff have transferred and been promoted through these routes. This work has engaged with key current challenges recognised across the UK and international research community. Glasgow has shared its experience with many other universities, key funders and sector bodies to inform wider development of the concepts. Dissemination has included presentations at national conferences, engagement with key funders and collaborative visits. These efforts are part of a values-based University strategy which puts people at the heart of Glasgow’s world changing vision and culture. Team science culture has been further signalled through the University’s embedding of collegiality and open research values into its academic promotion criteria. Building on this work, Glasgow seeks to work with the sector to further champion and develop innovative research and scientific career pathways. Our wider efforts will support the team science ethos across our academic communities. 


Shortlisted Nominee: London South Bank University

The ‘Shape Our Future’ initiative saw LSBU Group’s 2020-25 strategy taken away from the strategists and given into the hands of staff. Through relatable multi-channel communications we gave people a platform to take part, continue the conversation, stay informed and hold to account. Our strategy sessions made our “every day amazing staff” the face and heart of the project, showcasing their talents, building authenticity and ultimately improving the project’s output. Shape Our Future gave staff genuine ownership to shape the direction of the Group by allowing them space and freedom to dream big, connect with each other and challenge the direction of travel. While these initial stages were important and innovative, Shape Our Future’s success relied on an open leadership keen to take the findings on board and visibly embed them into the Strategy. Shape Our Future’s legacy is a strategy that changed and grew from the outputs of hundreds of staff from across the Group, so that it truly became a Strategy by the Group and not just a strategy for the Group. 


Shortlisted Nominee: Sheffield Hallam University

This submission articulates the plan for driving organisation development and transformational change across Sheffield Hallam University. With the advent of a new Vice-Chancellor in 2016 and the subsequent new appointments made, an ambitious strategy was designed: "Transforming Lives". The implementation plan comprises 4 pillars and outlines the required achievements over the next few years. As part of the "Building a Great University" pillar and our priority to create an outstanding environment in which to study, research and work, we committed to developing the "Hallam Deal" (the people plan) which consists of 5 sections: Where you work; Working together; The job you do; How you get rewarded; The opportunity. The remit of the plan is extensive, however it is the underpinning of the change in approach to organisation development that is the focus.



Read about all the shortlisted nominees for the UHR Awards 2020 in other categories:

Business Effectiveness and Organisational Performance

Organisational Development and Culture Change

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Exceptional HR: our ‘Team of the Year’ category