Conference Pathways

9-11 May

Conference Pathways – helping you make the most of the UHR Conference 2023

We’ve set ourselves a task that we know is close to impossible. With so much to choose from at the UHR Conference 2023, ‘Working Well’, and knowing every delegate is busy (and different, and interested in different aspects of the total HR remit) can we provide guidance to help you prioritise and find the sessions that will really work for you at #UHR23? Well it’s a tough ask, but we’d like to try anyway, not least to encourage you to spend a coffee break taking a look at the full programme so that you can make your own choices.

Our Conference Pathways are no more than suggestions, and it’ll be much better to find your own way through. But each of the four pathways below do identify some really interesting sessions for delegates at different career stages, and perhaps they’ll get you thinking. We really look forward to spending time with you this year at conference.

We are immensely grateful to all of our contributors this year for their hard work in preparation for our conference, and also to those partners who make it possible, including headline partners for UHR23, Notion-STAR and NTT DATA Business Solutions.


Some essentials

Our first piece of advice, which applies to all delegates, is to look out for your personalised Hopin link, which is being sent on 2/3 May. It gets you and only you into the online conference platform. If you haven’t received it during this timescale (and for technical queries throughout conference) drop a note to

Our second piece of advice, and a perfectly valid way to get a great deal from the conference, is to focus on the plenary sessions. We have five great headline speakers, as detailed below, and on the busiest days, why not focus on them?

  • Plenary 1 (Tuesday 9 May, 10am) is with Thimon de Jong, who will be looking at what is ahead of us in an everchanging and seemingly chaotic world, and how we can think about and adapt to societal changes arriving at immense speed, in ‘Future human behaviour: navigating the polycrisis’
  • Plenary 2 (Tuesday 9 May, 2.30pm) will be given by Vivienne Stern MBE, Chief Executive of Universities UK. In ‘Working well: Reasons to be cheerful (or at least more optimistic)’, she will look at the challenges facing the sector, our routes to influence with government, the wider operating environment and more
  • In plenary 3 (Wednesday 10 May, 9.30am), Rene Carayol OBE looks at the theme ‘Inclusive leadership: everybody in and nobody out’, and helps us think about the kinds of business success that flow from a working environment in which everyone is valued for the differences they bring
  • Plenary 4 (Wednesday 10 May, 3.30pm) is with Professor Veronica Hope Hailey, Dean of the University of Bristol Business School, who is a familiar figure to many UHR members. Her specialism is trust in a working context, and in her session ‘Rebuilding and reframing trust’ she’ll look out how to regain trust in our current economic and psychological climate
  • Our final plenary 5 (Thursday 11 May, 3.30pm) is led by Megan Reitz, and themed ‘Speak up and listen up’. Who speaks, who is listened to, ignored, or heard, in your organisation? At a team and organisational level, what gets said and who gets heard direct ethics and compliance, innovation, inclusion and talent retention.


Pathway 1 – are you new to HR, to the sector, or to the UHR Conference?

As well as plenaries which are our headline speaker sessions, a UHR Conference programme is split into workshop sessions where the speakers may well be your peers at other universities, business sessions where one of the great providers to the sector may well take the lead, and legal sessions where we can get top quality and up-to-date advice on an aspect of the law as it relates to employment and the working environment from one of the UK’s best specialist legal firms. Our best advice might be to try a mix of session types, so you get the advantage of all of these kinds of knowledge and ideas. You’ll have choices in many of our time slots. For instance in Workshop Block A (Tuesday 9 May at 11.30am) you might choose to spend time with colleagues from Staffordshire University  (WA2: YOURCareer – putting staff in the driving seat), a session focused on the university’s new career development platform; or with Rob Curd and Tina Russell of the CIPD in their session WA6 – ‘Ethical practice in the people profession’. UHR’s own Emma Brookes leads session WA3 on ‘How to work well in the hybrid age’, in which she’ll look at the latest available evidence in the huge shift that has taken place in both practice and expectations. But take a look at what else is available – these are just three of six options in that slot. Don’t forget taking time at conference to meet other delegates, perhaps by joining the Networking Carousel over the lunch period each day; you’ll be paired up with other delegates for short conversations and it’s always great to hear other ideas and views, to meet others or catch up with someone you’ve not seen for a while. There are again six options in Wednesday’s workshop sessions at 11am, including WB3 which will be delivered by Daniel Lucy of the Institute for Employment Studies and will consider ‘Labour market trends: implications for a working well agenda’. As always, take a look at the programme and take your pick. At 12.15pm, Business Session BB3 is with colleagues from the Francis Crick institute and People Insight – they’ll be looking at the importance of employee voice in shaping outstanding working environments; while after lunch in Legal Session LB2, Weightmans LLP will ask us to think about managing workplace relationships. The UHR Awards (Wednesday 4.30pm) will be a highlight for many. And of course remember to add some plenaries into your personal programme – by close of play on Wednesday, four of our headline speakers will already have delivered their sessions. Thursday morning belongs to the Special Interest Group discussions. Choose from six topics at 9.30am in sessions that’ll help you find colleagues across the country that are interested in the same thing as you. Workshop Block C starts at 11am and includes sessions WC1 with colleagues from the University of Stirling on their Agile Working Framework; and session WC3 on motivation with ‘productivity ninja’ Hayley Watts. Thursday’s Business Sessions at 12.15pm include BC2, on student and employee experience in a digital world (with Leatham Green of Oracle), while in Legal Session LC3 at 2pm you could join colleagues from Sheffield Hallam University and Browne Jacobson LLP to think about the recruitment and retention challenges so many of us face. Our final plenary is at 3.30, ahead of conference close. As a newcomer to the conference the suggestion is to spend time with the programme – only you can really work out the options that will help you most.


Pathway 2 – are you a specialist in one aspect of HR in Higher Education?

If your role asks you to focus on one of the HR specialisms within your university, remember to schedule in some of the plenary sessions where our top speakers will be helping you understand some of the current headlines, before dipping into those specialist sessions. On Tuesday 9 May you could try the 11.30am Workshop Block A which includes session WA1 on the recruitment and retention challenges we share with universities in the US – a session which will be delivered by delegates from our partners CUPA-HR, which represents US university HR teams; or try session WA4, ‘Using inclusive approaches to flexible working to build a healthy workforce’. Business Session BA1 at 12.45pm on Tuesday is with Nick Gibson of NTT DATA Business Solutions, and he’ll be asking ‘What can your institution do to work better?’ You have three choices in that slot, including BA3, with the team from Simitive, who’ll be ‘getting to an effective and sustainable academic workforce.’ The late-afternoon legal sessions (4pm) again give you three choices – how about ‘Working better: affecting positive change to workforce terms and structure’ with Mills & Reeve? Wednesday includes the UHR Awards at 4.30pm, and there is always something to learn from successful approaches elsewhere. Earlier in the day you’ll see a block of workshops at 11am, including a choice of six amongst which is session WB2 on menopause support leading with the experience of Sheffield University; and WB5 which will examine employee experience and EDI with the help of the team from the University of the Arts, London. That’ll leave you raring to go for Business Session Block B, which includes session BB1, ‘5 ways to engage academic colleagues in leadership and management development’ delivered by conference headline supporters Notion-STAR. Don’t miss out on networking options throughout conference, including the Networking Carousel at 1pm. Of course there are plenary options to thread into the timeline too, including this afternoon’s session from Professor Veronica Hope Hailey on the theme of trust in business leadership. Thursday kicks off with special interest group discussions from 9.30am and again with six to choose from there will be a theme that works for you. Through to the end of conference again the task is to check in advance what works for you. At 11am, workshop sessions include WC6 on financial wellbeing with the help of the team from the University of Lincoln. At 12.15pm one option would be to catch up on ‘Strategies for improving your university’s Athena Swan and REC submissions’; while at 2pm, Bevan Britton take us through the theme of disability discrimination, as one of three legal session choices. Finish off UHR23 with the final plenary session of conference, from Megan Reitz.


Pathway 3 – our suggestions for deputy directors and heads of departments

This may well not be your first UHR Conference, in which case you’ll know the ropes and be facing super-busy days during conference week. How can we help you join in and make the most of the choices available to you? Plenary 1 with Thimon de Jong (Tuesday 9 May at 10am) is about lifting your head up from the detail of the day job and finding focus on ‘the polycrisis’ in a world where new ideas and technologies come at us with alarming speed. Throughout conference some sessions will speak to your remit, interests or specialism – perhaps on Tuesday morning that could include, at 11.30am, workshop session WA5 on process mapping in OD, delivered by the team from the University of Hertfordshire; or on Tuesday afternoon at 4pm, legal session LA3 with Shakespeare Martineau, on performance management. There’s no substitute before conference for 20 minutes of planning time over a cuppa – there are choices to be made on all three days of conference. Wednesday’s choices include workshops at 11am. Session WB1 on fair workload with colleagues from Durham University could work for you; or UHR’s own Sophie Crouchman will be leading session WB4 on inclusive recruitment. Business session BB2 (Wednesday, 12.15pm) looks at pay and grading with the help of ECC). Legal session LB1 at 2pm gives Pinsent Masons a chance to help us think about neurodiversity. The UHR Awards is at 4.30pm on Wednesday and gives us all a chance to celebrate and learn from this year’s best projects and teams. Don’t forget to mix in some networking time to help you reconnect with distant contacts. The Networking Carousel is open on all three days of conference during the lunchtime break. On Thursday 11 May, special interest groups give you six choices of theme at 9.30am, and sessions WC4 (on barriers to development and progression, with colleagues from Salford University) at 11am, and BC1 (on international remote working, delivered by Vialto) at 12.15pm, are among many options on the final conference day. But the choices are yours!


Pathway 4 – for HR Directors and Chief People Officers

Focus on the plenaries (above), and add in as much as you can elsewhere. We can suggest some great session choices, but ultimately, time invested in checking the programme in advance is time well-spent. That includes getting the right people in your team into the sessions where most benefit can be gained for the department. No point in everyone seeing the same thing, though of course catch-up options will be available later, once you’ve discussed and recommended highlights to each other! On Tuesday 9 May, how about session BA2 at 12.45pm with Gatenby Sanderson on the current state of the candidate market; and LA2 at 4pm, with Eversheds Sutherland on forthcoming changes to the regulations dealing with sexual harassment? If you haven’t yet received a separate UCEA briefing on the matter, on Wednesday 10 May session WB6 at 11am looks at ‘The need for a Newer JNCHES’, while at 2pm the team from VWV looks at occupational health. The UHR Awards winners are announced at 4.30pm, and if you haven’t entered this year, why not see what tips you can pick up for a successful run in 2024? On Thursday 11 May there are again many choices to be made. Six themed special interest groups run at 9.30am. Your other Thursday choices might include workshop WC5 at 11am (‘Stop trying to fix the people, fix the system’), and LC2 at 2pm (Farrer and Co on ‘The importance of authenticity and honesty in managing teams’).

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