What’s Stonewall got to do with OD? Dosey Doe your OD partner!

By Meriel Box, Head of Staff Development, Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU)

In 2003, three gay staff (including me) had an ambition to establish an LGBT Equality Network to support our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff – to drive positive cultural change as part of our HR Rewarding and Developing Staff Strategy. Adopting the Stonewall mantra ‘People perform better when they can be themselves’ we wanted more colleagues to be themselves, to celebrate their diversity, reducing personal stress, challenge homophobic behaviour, and fulfil their potential; in essence to feel safe in a ‘gay friendly’ work environment and to be ‘out and proud’ role models for both current and potential LGBT students and staff. For LJMU, we wanted to be a destination of choice to study or work, where LGBT people would have an excellent student and staff experience.

This year we celebrated our network’s 10th Birthday, during LGBT History Month. From increasing understanding of sexual orientation equality amongst staff to improving our University’s external reputation, our network group is a vital instrument which supports our strategic business objectives. As Chair of the network I’m proud of our achievements attributed through the commitment, passion and ‘discretionary effort’ of many academic and professional services staff. Network members include straight staff, alumni as well as LGBT staff and students and external partners who we collaborate with on OD projects across sector organisations and the wider LGBT community.

Each and every member of our network is an equality and diversity champion contributing to our University’s OD profile, recognised by our Board of Governors, VC and Senior Management Team. This is endorsed by and strengthened through our partnership with Stonewall since 2006 when LJMU joined the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme. As a University we annually submit to the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index to evidence and benchmark our LGBT equality practice at an international level with a growing number of other public and private sector organisations. This year LJMU achieved 28th position in the Stonewall Top 100 Employers list, full marks in the ‘Gay By Degree’ HE sector benchmarking exercise for specific services supporting LGBT students and we were awarded Network Group of the Year in the North West.

Stonewall as a key partner has enabled us to realise OD potential, recognising and valuing the difference LGBT people bring to our organisation. I encourage you to dosey doe your OD partner!

stonewallphoto LJMU 

September 2013 LJMU hosts the North West launch of the Stonewall Workplace Guide: ‘Maintaining Network Group Momentum’

LJMU’s LGBT Equality Network webpage

Guidance on LGB workplace equality Stonewall

LinkedIn – Reflections of an Occasional User

By @cdvallance

I have previously written about my use of twitter and blogs.linkedin

The third social media tool that I use to a limited degree is LinkedIn. I know I don’t use LinkedIn as much as I could. I don’t regularly update my status to share information to the same degree that I use Twitter, for instance, where I’ve begun to develop valued acquaintances.

I primarily use LinkedIn as my professional digital Rolodex. It is particularly useful as a way to stay in touch with people external to my own University. When I moved to the UK from Canada five years ago, I left behind respected colleagues and professional associates. Linking in with them has enabled me to maintain contact from thousands of miles away. I have done the same since being here in the UK and still maintain contacts from my early days here.

Rather than relying on my email contact list which becomes out of date the moment someone moves organisations unless they specifically notify me, since they maintain their own profile I don’t need to update their information myself. Similarly, I didn’t need to tell my connections individually when I moved roles. We simply maintain contact with each other directly through LinkedIn.

I also use LinkedIn as a way to ensure that anyone who wants to know a little about me – positions I have held, organisations where I have worked, my education, etc. has this information easily to hand. I don’t include a complete and detailed CV but if someone wants to know something about my professional profile, it provides a way in. For instance, I have signed up to be a mentor at Kent as a way to actively demonstrate my support for this initiative led by our Learning and Development team and have also had the privilege to take part in the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE) new Aurora women’s leadership programme as a role model. Providing connections with my LinkedIn profile ensures that those who are interested can see something about my experience and background before deciding if a mentor/mentee relationship or further contact might be worth exploring further.

I use LinkedIn to learn about other professionals as well. For instance, I have looked at profiles of speakers who come to our University as well as learning about potential contractors and services suppliers. However, while I am a member of a number of LinkedIn groups (including the ODHE LinkedIn group), I have yet to engage with these very actively. With groups, I believe at least one person needs to take the lead in experimenting with and helping to moderate discussion topics and at least a small group need to commit to actively engaging in discussions. This could be a longer term goal. In the meantime, I will continue to check in on LinkedIn semi-regularly and see where the tool might lead over time.

Have you found an effective way to engage with LinkedIn – particularly through the use of discussion groups? If so, do share your insights with all of us so we can continue to learn together.

Cindy Vallance, Head of Organisational Development, University of Kent

MOOC Wordle

A MOOC experience

MOOC Wordle

Experiencing a MOOC
I recently joined 1200 other participants to experience ocTEL, a professional development course for HE staff who want to make better use of technology in their teaching and learning practice. ocTEL might be described as a mini-MOOC; Massively Open Online Courses generally see initial registration in the thousands if not hundreds of thousands.

The course: ocTEL was developed with funding support from the Innovation and Transformation Fund and by a widely distributed team led by the Association for Learning Technology – ALT. They only had one face-to-face meeting; design and development were primarily online collaborative activities. Over 11 weeks, ocTEL offered a range of learning activities (up to 55 hours per week) and channels for communication and interaction. The first ten days were for orientation, to allow us to get used to the various ways of engaging and to support formation of groups around specific learning topics. There were weekly webinars and lots of open educational resources forming online course materials. Tutors posed questions and facilitated course discussions.

Co-learning: I was amongst the hundreds who signed up straightaway for the ocTEL Jiscmail list, only to find my inbox instantly swamped by introductions and responses to the initial question, and then by a similar volume of messages asking to be unsubscribed. Within a couple of hours, a fellow participant had advised everyone to sign-up for daily or weekly digests rather than individual email traffic to the list; an example of the co-learning that is encouraged and expected in this kind of environment, where participants learn as much from each other as from formal inputs from tutors. Many people posted messages in the early days saying they couldn’t find resources, or had forgotten which of the multiple channels to use for what. The levels of supportive comment, constructive feedback and volunteered input through the course discussions were very high and enhanced a feeling of being part of a community.

Webinar woes: ocTEL hosted a weekly webinar, often featuring high-profile figures from the online learning world.  I travel a lot in my work, so thought I could usefully use travel time (trains, or in my hotel room) tuning in to the recordings, if not the live sessions, on my iPad. Unfortunately, the software used for the webinars (Collaborate) does not run on iPads, and I rarely travel with a laptop these days, so this option was ruled out. And my desktop PC at work has no sound card, speakers or microphone. I could have booked a space in our videoconferencing room, but somehow the motivation was never there once I’d felt the initial disappointment. And of course the day job got in the way too.

Communication soup: The course platform captured conversations from participants’ own blogs, ocTEL-hosted forums, a Google+ group set up by participants (not the hosts), tweets with the ocTEL hashtag and various other online spaces. This was the most engaging and interesting part of ocTEL for me: it was innovative in the way material was aggregated into a daily newsletter, and it really brought other participants’ views and learning experiences to life in this daily snapshot.

Summary: The writing of the course and the tutor support were provided by a network of distributed volunteers and there was certainly a feeling of community developing amongst participants. ‘Vicarious participation’ – observing others’ learning rather than engaging directly with the learning activities, as I did, is deemed a legitimate form of participation and is a useful one for MOOC novices. As the course is Open, all the resources are licensed for re-use and will continue to be available (until a future iteration replaces them).

The level of effort and motivation needed to engage appears to be high – and more Massive courses do see a massive drop-off in participation after initial registration. And the degree of commitment and coordination needed to develop a high quality course of this kind should not be underestimated. Many of our universities are developing MOOCs, independently or by contributing to, for example, FutureLearn or Coursera. Will they be a passing fad? Possibly, but there’s much to learn from the process of co-design and co-learning, and not only for technology-enhanced learning but other forms of collaborative, distributed professional development.

ocTEL is available at: http://octel.alt.ac.uk/

QAA and Employee Engagement

twitter_avatar2Bournemouth University (BU) recently had a review by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education and achieved a ‘commended’ judgement for the quality of student learning opportunities.  This is the first time the judgement of commended for this category, the highest award possible, has been received by any university.  The term ‘learning opportunities’ describes the different mechanisms and facilities that a university provides in order to enable a student to succeed. For this category, the QAA look at many areas of how an institution supports students, including the quality of teaching students receive, academic support, the resources available to students including the library and IT facilities, and the general support they receive.

The review identified a number of examples of good practice which led to the award. These included the many ways in which BU works to engage and involve all members of staff in its mission, values and strategic priorities, including those articulated in its Strategic Plan. The review also highlighted the way that the University engages students individually and collectively through the Students’ Union, in its development of academic strategy and policy.

Employee Engagement

‘Employee Engagement’ is a contested term (Kular et al, 2008) and lacks clear definition.  At BU we think of employee engagement in two ways; firstly for staff to have the ability, motivation and opportunity to fulfil their roles, which is similar to the research undertaken by Towers Perrin in the US (2003), and secondly for staff to have the opportunity to contribute to the life and development of the organisation.

How We Engaged Employees in the Development of our Strategic Plan

Phase One

In the Spring Term of 2011, before the long-awaited government white paper on Higher Education (HE), we organised a series of ‘Conversation Events’ for all staff and students where we asked them what they valued about the organisation that they would not want to change, regardless of what was set out in the white paper.  The idea was that once the white paper was published we would have a number of options, and we wanted the options to be grounded in what staff and students valued about BU.  The events were attended by hundreds of staff and the Students’ Union encouraged students to attend too and they made a valuable contribution to the debate.  We noticed at this stage that there was low participation from staff in lower grades who thought that they did not have anything to contribute and so we organised a specific session for them so that their voices could also be heard.

Phase Two

The data from the Conversation Events was analysed using a Grounded Theory methodology and, following the publication of the white paper, was used to form the basis of further discussions with the Students’ Union and University Board.  From this work came a series of proposals that we that we took back to hundreds of staff and students in the Summer Term 2011 and said to them ‘this is what you said, is this you meant?’ and ‘if this is what you want us to do then what values do we need to live by in order for this to happen’?  From these sessions we were able to refine the aspirations of staff and students into a plan that included a Vision that focused on the concept of ‘Fusion’ for staff and students; three Strategic Themes: Creating, Sharing and Inspiring; three Strategic Enablers: People, Environment and Finance; five values: Excellence, Achievement, Authenticity, Creativity and Responsibility.

Phase Three

In the Autumn Term 2011 we held a series of Strategy Focus Groups that focused on the Vision for BU2018, the Strategic Themes and the Strategic Enablers, taking one topic for each Focus Group.  At these sessions we shared the draft plans that supported the Vision that would make up our Strategic Plan.  Once again the event was attended by hundreds of staff and some students, including representatives from the Students’ Union.

Phase Four

During the rest of the academic year 2011/12 Schools and Professional Services worked to develop local Delivery Plans that would support the achievement of the Vision set out in BU2018 for the next six years and which would form the basis of their annual Delivery Plans for the next six years.  The Strategy was launched in September 2012, by which time many staff were already ‘living the Vision’ and aspiring to achieve it.

What Happened Next

We still have a lot of work to do in order to deliver on the ambitious aspirations set out in the Plan and we continue to run focused employee engagement sessions on how we are working to deliver on those aspirations.  For example, we have just completed a series of informal discussion groups with hundreds of academic staff on the ways in which we can embed ‘Fusion’ into the academic career framework; we ran focus groups with 100 staff across the organisation (at all levels) on the type of leaders we need to achieve BU2018 and how they need to be supported and developed and the outputs from these have formed the basis of our Leadership Strategy launched in 2013; we have held focused engagement sessions with staff affected organisational level projects, such as  the ‘Student Journey Project’; and we are just about to engage staff in dialogue on how they think we should define, identify and support talent within the organisation. 

It has been a busy time!  It is great that this form of employee engagement is being recognised externally, as well as being appreciated by staff internally.   Despite all this hard work it does not mean that everyone has engaged, or that everyone is engaged – but a few mavericks are healthy in an organisational context aren’t they? How do you define employee engagement in your institution and how are you facilitating it?

Colleen Harding



Kular, S., Gatenby, M., Rees, C., Soane, E. & Truss, K. (2008) Employee Engagement: A Literature Review, Kingston Business School Working Paper Series No. 19

http://eprints.kingston.ac.uk/4192/1/19wempen.pdf [Accessed 25/09/13]Towers Perrin (2003) Working Today: Understanding What Drives Employee Engagement,

http://www.towersperrin.com/tp/getwebcachedoc?webc=hrs/usa/2003/200309/talent_2003.pdf [Accessed 25/09/13]

Joining the dots – learning about OD

By Helen Jones

When I signed up to do the OD practitioners programme at Roffey Park, I knew that I ought to know all this stuff, having been in post for six years! However, the shift from learning and development to OD is a step change, although a very natural one. My mantra at UCLan is to make it ‘a great place to work’, which of course encompasses the development of individuals, teams and the whole organisation, but OD for me, joins all that together and to quote Simon Inger ‘it’s the spaces in between’ which count. No one activity is independent of another, there are always consequences and cultural/human influences which affect the work being undertaken, in that ‘not written down’ space, where things really happen. This is where OD can be most effective.

PhotoA couple of things to share about my learning at mid-point on the programme;

1. The concept of self-as instrument is fundamental to OD. A simple quote attributed to Jane Austen that one can never merely observe a conversation, by the fact that you are there with the people talking, you influence what is happening, made me think. Being aware of how I am seen in the organisation, how I interact with people, the impact I want to make by being present will affect the work I am able to carry out. I came across this concept when I joined the ODHE group six years ago, and continue to learn about it’s importance each day in my role.

2. The OD value base really resonated with me. If you consider the values set out by Bennis, Beckhard, Tannenbaum include ‘people are essentially good’, ‘collaboration rather than competition’, ‘feelings are legitimate’, ‘acceptance of individual differences’ and so on. These make complete sense to underpin my work, as well as my everyday life.  I wondered if I do this job because these are my values, or is it a happy coincidence? There is definitely a strong correlation which affirms my desire to work in this field.

I was familiar with lots of the principles, skills, theory, but lacking the behavioural science foundation which OD requires. This is the area of learning I now need to pursue, as the different models of human behaviour and ways of looking at the world are the filters through which we work, so probably the missing layer for me in terms of my understanding of OD.

That is my development sorted for the next ten years!

Helen Jones, Leadership and Development Manager, University of Central Lancashire

MMU’s Reasons to be cheerful 1,2,3


There are many reasons for us to be cheerful here at MMU, not least just being part of good practice in action.  As its ceremony season, in reverse order 3 reasons, and examples of OD in action that I believe link nicely and highlight this include:

Reason 3; Being at the number one spot in the People and Planet League table 2013. More cause for cheerfulness came in June 2013, with MMU hitting number 1 in the People and Planet League Table 2013 of 140 universities, after rising spectacularly from 91st when the annual tables were first produced in 2007.  The annual survey audits systems, performance and attitudes to green living, with MMU scoring 59.5 out of 70.

All university buildings are strictly monitored by an energy rating scheme, while the University’s new £75million Business School and Student Hub incorporates many new green technologies including rainwater recycling, borehole cooling and heating, and the new Birley Fields campus will be zero-rated in waste, water and heating.

Vice-Chancellor Professor John Brooks said, “Sustainability has been the main driver for the £350 million rationalisation of our campuses as we can and must meet the imperatives of the present without compromising the needs of the future”

At MMU, we firmly believe that a strong ethos of sustainability not only strengthens the University’s appeal to students but improves the experience in so many different ways.”

Reason 2; In July 2013 we celebrated ‘Topping Out’ which is roughly the half-way point in the £139m campus development project Birley Fields.  Completion of the Birley Fields project will be MMU’s final step in our 7 into 2 campuses plan and £350 million capital Investment project.  The site will house the Faculties of Education and Health, Psychology and Social Care, an Energy Centre, Car Park and 1,200 student rooms arranged in Eco-Townhouses.


Reason 1; MMU being recognised as an Investors in People (IiP) Champion.

In May 2012 MMU was recognised as having achieved Gold standard in an independent review against the new choices IiP Framework.  We are the largest of only five UK Universities to have achieved ‘Gold’ level recognition and the recognition benchmarks MMU in the top 1.5% of organisations in the country.

This was closely followed in September 2012 with our recognition as an IiP Champion.  Champion status relates directly to the IiP assessment.  Champions are selected from those organisations that achieve Gold recognition with 165 or more criteria met.  In terms of involvement, IiP Champions are a prestigious group of role model organisations, in order to be accepted as a Champion we submitted an action plan detailing the steps we would take that promote the IiP framework and its benefits through best practice activities.  By achieving Champion status, MMU is committed to sharing and also learning from its experience, encouraging good practice across the region, supporting continuous improvement and development of the IiP standard.

As an organisation, we have been grappling with negative perceptions amongst staff as we have a legacy of  it not having been regarded by all as a place to be cheerful. The Vice-Chancellor has in the past mused on whether this is the ‘Manchester effect’ – where because of the constant rain Mancunians tend to be more negative!

So reasons to be cheerful, yes, yes and yes.  Through these and a range of OD interventions spanning the University, here at MMU we are now realising positive change across the organisation.  IIP Gold and Champion status has been the catalyst for cultural change.  Significantly, we have seen improvements to the extent to which people identify with the University and their pride in working here.

Working with Investors in People and especially the wider framework, you are getting to the very heart of your organisation and gaining objective feedback. It is an invaluable opportunity to make a difference to your people, your customers and your stakeholders – providing a fantastic means of developing and embedding a culture of continuous improvement.

In fulfilling our commitment to being an IiP champion organisation, if you would like to discuss any of the good practice activities shared and particularly reap the benefits, as we have done, of assessment against the IiP standard, please contact me.

Deb SnellInvestors in People   Coordinator,  Organisation Development and Training Officer

Human Resources

Manchester Metropolitan   University

E:  d.snell@mmu.ac.uk

W: http://www.mmu.ac.uk/humanresources

Passport Renewal: An OD case study

Passport Renewal: An OD case study

One of the things we’ve been trying to do at the University of St Andrews is change the staff culture with regards to how people view CPD.

passport 1


Prior to 2011, although there were a range of courses and workshops offered freely to University staff, there were no structured development plans in place for different staff cohorts.  Data from the most recent staff survey suggested that managers lacked confidence and competence in tackling some aspects of their role.  There was also an indication that staff from different cohorts felt that the training on offer was often not fully relevant to their needs.  Human Resources had also reported that performance was not managed as well as it could be across the organisation.

The challenge was to develop an innovative range of development packages, designed to meet the learning needs and strategic goals of the organisation, and encourage staff to invest in their CPD.

The route-map

The desired outcome was to create a range of blended learning programmes, known as ‘Passports to Excellence’; Passport to Management Excellence, Passport to Administrative Excellence; Passport to Cleaning Excellence; Passport to Environment Excellence and (specifically for students) Passport to Professional Skills Excellence.

The aim of the passport programmes was to create a culture of learning throughout the organisation, and this was achieved through using the skills and expertise of staff and students to develop their colleagues. Workshops and courses are therefore delivered by University staff (academic and support) in addition to professional internal developers and external experts, with online resources also utilised. A Train the Trainers workshop was developed for to support those who were new to training colleagues. The diversity of the staff involved in the project was integral to creating an organisational sense of learning, which resulted in the successful outcomes now being observed.

The final destination

The passport programmes share a number of common objectives:

  • Enable staff to be confident and competent in their roles.
  • Enable staff to recognise they are part of wider groups across the organisation and encouraging them to work cross-functionally and build their own networks
  • Build on prior learning and knowledge.
  • Create a group of mentors and coaches to help develop less experienced staff in the future.
  • Construct a mechanism which can link to Q6 review and development scheme actions.
  • Equip participants with the skills they need in the modern workplace

There were also additional objectives specific to each passport programme, for example:

  • Passport to Management Excellence: To create a sense of a Management cohort within the Organisation.
  • Passport to Administrative Excellence: To share information about best practice across all School and Service Units, reducing ‘silo working.’
  • Passport to Cleaning Excellence: To achieve consistency of practice across the cleaning staff.
  • Passport to Environmental Excellence: To help achieve a carbon neutral University by 2016 through staff and student behaviour change.
  • Passport to Professional Skills Excellence: To increase the employability of students and add value to their student experience

The suitcase contents

Each passport comprises core and optional workshops, tailored to the development needs of each staff/student cohort. There are also opportunities built in to encourage independent learning and networking to increase cross-organisational information sharing and support. The learning is recorded in individual passports which forms a complete learning log for the participants.

This engages the staff involved in a learning journey symbolised through the metaphor of travel and collecting stamps in their passports (learning logs).  The metaphor is extended by sending postcards to participants with the latest news about their scheme.


The programmes have proven to be hugely successful in engaging 510 participants (plus waiting lists) within 18 months of the project launch. This includes a large number of participants who have long service in the organisation, yet who had never previously engaged voluntarily in any development activities.

  • Managers have reported behaviour change in themselves and their staff members.
  • Managers have reported increased feelings of competence and confidence in carrying out the roles, having participated in at least 12 core workshops, networking events and independent learning.
  • Students have reported increased confidence in applying for professional jobs and appreciate being able to enhance their CVs through participation.
  • Staff reporting that they have taken active steps to reduce energy consumption as a result of the Passport to Environmental Excellence.
  • Staff have reported success in applying for promoted posts which they partially attribute to participation in the Passport scheme.
  • The passport programmes have increased the learning and development ‘reach’ within the University. Many participants are engaging in voluntary training and development for the first time in their (often long) careers.
  • 54% increase in participation in learning and development events.
  • Increase in sharing of information across the Institution through the formation of linked networks.
  • A reduction on the reliance on external training consultants as more staff come forward to act as internal trainers.
  • A shift in the mind-set of staff members from seeing training and development as a sporadic activity, to one of continuous learning and development .
  • The passport programme has led to an increased sense of professionalism amongst staff in the University.

The success of this project has led to additional demands from staff groups for a Passport to Warden Excellence, Passport to Technical Excellence, and Passport to Catering Excellence which will be delivered in summer 2013.