Employee voice – speak to the wind or make a difference?

I had the privilege of providing a case study about the University of Kent’s Change Academy at the Universities Human Resources conference last month. The topic of the session was the power of employee voice and it discussed similar themes to those shared at an earlier plenary session featuring Nita Clarke of the Engage for Success movement who spoke about the power of staff engagement.

A few gems stuck in my mind from Anita’s talk:

“Engage for Success surveys have revealed that of the 30 million employees working in the UK, only one third feel fully engaged with their work with a resultant impact on productivity, innovation and organisational results. Of those surveyed, 64% feel they have more to give.”


By way of comparison, a parallel example was given: “What if we said our IT systems only worked one third of the time? Would that be seen as acceptable?” I won’t go into the details of why that particular example resonates for me personally at the moment but these results could be extrapolated across a whole range of other parallel scenarios. There is no question that fulfilling work is a key factor for human happiness as well as positive organisational results so why do we do so little in our organisations to get the best from everyone?

We live in an environment of complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty. There is no ‘normal’ any longer and we find ourselves struggling to keep up with the pace of change and the speed of technology. Many organisations are having to make tough decisions about how to deal with issues of staffing and workload and the fine skill of prioritisation is becoming ever more important. However, there will be no return to the easier days of yesteryear, if, in fact, that time ever really existed.

Effective prioritisation requires the ability to hold in our minds the vision and purpose of what is important to our organisation and what we want to achieve. We can then return to this vision when we need to make tough decisions on how we spend our time.

Given the challenges we face, we will only succeed if we work in partnership with staff across the whole organisation and listen to their voices. An average of thirty percent of engaged staff is simply not enough. We must articulate what we value within our organisation and have the courage to have honest conversations.

It is the responsibility of managers to get to know their staff as individuals, to coach them and help them to develop, to not allow bad behaviours and to show appreciation that is both authentic and specific. Similarly, all staff must take personal responsibility to know what drives and motivates them as individuals and to get to where they they need to in order to work in roles and organisations that they care about. This is where people will make a difference for themselves and for their organisations. This is where staff will find their true voice and this is where real engagement will occur.

By Cindy Vallance, Head of Organisational Development, University of Kent, Twitter @cdvallance


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

How serendipitous is OD?

At an earlier ODHE gathering we discussed what was meant by Organisational Development based on our understanding and practice and how that translated into individual experience. Examples of workforce planning and restructures were oft quoted, less so partnership approaches to holistic cultural change. Outputs were many and varied and no doubt all entirely relevant to specific universities and their cultures.

However, I’m still left with my musings at the time – how serendipitous is OD in practice?

odhe 1

Bettina P- giftsofserenity.com

How much does OD activity currently owe to a chance corridor meeting when a colleague shares a concern or issue?
Or a pre-committee informal chat with a couple of managers expressing their laments?
Or catch-up coffee chats when defences are down and off–the-record issues are shared?
Or an exploratory discussion with a manager wanting to tackle team behaviour, communication and/or culture issues?
How open are we to using these serendipitous accidents to use as a springboard for OD activity?
Or do we reflect on ‘normal’ activity and later claim it as OD activity?
And does any of this really matter as long as something happens??!!

And if it does matter, what makes it important to us as burgeoning or practised OD professionals?
odhe 2

Sally Wilson spent 18 years in L&D in HE before becoming a Fellow of the Staff Development Forum and an Independent Consultant to higher education on organisational, leadership & team development and coaching.

Corporate Social Responsibility and OD

We have just completed our Green Impact project at Westminster. Some of you may be aware of Green Impact. Some of you may be in a team at your own university. None of you will run it from your OD team, so why do we? I think Green Impact is the purest and most basic example of change behaviour you are likely to find. It asks people to start the process of change with simple actions; print double sided, turn off your pc, turn out the light (check someone isn’t in the room at the time or you get shouted at!) It is one strand of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme and I will be writing more about how our OD team is managing, measuring and promoting CSR over the next few months. In the meantime here are some of our Green Impact participants:

Social Media Wordle

Calling All Luddites!

In responding to the challenges which face anyone working with technology it is worth noting things haven’t always been as they are now. When reminiscing at the recent ODHE conference in Windermere on items of technology and working practices which have long since passed into history books, we discussed typing pools to write our letters. This made it unnatural to write to colleagues when picking up the phone was a far more attractive proposition. However, given the pace of modern life and the expectations for fast response time, the e mail has become indispensable. Our conclusion was that adjustments we have made will continue with the introduction of new ways of working such as social media, twitter and, yes, even blogging. Progress stops for no-one. The original description of a Luddite may not quite fit modern day dilemmas. Luddites were artisans who protested against the newly-developed labour-saving textile machinery; the stocking frames, spinning frames and power looms introduced during the Industrial Revolution (1811-1817,) which made it possible to replace the artisans with less-skilled, low-wage labourers, leaving them without work http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite. The modern day “Luddite” doesn’t have the luxury to resist the information revolution which has swept across the globe. The proliferation of communications technologies continues unabated. But it doesn’t stop us from questioning the relational effects of e-mailing someone at the next desk, cautious and sensible adoption is the key!

Marcus Hill, Senior Staff Development Adviser, University of Leeds

Charlotte Croffie, Organisation and Staff Development Consultant, UCL


Social Media and OD

Like/UnlikeWhat has challenged you?

Keeping interest levels in twitter as other initiatives take over. I liked the idea of auto-tweets, so I could write 20 in tweets advance and get the computer to do it for me. But the necessary download costs money and there is currently no budget for it. Social media generally – we have a new University policy on this, which is being embedded currently so I will need to understand/stick to these guidelines.

How have you developed?

Much more aware of twitter and blogs. Someone mentioned they ‘lurk’ on twitter. I feel that way – I am in the background as it isn’t a prominent facet of our marketing (although may become in the future?) I admire colleagues who make it a central facet of what they do. For me to tweet or follow another tweeter (is that the right term?!) then the information has to serve a purpose – educating, informing, debating, putting new perspectives etc.

What have you enjoyed?

I liked the conference. I like learning about new technologies which can be applied to learning and staff development.

What more do you feel you could learn?

The most useful things was following Bex on twitter and watching how she tweeted during the conference in Windermere. It is about the “art of the possible” – I can learn best from watching how people use social media for firm beneficial advantages to their institutions.

Marcus Hill, Senior Staff Development Adviser, University of Leeds

Charlotte Croffie, Organisation and Staff Development Consultant, UCL

Association of University Administrators – 2013 Conference Reflections

While I have been a member of the Association of University Administrators (AUA) for a couple of years, I attended and presented at their annual conference for the first time in March 2013.

Why the AUA? There are certainly many HE professional associations/networks to choose to get involved in. The ODHE group itself is one, of course. Add to that the many other specialist organisations that include ARC, ARMA, ASET, AUCC, AGCAS, AURIL, AHUA, AISA, AMOSSHE, AUCSO, AUDE, SDF, UHR, and the lists and acronyms go on…

Firstly, the AUA has a substantial membership base of nearly 5,000 in the UK and a significant international presence, including strong connections with similar organisations in other countries. Its annual conference is the largest professional services development conference in the UK HE calendar and typically brings together over 700 delegates.

Secondly, our local University of Kent branch is very active and was thrilled to receive three AUA awards in 2012 including one recognising Branch Good Practice. The enthusiasm of our local membership was instrumental in my decision to also contribute more actively. I also like the idea of being involved with an organisation that is so much at the forefront in encouraging professional services staff to work in partnership with academic staff and students to encourage positive change and innovation in the core business of our institutions.

Thirdly, the AUA is making very good use good use of social media. They had great mobile apps at their conference, they make good use of Twitter (@THE_AUA) and Twitter hash tags (#AUA13) at their events and they use LinkedIn groups (Association of University Administrators more than many other associations I have come across.

The topic I presented at the AUA13 conference with University of Kent colleague Chloé Gallien was: Collaboration as a Catalyst for Change (see materials for session 200). As I mentioned in that AUA conference presentation, social media is just one way we can find new ways to collaborate and build relationships in a more social era.  And as one of my favourite authors, Nilofer Merchant, states: “Relationships are to the social era, what efficiency was to the industrial era.”

The call is now live for AUA14 conference proposals on the topic of Revolution and Reinvention. Why not join in by getting involved?

Twitter – Two Ears to Listen, One Mouth to Speak

I so enjoyed Simon Inger’s blog about iPads, I thought it might be of some interest to share thinking about one way I use my own iPad.

twitter-bird-blue-on-whitestock-illustration-3365311-classic-car-1959-chevy-impalaI was quite skeptical about Twitter when I first decided to try it out but I saw that it was increasingly being used, particularly by students. When I was still in my 20’s I decided I never wanted to end up like an older friend. He simply refused to listen to any music later than 1960. He even drove a car from the 50’s – beautiful but certainly not the only choice around. I may not be on the leading edge of technology but choice for me continues to be important.

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” (Epictetus, Greek philosopher, AD 55-c.135 by way of Tim le Lean). This quote epitomises the value I find in Twitter. To me, Twitter is:

1. A newspaper – I can use it to catch headlines and current activities from news organisations like the Guardian, THE, etc. as well as “headlines” from people and organisations within and outside the University of Kent that I have chosen to “follow.” I can dig deeper by clicking on the links attached to the tweets.

2. A source of continuous professional development – Following organisations and thinkers that I respect (I call them my virtual mentors) who write about leadership, innovation, diversity, strategy, and change as well as other areas of interest provide me with a steady stream of current, often internationally acclaimed thinking, on topics I care about. I can take five minutes to scan a few practical presentation skills tips or read an inspirational article to kickstart my own motivation when I am having a difficult day.

3. An event tracker – Twitter is a terrific way to keep an eye open for upcoming events and to have another method at your fingertips to tell others about events you are involved in or that you want to draw attention to. When it comes to events, Twitter is just one of a host of methods to get the word out.

4. A way to share thinking and research with others – This can happen either by typing 140 characters as a single message or by directing the reader to a blog or a website. Connecting people and ideas is easy when I see some resonance or possible common interests or goals. It’s also not as intrusive as an email; the broadcast approach of Twitter means people choose to engage with a tweet or not. The receiver of tweets can control and manage their own information, sharing or responding as they choose.

5. A way to build a positive community – Twitter makes it easier to communicate appreciation for others – for individuals or for organisational initiatives. It’s possible to send an expression of praise not just to one person in an email but to everyone who has chosen to follow you and is, therefore, by default, a part of your digital community. Of course, the reverse also holds true; criticism and negativity is just as easy to spread on Twitter. I consciously choose to use Twitter as a positive force. If I have an issue to deal with or a problem with a person or something that has happened, Twitter will not be my communication method. I only have control over my own tweets but I can choose to try and exemplify what I appreciate in others – particularly a sense of collaboration and a focus on continuous learning.

6. A way to be yourself – I do make conscious choices; I use Twitter and LinkedIn as my professional communication social media platforms. Facebook and Instagram are saved for my friends and family where I share a range of silly and serious topics, personno-foodal politics and family photos. But I also see something very positive in allowing who you are as a person shine through on Twitter – I have been known to post a picture from a great local festival or a Canadian winter driving scene; a link to a news story that has affected me deeply or a mention that I am finally heading off on a long anticipated holiday. However, I try not to share certain details – I’m not a chef and I know you don’t care what I made for lunch!

The best way to know if you will like Twitter is to try it. Read (listen) more than you tweet (talk) and there is much to be gained.

By Cindy Vallance, Head of Organisational Development, University of Kent
Twitter @cdvallance