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Feedback on the Pulse Survey 2018, PDR & Academic Promotion

In December 2018 an anonymized questionnaire, Follow-Up questionnaire on the Pulse Survey 2018, written by members of the SAT group was distributed to all CTE Staff to ascertain their knowledge and understanding of the DPR and AP process and departmental practice. In addition, staff were asked for their view of how PDR and AP practice could be improved. Following this, two focus groups were established in February and March 2019 to explore the responses from both the 2018 Pulse Staff Survey and the subsequent CTE follow-up questionnaire.

Six participants from both Professional Support Services (PSS) and teaching/academic teams attended the PDR focus group and 5 attended the AP focus group.

To note, the PDR focus group was arranged for a non-teaching day to ensure teaching and PSS staff were available to attend, however, Secondary team colleagues did not participate due to a learning visit to Oxford University on the same date.

I. Layout of the questionnaires

      The above follow up questionnaires were disseminated through the Qualtrics platform via email to the whole CTE service. The first set of questions was to determine whether any biased related issues could have contributed to any staff member being disadvantaged. The results of the questionnaires did not highlight any gender/ethnicity/sexual orientation/contract type/parental leaves specific issues, in the light of Athena Swan. However, it was highlighted that some staff members felt that age could sometimes be a barrier to opportunities. The Head of Operations has since then, addressed this in encouraging any staff members to apply for opportunities regardless of their age.

      The second set of questions was to determine any specific needs related to Personal Development Review and in a different questionnaire, the specific needs related to Academic promotions.

      Some of these questions included:

          1. Awareness of the processes
          2. Type of involvement in the processes
          3. Desire to form part of focus groups on the PDR and/or AP
          4. Suggestions for improvement

      II. Results of the PDR follow-up questionnaire and PDR focus group questions

        1. Results of the PDR follow-up questionnaire & questions for the Focus group

        The PDR follow-up questionnaire responses stated:

            • That the PDR process, guidelines and meeting purposes are unclear to both reviewers and reviewees.
            • That there are disparities in the PDR practice leading to inconsistencies and inequalities within and across teams.

        Recommendations for improvement were:

            • Mentors to support staff development either in or outside of the department
            • PDR meetings to be formally calendared by reviewers
            • Career opportunities to be communicated to staff members
            • Training for reviewers and reviewees to be organised by CTE
        1. Focus group questions & findings on the PDR

        Q1. Within the current framework and processes, what improvements could be made to ensure that there is a consistent and fair approach to PDR across the department?

        Q2. How reviewers and reviewees can be better supported in the process

        Q3. What are the key issues you face when trying to engage in professional development?

        PDR Focus group findings and conclusion


        The responses for the groups of the reviewers and reviewees have been collated to help shaping the action plan.

        It was noted that different reviewees and reviewers have different approach in their application of the Personal Development Review Process set up by the Learning and Development Team. The different approaches conduct to a feeling of disparity and inconsistency between the different teams. Although the framework and the guidelines are available online for the reviewers and the reviewees, there is a feeling of struggle on the application of the guidelines.

        The difficulty was coming from several factors:

        • The framework of PDRs seems to be better suited to the Professional Support Services (PSS) rather than the Academic team
        • There is a feeling of overwhelming with the completion of PDR because it requires a lot of reading.
        • The PDR process is disregarded because it is not leading to work gratification/recognition.
        • The Academic workload make it harder for the Academic team to benefits from the PDR objectives (such as going to conferences)
        • The PDR purpose is unclear and sometimes results in reviewing the job description, which does not aim to ‘lead to the identification of essential and viable development needs for the reviewee in the short, medium and longer term’.
        • It was noted that the investment of both reviewers and reviewees within the process would have an impact on the PDR meetings and objectives.
        • It was noted that the lack of consistency with the PDR following up of objectives would create a feeling of inequality.
        • It was noted that reviewees are confused about the purpose of the PDR (is it about career? To benefit the team? To benefit individuals’ needs and interests? All?)
        • The lack of effect of the PDR is disengaging for reviewers and reviewee.


        1. It would be recommended from the work of the Focus group that the Head of Operations or the Director approaches the Learning Development team to feedback the benefit of having two different types of PDR frameworks suitable for the different work models.
        2. It has been feedback to the Learning Development team that a face-to-face training would be useful to clarify the expectations of the PDR and how to conduct it and how to prepare for it. This recommendation would benefit from further communication from the Director or the Head of Operations.
        3. It would be recommended that reviewers mention to the reviewees that 3 or 4 main objectives would suffice in the completion of the PDR.
        4. It would be recommended that the PDR is formally scheduled into calendars and that one-to- one meetings are used to update on the advancement of PDR objectives.
        5. The WAMP course could be promoted to reviewers to support PDR approach.
        6. Promote during management meetings the opportunity for reviewees to shadow peers from the department and within the wider university to benefit both individuals and the department.
        7. Allowing a PDR rotating model. This means that a PDR reviewer could be different from one year to another.
        8. It could be suggested by the Director or the Head of Operations to the Learning Development Team that they create a half-day PDR annual review to allow more time to the preparation for this. The preparation could be collective with the help of different team members to feed the meeting and help fitting the PDR review to the strategic plan of the CTE.
        9. It could be envisaged to monitor PDR development activities to encourage both reviewees and reviewers to engage within the process. It could be a work logged like a training course (e.g: health and safety).
        10. It would be beneficial to plan a PDR reviewer meeting to agree on the face-to-face approach.
        11. It would be valuable to allow time to step back and reflect on the PDR objectives during the staff forum.
        12. Staff forum could be used to discuss guidance and help with transparency around PDR practice and objectives.
        13. A lead reviewer/best practice person could assist reviewers and sample and moderate PDR meetings.
        14. Mentoring and coaching could be promoted to staff members to give better insights of the actions/objectives of the PDR to put in place.
        15. It could be recommended to reviewers to prepare the PDR ahead with identified strengths/identified areas to work on from the reviewee that could support the PDR meeting and help to shape the actions when the reviewee feels disengaged.
        16. It could be suggested to the LDC team that a work gratification come with successful completion of PDR.
        17. Staff forum could be used to share success stories and demonstrate the positive impact of PDRs.


        III. Results of the AP follow-up questionnaire and AP focus group questions

        1. Results of the AP follow-up questionnaire & questions for the Focus group

        The AP follow-up questionnaire responses stated:

          • That the AP process, guidelines and meeting purposes are unclear.
          • That there are disparities in the AP practice leading to inconsistencies and inequalities within and outside the department.

        Recommendations for improvement were:

          • Update on the Academic Induction Staff Handbook
          • Successful model of Academic Promotion for the CTE

        2. Focus group questions

          Q1. Within the current framework and processes, what improvements could be made to ensure that there is a consistent and fair approach to AP across the department?

          Q2. How reviewers and reviewees can be better supported in the process

          Q3. What are the key issues you face when trying to engage in Academic Promotion?

          AP Focus group findings and conclusion


          The Academic Promotion process has been reviewed in January 2018 by the Senate, this can be consulted on the Human Resources website:

          It has been highlighted by different feedbacks that the approach of Higher management on the practice of Academic Promotion guidelines is critical in making a difference on how several Academic Staff Members would experience it (e.g. felt supported and treated equally and fairly with dignity.


          The following points were raised:

          1. There is a lack of consistency, which potential means a lack of equity
          2. There is confusion around the process and its purpose
          3. The resulting confusion is a barrier to people engaging in the process
          4. There was a need for training and information dissemination to ensure everyone understands the process and it is as equitable as possible
          5. Professional development is also an area where there is confusion, in terms of what is available, what is appropriate and what “counts”



          Following the focus group, the below points could be considered to improve the experience of Academic Promotion reviewees:

          1. Creation of an updated induction handbook for new staff promoting the benefit of Academic promotion and simplified guidelines based on what the University provides but with clear and simple bullet points, enough to encourage people to apply but not overload them. Making clear that this process is not a straight away process to avoid:
          2. Overwhelming feeling
          3. Lack of meaning – when new starters arrive they would need to build first relationships and strong bonds with their peers before engaging into an Academic Process, therefore there should be a time to allow discovering before engaging into this process of at least 6 months.
          4. Explaining the different schemes of Warwick University Merit Pay, PDR, Academic promotion, 360-degree feedback in a comparative board during a staff forum and share success stories.
          5. Mentoring session with peers who have gone successfully through Academic Promotion to support new Colleagues.
          6. Inviting to Staff forum, members of LDC team to talk about different techniques to approach APP – Director of the Centre/Head of Operations to suggest new training sessions about Academic Promotion prior to the start of the cycle for applications.
          7. Creation of flowchart by CTE managers on APP, supported by LDC team?
          8. Addressing the question of collegiality -during a staff forum?- as a criterion to staff members (to clarify the issues around it) and then address it to
          9. Understanding resilience and its link with Academic Promotion.
          10. Celebrating successes by encouraging staff members to pick a colleague’s work and share it with the department and say why they think it is a valuable piece of work.
          11. Initial year of Academic Promotion to be supported by the Director of the Centre to feel engaged and to feel worthwhile of the process.
          12. Clarifying position and role of Director of the Centre within the Academic Promotion process.
          13. Disparities within workload models seem to create a frustration within Academic Promotion process, it could be great to have more openness in the workload model.
          14. What is a holistic approach managerial and why it matters to both Managers and Academic Promotion candidates = to engage and support staff, to understand the complexity and diversity of their workload model and actively listen and understand them before trying to engage into an Academic Promotion process.
          15. There seem to be a lack of motivation due to a lack of positive vision => why would Academic staff members engage more and more effort when they don’t really see the vision and benefits of Academic Promotion apart from more work and glorifying higher management. Providing:

          α. purpose

          β. A timeline with a plan would contribute to a clear vision and therefore a boost in motivation to undertake this long process.

          1. Clarifying the role of time cards and see if revise legitimacy of their existence?
          2. CTE Academic Staff members felt leftovers compared to other University’s departments due to the nature of the professional department (e.g. commitments in schools). CTE could host events with other departments of University related such as the Warwick Medical School which shares with CTE the professional side that other departments of the University might not necessarily have.