Ken Sloan held this term's Registrar's open meeting for staff on Thursday 27 March 2014. At the meeting, Ken discussed the Simplify, Collaborate, Deliver agenda which came out of the last Staff Network Day held in December. Groups of colleagues discussed potential opportunities and solutions to make things simpler, more efficient, and enhance what administrative and professional services can do at Warwick.
Ken highlighted the range of external and operational pressures – and indeed opportunities - we face and posed the question – are we ready to grasp them and make the most of them? The complexity of the organisation can make it difficult - we see challenges between administrative functions, we use energy in having to explain things to one another, rather than using internal space to collaborate, share and plan strategically and therefore deliver as effectively as we can.
To be future-proof, what can we do? It isn’t a lack of people, skills or commitment - it is doing what we need to do in more effective and efficient ways to improve, and keep improving our performance, and thereby free up vital capacity, energy and attention for the things that really matter.
We are enhancing the way we plan for successful delivery. Finances are an integral part rather than driver of the planning and prioritisation process. Through key performance indicators (KPIs) and the development of administrative dashboards, we will get to know more and more over time about our performance. We know what’s on the horizon and where extra attention or investment is needed. We know what should be stopped and what skills and capacity we need to direct to key areas. Better planning means we also don’t drift into things that actually don’t fit, and better performance measurement means more sharing of good practice, more learning from mistakes and more celebration of success.
Some of this can be done from the top (more on this in the ‘What Happens Now’ section below), but much of it is in the hands of Warwick staff: we all know what works and what doesn’t in our own departments and teams. We know what adds value and what we do by habit more than design. We need to collaborate through formal and informal networks and peer support so that colleagues can share skills, experiences and expertise.
Ken urged staff to have the confidence to make changes that make our working practices easier and more effective, highlighting this is about our culture, creativity and drive for success – and that it is everyone’s responsibility.
Staff brainstormed what they could do to simplify processes in their own teams and departments – what matters, what works, what needs to change and what can be stopped. Just a few examples, with proposed solutions, were as follows:
Who can help me? An admin. ‘experts directory’
The challenge: In an organisation with over 5,000 staff, it can be hard to know who to contact for advice or information. Job titles alone just don’t cut it when it comes to explaining who does what.
The solution: A skills-exchange or skills-share website. A searchable database of staff, self-populated by the individuals themselves, with details of role responsibilities, plus any other skills that could be called upon.
Next steps: A couple of people were identified who have already begun work on something along these lines. A meeting has been arranged to discuss how this could be developed. Appropriate ITS colleagues will be involved in conversation around utilising existing People Search and profile pages.
Reviewing annual reviews: making them less time-consuming
The challenge: The annual review process takes a significant amount of time for both employees and their line managers in terms of completing forms before and after the meetings.
The solution: The Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) in Warwick Medical School has been using a simplified process where reviewees only complete Part A before the meeting, and use completing Part B with their line manager as the basis for the discussions during the meeting itself.
Next steps: This example of a simplified approach could be rolled out as best practice across the University and incorporated immediately by departments into this year’s annual reviews. The CTU will share details with HR.
Student Survey overload?
The challenge: The Student Barometer, the International Student Barometer, the National Student Survey, the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey, the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey… do we really use the data they give us? Are we wasting the time of staff and students? Would we be better spending time and energy on follow-up and feedback?
The solution: Improve the student experience and increase engagement, while reducing duplication of effort and volume of campaign communications by combining the numerous student surveys into one single survey, in the way that universities like Oxford and Surrey have already done.
Next steps: Gather together a group of people responsible for organising the various existing surveys and work together to find a simpler solution. Speak to other institutions who’ve already done this and ask for their advice on benefits and potential pitfalls.
What happens now?
The examples above show how we can all make a difference and start to make changes straightaway. To support this, during the summer term, a new Simplify, Collaborate, Deliver website will launch, providing you with an opportunity to share and exchange skills and ideas, ask for help from your colleagues and celebrate successes in your team or department.
Opportunities to become involved in work and professional networks will also form part of the website – but you can find out now about some of the existing networks at Warwick. Visit http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/insite/staff_networking_groups to find out more about the networks that currently exist to help you share ideas, information and best practice.
A Simplify Programme Board will also be set up by Deputy Registrar, Jo Horsburgh, to identify and drive key efficiencies. More information will be shared on the Programme Board as work progresses.
You can also email internalcomms at warwick dot ac dot uk if you already run a network that you’d like to advertise on these pages.