I hope you all had a lovely festive break and I wish you a very happy and healthy 2018! I had a much needed break and really enjoyed some quality time at home. I am proud to say that I managed to perfect my ice cream panettoni surprise recipe and we even had some snow in Bristol! I finally managed to get rid of my flu but I know many people are still feeling very poorly, so it’s important to look after yourselves and manage your energy levels, particularly at this time of year.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, the year ahead promises to be a challenging time for all universities with the new Office for Students reforms, the Gender Pay Gap and the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation. It will be imperative for us at Exeter to look closely at our international student recruitment and improve the student and staff experience. With this in mind, the Employee Engagement Survey will be opening again later this year and it is never too early to make sure we are addressing any concerns that may arise.
I am now settling into my additional role of Director of Global Partnerships and am proud to be leading this team. I hope things will really take off this year with the key international delegations we have planned in the USA, Asia and India.
Have you all made your New Year’s resolutions? I think mine would have to be – don’t sweat the small stuff, don’t run down the corridor and try to be less grumpy on Mondays!
I hope you are all settling into the new term. It’s proving to be another very hectic month for me! I have just returned from a staff visit to China, where I spent the week meeting colleagues at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Tsinghua University, and attending an alumni reception in Shanghai. This was an exciting visit that will be key to the development of our global partnerships and growing our international student numbers.
I recently attended the Russell Group International Forum in Liverpool and the British Council conference in Cardiff, both of which focussed on the importance of having the right international strategy amid lots of reform from the Office for Students. With this in mind, the synergy between people issues is very high on the agenda, from all our work in recruitment to Global Partnerships to the Strategic Delivery Unit, who are leading on all the major change programmes.
In other news, we have just held our very own People Services ‘Halloween Bake Off’! Members of the team baked an impressive range of Halloween themed cakes for our team bake off before the winning cake was chosen. Congratulations again to Lizzy Sones for her amazing eyeball creation!
I was also very proud of the team’s efforts for this year’s Remembrance Day. Lynn Squire and her daughter brought in some handmade felt and crochet poppies, and managed to raise £108 for the Royal British Legion. Well done to Lynn and thank you to everyone for your support.
I hope you all had a fantastic summer break and have come back refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of the new term. I can’t believe Autumn term is already underway, and once again we are busy welcoming new and returning students to our beautiful campuses. Freshers’ Week was a huge success this year, with over 900 Guild events and 600 FXU events throughout the week to help students settle in to all aspects of University life here at Exeter. Huge thanks to all our volunteers who gave their valuable time to support our new students.
It has been an incredibly busy start for me, not helped by a horrible dose of the flu! As many of you are aware, I have now taken on Global Partnerships in addition to my existing portfolio, and I am really excited about working with the new team to take this forward. I have just returned from VCEG Residential, where we spent a couple of days looking at key priorities for the University ahead of the new academic year, as well as all things ‘Growing Global’. We are in the process of writing a new Global Strategy to put Exeter firmly in the Global Top 100, and working hard to make sure that international activity is at the heart of what we do.
Looking ahead, it’s going to be a hectic few weeks! I am proud to have hosted our second Women of Influence event last week as part of the work I am doing to support senior women in Higher Education, I’m attending the HR Summit in Lisbon which promises to be a fantastic event, and I have just Chaired our Russell Group meeting at Bristol University where there was much talk about our Gender Pay Gap reporting and the work of the Remuneration Committee. We are also making good progress with our new Apprenticeships scheme and the ePDR pilot which is currently underway. ePDR is going to really support a whole new culture change in the way we give and record feedback.
As always, I’d like to thank the whole team for their continued support and hard work, and wish you a great start to the new term. Please do email me or stop for a kitchen chat – I love to hear what you are all up to!
I’d like to reintroduce my blog to you. I admit I have taken a little time out from the Blog in order to refocus it and I am now going to try to give you regular updates in this format. Following on from the Employee Engagement Survey feedback regarding greater clarity of what SMT are focusing on, I believe my blog should help keep you all up to date with goings on in my office and my key priorities and what’s keeping me awake at night!
As the Universities Governing body the Council need to remain well informed an all goings in on in the institution. Recently I presented details of the Performance Landscape, highlighting for them how Exeter Academic and the soon to arrive ePDR system will give a better understanding of the performance of our academics and Professional Service colleagues and where opportunities to develop and expand arise. Feedback from colleges was excellent with Andrew Thorpe of HUMS expanding on the benefits he has seen since Exeter Academic has launched. As the VC highlighted during his recent talks, the arrival of TEF and our Gold ranking mean we need to continue to maintain the highest standards and close monitoring of our performance across all areas of the university. This will be essential as the next phase of TEF will be introduced at discipline level.
Following on from Council the VCEG had a visit from Dr Tim Bradshaw, Acting Director of the Russell Group, he came to discuss policy issues and to see interesting developments in teaching, research, access, capital projects etc, we had a very interesting and informative hour and I shall be interested to see our discussion points take shape over his tenure in the role. The political and economic landscape is rapidly changing around Higher Education. We need to remain agile and innovative.
From cerebral conversations on the future of Universities to the joys of Graduations and the futures of our students. What a lovely vibrant atmosphere they create on Campus, it’s a great little reminder of why we’re all here working so hard for all those happy families and graduates. I took part in the ceremonies in July at both Exeter and Truro. Once again the Great Hall, Forum and Truro Cathedral looked amazing and everything ran smoothly, so a huge well done to those who graduated and those who made it happen for the Class of 2017.
So I’m off for a short break to recharge my batteries. When I return I will be chairing the first Group meeting for the Strategic Delivery Unit (SDU), which is replacing Transformation. This new group will run the top level programme of all the major change initiatives across the university. This will help us align both strategic priorities and resources against various programmes. HR SMT are getting together in August to come up with our own ‘work plan’ for the next academic year and how we match our resources to priorities.
As I sit here in the first bit of sunshine for days I just want to say a big thank you to you all for all your support and hard work, I hope everyone manages to get some much needed leave at some point before the next term begins.
As we are now fully embedded in the Autumn term and Christmas is not feeling that long away, I just wanted to provide another short update on what’s been happening over the last month and what’s coming up.
We received a fabulous number of nominations for the Professional Services Recognition Awards and as a member of the Super Panel I was proud to read about so many of your accomplishments. It’s truly humbling to read how individuals and teams are consistently striving to provide the best service to our customers, be it staff or students and I look forward to celebrating with many of you at the gala dinner later this month.
Now we have announced Mike Shore-Nye as our new Registrar, I am busy getting ready for his arrival. He is moving down with his family from Cheshire so they are busy looking at schools and houses. I am looking forward to not having to run two desks at the same time! But I have really enjoyed my stint in the COO chair and have learnt lots more about our work here and campus life. I have spent a lot of time in this last month looking at how we best utilise our space at Streatham Campus and have we got the right retail and food outlets. We may be having a new and exciting option in the New Year but I don’t want to spoil the surprise…!
I did promise to keep you updated on the progress of the Transformation Programme and I hope the timeline on the website helps to show you the key activity happening within each of the projects and also what has been achieved so far http://www.exeter.ac.uk/staff/transformation/whatwearedoing/. As previously mentioned, I will focus on the Transformation Programme in my COO talks in December so please don’t be afraid to ask a question. These forums are to give you a voice and to let me know what’s worrying you.
Also tonight I’m off to an Alumni Event in the House of Lords, very exciting but given todays’ date should I be worried?!
The new Autumn term is upon us, the students are returning and the campuses are once again a hive of activity. I know for many of us, a tremendous amount of work takes place throughout the summer months in preparation for the students’ return. I came in on the Sunday of Welcome Weekend to meet some of our new Freshers and the many staff, who came in from 0830-1800 on both days, to support Welcome Weekend. They were doing a great job from dealing with international students’ paperwork to administering new student ID cards. There were campus tours, walks around the city and a few tearful, anxious parents on the sidelines. This new student buzz is when the campus is at its’ best and I feel such a sense of pride working here.
You will have all by now received the call to nominate your colleagues for a Professional Service Recognition Award – please can I encourage you to take this opportunity to acknowledge colleagues who you really feel deserve to be rewarded. It’s great to see there are already comments on the PSRA social wall – and those of you who tweet, don’t forget the PSRA hashtag #UoEPSRA.
Another cause for celebration is the Diamond Jubilee. Our Staff Celebration for this will take place on Tuesday 29 September. It’s quite remarkable to reflect on how the University has grown over the last 60 years and we should all take pride in the part we play towards its’ achievements.
As many of us return after a summer break, we still have a lot more to do to embed the Professional Services Transformation and I know some of you will still feel anxious. This term we are going to be concentrating on embedding people into their Professional homes, agreeing our services and deliverables with our College and other Service customers and developing more training and development to allow people to develop, upskill and progress. We will keep you posted through the Transformation website so please do check it out. I also will be hosting COO talks during the week commencing 7th December at all four campuses so please make every effort to attend and ask questions! Look out for the details at http://www.exeter.ac.uk/staff/news/talks/
On holiday, I’ve been reading this article about psychological responsibility by Professor Derek Mowbray – he has some great tips like ‘put an end to each day and enjoy your evening’, ‘keep a journal and record the good moments’ and ‘practice your calming breathing’. So if you see me taking a moment, it is not that I have just run up the hill from the Business School, no, I am practicing calm breathing! Whilst I do my dual role for the next few months, I suspect life will be a bit of a whirlwind so I am hoping these tips will help.
Last week our Exeter campuses were filled with happy graduates and their families as they celebrated their graduation. This was my first time taking part in the procession and it was a great experience to walk into the Great Hall and see all of our graduates and their proud parents as we passed by.
The Forum looked amazing with the balloons, decorations and the 15,000 cupcakes that were served throughout the week. Well done to all the teams that worked so hard to make it a special event for our Class of 2015!
On Saturday I spent the evening celebrating with our graduates at the Grad Ball. Everyone looked amazing and the Piazza had been transformed into a fun fair, which even had a Ferris wheel. Here’s a photo of me with Professor Tim Quine on the Ferris wheel – who knew how good the HR office windows looked from this angle!
Over the next week we will say goodbye to our colleagues and friends who are leaving the University under VSS. For many of us it is a time of sadness as we say goodbye to people we may have worked with for a long time. I’d just like to thank everyone who will be leaving the University for their contribution during their time here and to wish them the best of luck for the future.
Geoff Pringle, our COO, will also be retiring at the end of this month and I have been asked to take on the role of Interim COO whilst we appoint our next Registrar. I don’t need to tell anyone that Geoff’s will be some big boots to fill but I’ll try my best and I’m looking forward to working with everyone across the University.
The next few months will be a challenging but exciting time for Exeter. We have a new set of values and a new strategy which will set a clear path ahead for the University. I look forward to sharing more details with you in my upcoming blogposts.
Saying thank you makes all the difference
It was fantastic to see a video made by one of our international students to thank their housekeeper, Angela, for helping to make their time in Exeter extra special. We showed the video in the recent COO talk but if you haven’t seen it, I’ve included a link to it below as it really is worth a watch!
Watch the Thank you Angela video
We all know someone at the University who goes above and beyond the call of duty for their colleagues or for our students. Angela is a prime example of this and I think we could all do with being a little bit more ‘Angela’.
I’d love to hear about more ‘Angelas’ that you know of across the University so if you know of any please share their stories in the comments section below.
Life outside of the office
In my Christmas blogpost you may have seen that my daughter Charlotte was away travelling; she has now returned from her travels and I’m really excited to have her home!
I don’t know about you, but my life outside of the office seems to be all about weddings and hats at the moment. Wedding season is certainly upon us! First up (and most important) was the wedding of my ‘work daughter’ Sophie. To finish this month’s post here’s a photo of me with the beautiful bride at the wedding reception. Congratulations Sophie!
During the follow-up workshops to the Employee Engagement Survey last year, the subject of workload was widely discussed and in particular the impact of the volume of emails.
There’s no doubt email is a massive part of most of our working lives and individuals, teams and other organisations are trying to find the best way to get the most out of email without it impacting on workload and wellbeing.
I sponsor the Positive Working Environment programme and coming out of the survey, we were asked to consider defining a University-wide email policy. Our thoughts were that rather than imposing a policy that might not suit everyone, we should ask people for their own local guidelines or approaches to managing emails. So I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and ideas.
I have already heard of a couple of examples:
“I’ve trained myself not to use email as a first resort and instead I phone people or drop by in person if I can. It’s often quicker and is a nicer thing to do”
“In our team, the expectation is that when anyone is on holiday, you don’t send them emails”
Also I really do try hard to limit cc on emails and finally my most important rule NO SHOUTY CAPITALS!
Do you have any other local rules or guidelines on how to manage your email workload in your team? Please use this blog to comment and share.
January is always a time for reflecting on the year that has just past and looking forward to the year ahead. Often in the workplace (and in life) you can move from project to project without taking time to appreciate what has been achieved. January is an ideal time to look back on all the fantastic things we are working on; such amazing things are achieved at the University, it is important we don’t take them for granted.
Just within the HR Services team we have had many great achievements over the last 12 months: the first ever Staff Festival, the Time to Change pledge signing, International Women’s Day 2014 to name but a few.
2014 also brought us the highest level of response rate we’ve ever had from the Employee Engagement Survey and I’m really thankful to everyone who works at Exeter for helping us achieve that. The feedback was extremely helpful and this is something we will be working on over the coming months.
I hope everyone enjoyed their break over Christmas and had a Happy New Year. My Christmas was filled with family time as I went over to Hong Kong to visit my daughter who is away travelling. It was a fantastic city to visit and I would highly recommend it to anyone. But now back to work and my new personal goal – Boxing training with Tai up at the Sports Park.
The Hong Kong skyline