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Staff Survey update

Posted on 24 July 2023

One year on, progress continues on the outcomes from the Staff Survey. 


In spring 2022 we ran an Employee Engagement and Experience survey to ask What's important to you?

When the results came in, the biggest challenges you mentioned were: 

  • Workload, with increasing teaching load and administrative tasks leaving less time for research and creative thinking, and impacting on wellbeing and mental health. You wanted more support for mental health.
  • Uncertainty around the implementation of change programmes was affecting morale.
  • Lack of clarity about decision-making processes - how, why and by whom decisions are made - and lack of visibility of members of the executive team, apart from the Vice-Chancellor.
  • We needed to get better at prioritising employees and their career progression. 

There were also positives to celebrate. The survey showed that teams feel supported by their line managers, at work and in personal lives. Flexible working has a positive impact on your work-life balance. You also valued the sense of community that developed during the pandemic and the learning culture within departments. Departmental Senior Management Teams are open with staff about the challenges and there are clear lines of communication within departments.

Ongoing work 

To improve things, we focused on four workstreams. Working groups have been meeting since summer 2022 to make progress in the areas of executive leadership, change management, workloads, and how we can build on our supportive culture. There has been lots of work going on behind the scenes. You may have noticed some changes already, and more changes are coming. 

Executive leadership

This workstream is about improving visibility, trust and transparency of University decision making. It’s led by Vice-Chancellor, Charlie Jeffery

You may have already seen some of the changes. The University Executive Board has been meeting across campus and inviting departments to meetings. UEB has held its Think Tank meetings at nine different venues across campus, including Biology, Church Lane, the Library and Vanbrugh.

The web pages on governance and management are being completely reworked, and we’ve added new profiles for members of UEB, as well as video interviews, which you may have seen in the Staff Digest. 

Since these changes, views of the Meet the board pages of the website have increased by 51% compared to the same period last year. 

Change management

Chief Operating Officer, Joss Ivory, has been leading the work to improve the way we manage change. The new Strategic Planning and Change Office now provides a single point of oversight for change projects. We are taking a different approach to resourcing change, under the Director of Strategy and Change, taking into account your feedback on the pace of change, training and prioritisation. 

Manageable workloads

A Joint Working Group has been meeting since Summer 2022, led by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students, Tracy Lightfoot, with membership drawn from across the University - teaching, research and Professional Services, including trade union representatives. 

The group has been identifying ways to reduce workload including best practice examples from across departments, and has created a set of principles for the University.  

Building on our supportive culture

Our Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Partnerships and Engagement, Kiran Trehan, has been leading this workstream, which aims to learn from what you love about working at York, including motivating managers; our supportive environment; employee engagement; pride and advocacy.

Activities to celebrate positive results include the ‘Be the face of your story’ and the ‘Creating and making space’ campaigns.

Alongside these four University-level areas of work, there has also been work at faculty and department level to create and implement local action plans. 

Next steps

The work is now moving into a ‘business as usual’ phase. We recognise that there is still lots of work to be done, and we’re continuing to listen to staff and to make improvements to achieve our aspiration of being a great place to work.