April 1, 2014

Update from Down Under!

Dear all,

As you may know, I am currently in Australia for 10 days.  Last summer, the Registrar asked me and Tony Strike, Director of Strategy, to visit the University of Western Australia (UWA) in Perth to augment an ongoing relationship with that institution. I start my meetings at UWA on Monday so will report back later.

Whilst in Australia, I have taken the opportunity to visit the University of Melbourne, the most prestigious and successful HEI in Australia. As you may also know, our very own Rob Baker is currently the HR Manager for their School of Land and Environment.

I have now concluded my few days at Melbourne University. During which time I was invited to present at their HR Managers team meeting (similar to our HRX) and meet with their senior HR staff. I wish to report back some initial thoughts and actions.

1. The HR challenges facing a large research-led institution such Melbourne mirror many of our own issues. For example, global talent acquisition, enabling and supporting both high quality R and T, measuring performance, league table performance etc.

2. Melbourne have undertaken a range of very interesting initiatives and programmes to tackle some of these matters - many of which I think we could learn from. Specifically, I spent some time learning about their academic appraisal systems and particularly their interesting utilisation of technology. We'll develop these relationships further to help us progress our work in this area.

3. Melbourne have also considered carefully the issue of measuring academic performance and have developed some interesting frameworks and toolkits. I've exchanged work with my counterpart at Melbourne on this, and I know that Liz R in Engineering is developing further links with her engineering HR equivalent.

4. For the past 10 months Melbourne have been running an ambitious programme to attract and engage world-class researchers. This is similar to our VC Fellowship programme, although I would think that we can learn further from the Melbourne model. I will be sharing the material with Tracy and the team upon my return.

5. I also spent some time with their equivalent of our OD teams. There are some interesting reflections to share with Gill et al, although their offer isn't perhaps as coherent/integrated as it is in Sheffield.

6. Rob Baker had also arranged for me to meet with their Faculty Operations Director. Many of the above issues were discussed (e.g. academic performance management) but also the issue of rewarding rotating Heads was considered. I'll speak with Steph and Ian about this further.

7. Although there is plenty to learn from a world Top 50 institution like Melbourne, I am pleased to report that their HR and leadership team were genuinely impressed by Talent First and the breadth and creativity of our work at Sheffield, so well done.

On a more personal note, for those of you familiar with twitter will know that I had a free day in Melbourne on Saturday. I now completely understand why Rob chose to relocate here. The outdoors lifestyle, the climate, food, environment and people are fantastic. I should also sincerely thank Rob and his wife Clare for accommodating me so wonderfully well. Please be aware though that should you wish to pay him a visit, the daily early morning run and the evening run/cycle are evidently mandatory in the Baker household.  

I'm now on my way to Perth and will send a note to you all about the aims/purpose on this part of the visit.  

Finally, may I thank Tracy, Ian and his team for so ably managing the ongoing industrial relations issues back home.