Updates from the Director of Human Resources of University of Bath. HR isn't just about running recruitment processes – it's integral to defining the University's strategy and making sure that we have the people and skills to deliver it.
If you type “Leadership” into Amazon, it says “1-16 of over 100,000 results”. In 2015, it was calculated that books on leadership were being published at over four per day. And that’s just those in the English language. It has become a real growth area in the last few decades and there are no shortage of books, development programmes and experts telling you how to be a leader. That can be pretty daunting for anyone, particularly if you are just embarking on a new role where you are expected to be a ‘leader’.
Learn to Love Leadership (3L) is the banner under which we are launching two new development programmes aimed at helping you learn, explore and navigate your way through the skills you need to be a leader. These will be very practical programmes which, over 18-24 months will help you gain a recognised leadership qualification. The programme will be a cocktail of coaching, classroom-based learning and project work tailored to your needs, but probably most importantly, you will go on this journey with others also looking to learn. And often those shared experiences – positive and not so positive – are the best way to develop.
Having skilled leaders is really important as we continue to develop as a University. Working with a good leader can be more enjoyable and help teams achieve more than they ever expected. And being a leader who makes that happen brings with it a great deal of satisfaction. Leadership involves a whole range of skills which can all be learnt and improved. These development programmes offer a real opportunity, and a real investment by the University, in building those skills. I do hope that many of you will take this opportunity and learn to love leadership. (We might even get some 3L badges produced for the alumni)
If you want more information on these programmes, Abi Lyons in HR is the person to speak to.
We used to have a small cast brass plaque which we bought in America which said "In 1837, at this place, nothing happened". Well, at the University of Bath, on 3 Sep 2018, something happened - we appointed a new Vice-Chancellor. In the history of this University this is a really significant event and it was a real privilege to have been part of an atypical and significant recruitment approach. This was probably different from what we have done before in three main respects:
a lot of effort was put into engagement, trying to give members of our University community the opportunities to make a contribution, and keep informed about the recruitment. This had a real impact on the type of person we were looking for in the Vice-Chancellor role, and is something we can perhaps take further in other significant appointments
we ran an assessment centre as part of the selection process so that we could see candidates operating in different situations. All of you who took part in the events of 26 July will have seen different aspects of each candidate and there was a good discussion at the Council meeting on how these were brought together to give us a richer picture. The investment from so many people in these events has given us more confidence in the result
transparency around the remuneration package goes, I believe, well beyond what others in the sector are doing. That we were able to be so open is a tribute to all who recognised the importance of a new approach to such issues as we develop as a University and stuck to that commitment through the process.
When I started this blog back in January, I was aware that it might be a bit of a departure from the way things have been done in the University. My closing words of that first posting were that this will be "an informal personal view of the process and not a formal management statement". You will have seen the formal announcement of the result of the heptathlon which made up our Vice-Chancellor recruitment exercise so I won't repeat any of it here. This has been the longest and most comprehensive recruitment process I have ever been involved in, so now the initial excitement has died down I thought it worth looking back at some of the figures:
the survey we ran in February about what we should look for in a new VC had 857 respondents who made 2,488 comments;
at the same time we had over 200 people come to 17 focus groups, generating 148 pieces of flipchart with comments, observations and some words I now can't read;
in July, 93 people from across the University took part in presentations and meetings with the candidates (as the thermometer challenged local records);
of the 155 people we spoke to about the role, 38 applied;
in January my 'VC recruitment' folder was empty. It now has 115 documents. I tried to count the emails I have sent on this topic, but lost interest after reaching 1000.
I am extremely grateful to everyone who took part in this whole process. Without the level of interest and perceptive questions from staff, students, alumni, former members of staff, members of the wider community (sorry, starting to sound like an Oscar acceptance speech), I don't think that we would have gained the confidence of the quality candidates who put their names forward for what could have been a controversial and challenging appointment. I am also grateful to those who have read my blog (8167 views, with the highest single day being Friday 13 April) and offered comments and feedback. This engagement stuff is hard work, but satisfying when it delivers a great result.
This has been a fascinating process, and most importantly, we do have a great result. The next phase of this project will be inducting our new Vice-Chancellor to the University which I am sure will involve a whole new range of people from across our community. Who knows where we will now go on the next stage of our journey as a top-class academic institution.
Earlier in the recruitment process I suggested that "not affected by kryptonite" might be worth adding to the person specification given the expectations of our next Vice-Chancellor. In actuality, our candidates probably feel that the process has been more like the Krypton Factor, and after having completed the assault course, four entered the last round on 31 July. As well as meeting informally with some members of Council, the Deputy and Pro-Vice Chancellors, their final challenge was a panel interview for over an hour.
We had seen so much of the candidates on the 26 July, that this really gave the panel the opportunity to probe more deeply into areas where we had identified concerns. Sometimes the candidates reinforced those concerns; sometimes they surprised and challenged us. The interview panel, with representatives from right across the University, then met to discuss each candidate in detail against the person specification and, quite wonderfully, came to a common view about all candidates. This was followed by a meeting of the Committee on the Office of Vice-Chancellor which again very quickly reached agreement. It is a tribute to all involved in the selection process, and the effort they put into it, that by the end of 31 July, we had identified a preferred candidate to be our next Vice-Chancellor.
Of course this is a two-way process. All of the candidates have learned a lot about us over the last few weeks and we now need to see if we can reach agreement. This will take a while given the complexity of the role and that this is such a significant step for both the individual and the University. If all goes well, we hope to be making a recommendation to Senate and Council on 3 Sept. Then we can tell the world who our next Vice-Chancellor is.
So that's two major competitions complete in the last week. And one of them was won by Dani Dyer!
...of a Vice-Chancellor. This is how one of our plucky candidates described their day with us on the 26th June. I'm not sure that stressing our candidates by running this on the hottest day of the year is in the HR 'good practice handbook' but they all seemed to enjoy the range of activities we created for them. Sincere thanks from the Committee on the Office of Vice-Chancellor to all who took part; for the intelligent questions, for enduring the conditions and genuine interest in helping the candidates understand what we have at our unique University. For my own part, Marcelle McMcManus and I took each candidate on a tour of the campus which gave us an opportunity to talk to them a bit more informally. And, according to Marcelle's phone, walk 17km in the day!
On Friday, the Committee and members of the final interview panel spent 3 hours going through the feedback all the participants provided. Because we saw the candidates in a range of different scenarios we saw different aspects of their characters and variation across the events, much more than we would have seen through a simple interview. We have been through a lot of really rich data and now identified areas for the interview panel to probe on the 31st July.
So now our candidates go forward to the final interview panel. Each interview is planned to last over an hour, and the panel consists of:
Thomas Sheppard, the Chair of Council
Professor Julia Buckingham, VC of Brunel University as external adviser
Professor Veronica Hope-Hailey, Vice President (Corporate Engagement) and Dean of the School of Management
Eve Alcock , President of the Students' Union
Stephanie Lear, Head of Individual Philanthropy from the Department of Alumni Relations
Susanne Gebhard, Senior Lecturer from the Department of Biology & Biochemistry
The panel has been put together to ensure that again we are looking at the candidates from different perspectives. By the end of the 31 July we hope to have identified our preferred candidate for the role. It won't be until September that we can complete the approval processes, but hopefully we will then be able to announce our next Vice-Chancellor.
I've just read though the lyrics of the Beatles' track "A Day in the Life" from the Sgt Peppers' album. I was hoping to find a line which was appropriate for this blog, but nothing sprang out. Maybe I'll write a new verse.
Do you, like me, remember those seemingly endless car journeys as a child? "Are we nearly there yet?". Hopefully, the answer to our search for our next Vice-Chancellor is "just round the next corner" (another of my parents' favourites). This week we have the final five candidates visiting the University to learn more about us and for us to learn about them. Over the course of a day they will take part in:
a workshop with a small group of academic staff about how we sustain and build our academic reputation
a presentation on their vision for the University to a mixed audience of staff, Court and Council members
an executive meeting on the risks and opportunities facing this University
an engagement with students (organised by the SU, and will be a bit of a surprise)
a tour of the campus
If any of you have ever been through an 'assessment centre' as part of recruitment or promotion, you might recognise this approach. We are looking to test all of the parts of the person specification in a range of different scenarios. Thank you to all who are taking part on the day; I am sure that it will be an interesting experience for both candidates and participants.
All of the feedback from those events, and we expect quite a lot of it, will be brought together by the Committee on the Office of Vice-Chancellor to inform the final interviews on the 31 July. We will have learned a lot about the candidates through this process, and I am hopeful that we will then have enough information to identify a preferred candidate, and make an announcement in September.
So are we nearly there yet? I hope so, and I expect so do the candidates.
For many people, the very idea of audience participation is a nightmare. A friend of mine went to a show at the Edinburgh Fringe where the she sat in the back of a car on stage, and the 'comedians' sat in the front. As you can imagine, it didn't accommodate a very large audience and I don't expect it will be transferring to the West End (for economic reasons if nothing else).
We have an event, or series of events on 26 July where potential candidates to be our next Vice-Chancellor will be the main attraction. Audience participation is really important, because this is not just an opportunity for us to see them in action, but their chance to see what we are like as a University. Last week I advertised for people to take part in a presentation and Q&A session with the candidates. We are asking candidates to tell us something about their vision for the University, and then for the audience to ask questions and see how they respond. I always think that you can tell something from the way someone presents; you can tell even more from the way they react to questions and challenges.
We are holding the presentation in 8W2.5 and are looking for a very diverse audience of up to 50 people representing staff, Council and Court members. So far over 100 people have shown interest in being in the audience, so I am afraid that we will disappoint some. There will be an opportunity for those who can't attend to post questions in advance which may help those who are attending to formulate their ideas. A separate event for students which is being organised by the Students' Union which I am assured will take the candidates out of their comfort zone.
The three Universities who have been running 'in parallel' with us to recruit a new Vice-Chancellor (Sheffield, Aberdeen, Dundee) have now announced their results (though one has pinched someone else's VC so that will start a whole new competition).On the 11 July we are shortlisting so I hope to be able to say a little more about the candidates next week. I've also got Croatia in our office World Cup draw, so Wednesday should be interesting for two reasons!
In my last job, 155 always referred to artillery (being the calibre of a NATO standard artillery shell in millimetres). In this last week, the same number has resonated with the Committee on the Office of Vice-Chancellor, for that is how many people our recruitment agents, Saxton Bampfylde have spoken to as sources and potential candidates. These people have been from 56 UK Universities, 22 overseas Universities and 10 other organisations. As a result we had 38 applications to review with the aim of selecting somewhere between 8 and 12 people to put on a 'long list' of potential candidates. This is a fairly large list for a role of this type, and underpins the fact that this is an attractive job at a prestigious University. Many candidates have commented on the profound scrutiny we have been under as a University, but they all recognise that we are in a strong position with an enviable and distinctive reputation. It has been good hearing candidates say many of the same things our staff, students and alumni said during the discussions we had back in February.
The Royal Artillery have 'ubique' on their cap badge, which is sometimes unfairly translated as 'all over the place'. I like to think that now the long-listing meeting is over we are getting quite tightly focussed in this process. We have agreed a long-list of 11 candidates without ever having to resort to the use of tossing a coin (an HR standby in such situations). Its an interesting mix of people who all currently have existing senior leadership roles in Universities with a wide range of external profiles, academic credibility and management experience. Its a strong list and its going to be difficult to narrow it down. The next step is for Saxton Bampfylde to interview all these candidates to understand their motivation and how their skills and attitudes fit with what we are looking for at Bath.
Next job is the detailed design of the final selection processes in which we hope to engage a range of staff and students as well as some of our key external stakeholders. I hope to be able to say more and seek expressions of interest soon.
Why would someone want to come and do this job? At the top of our list, and hopefully high on the list of the type of people we wish to attract, is the opportunity to lead a high performing, ambitious academic institution to make a positive difference to society. Through the recruitment process we will explore people's motivation to ensure that we get a good fit with what we as an institution believe in.
Underlying this, we also need to recognise that this is a job. Albeit a job with a particular calling, but most jobs come with some form of remuneration. One definition of remuneration is 'reward for employment in the form of pay including allowances, benefits, bonuses and the monetary value of non-cash incentives'. Given the amount of attention on Vice-Chancellors’ remuneration we need to find a balance which is considered fair by the type of individuals we want to attract, fits with the values of our institution and supports the new Vice-Chancellor to do their role effectively. Or put more simply, “Salary: Competitive”
A good starting point is to look at other similar institutions. In the UK, HEIs such as Surrey, Loughborough, Lancaster, UEA, York are close to us in size and rankings. Others frequently quoted such as Warwick, Exeter and Bristol are a bit larger, but we may consider competitors. The financial statements of these universities, which are published every year, show what the Vice-Chancellor was paid in terms of salary, pension and other benefits. Of course these only reflect a backward look at the market, and the emerging guidelines on senior remuneration from the Office for Students and the Committee of University Chairs may change the nature of that market. If we look overseas, and this will be an international search, US and Australian universities tend to pay more; Canadian and European might pay less. Outside the HE sector, public sector organisations tend to pay less; private sector considerably more for comparable roles. So ‘competitive’ can be different dependant on where the candidate comes from.
At this stage we are only looking at the likely range. As we identify short-listed candidates later in the process, we will want to tailor our offer. For a less experienced candidate with potential it may look different to someone who is already established at VC level. And it may be that some of the other issues such as the opportunities at Bath are more attractive to candidates. Although we consider ourselves a Top 10 university nationally, this isn't a recruitment process where we expect to be paying Top 10 salaries. We expect to compete on the attractiveness of the opportunity, not simply on price.
When I got to the end of this blog I was a bit desperate for jokes. So I will leave you with this. “I love being a maze designer. I get completely lost in my work”.
Internet myth has it that the title of this blog was a genuine advert for a job. It's either very foolish, or a clever way to attract attention in a crowded market. I'm sure that those in the School of Management who study these things would have much to say about the psychology of advertising. And now we are entering into the market to advertise our requirement for a new Vice-Chancellor.
We are advertising in the UK and overseas for the next month. The candidate information pack, which is now available on our webpages is a bit of a shopfront, giving potential candidates a snapshot of the University. This is a competitive market - Sheffield, Dundee and others are recruiting new Vice-Chancellors as well - and we want good candidates to be attracted to the opportunities at our University. But this recruitment process doesn't just rely on advertising. Saxton Bampfylde, our recruitment agents, will be researching the market and using their databases of potential candidates to approach people and give them a richer picture of the role. Experience from other Universities is that successful candidates are more likely to come from this 'targeted search' but we are casting our net wide. If anyone reading this knows of potential candidates (with relevant experience!), do point them in the direction of Saxton Bampfylde.
The job description, and more importantly the person specification, draw heavily on the engagement exercise we carried out in February. Our emphasis on values and leadership style is different to many other Universities. This is something we will emphasise throughout the recruitment process and when we design the detail of how we select our preferred candidate. Feedback from our recruitment agents is that this should be a very attractive role, and they have already received enquiries. I am looking forward to getting reaction from potential candidates and will try and give a flavour through this blog in coming weeks.
Amongst the images of cats who look like Donald Trump and cardboard boxes which look like David Cameron (yes, really) we now have a presence on the internet, and specifically within our University web-pages.
There are two documents which might be of interest. Firstly, a report on the focus groups and survey we carried out during February. With over 2500 comments and 100 sheets of flipchart paper, I am really grateful to Rachel Armstrong from HR who spent a lot of time helping analyse everything you said. Anything you disagree with in the document is my responsibility but I hope that readers feel that it is a balanced summary. I do expect candidates to read it, to get a good idea of the opportunities at the University. More importantly at this stage, it will provide one input to the Committee on the Office of Vice-Chancellor in defining the job description and person specification against which we will recruit.
And that brings me to the second document, the recruitment process. Over the next four months we, and potential candidates for the role, will proceed along a path towards finding who will be our next Vice-Chancellor. 'Path' analogies always give me plenty of opportunity to have fun with puddles, diversions and people straying from the marked route, but hopefully the hurdles will be few and easily surmountable. One of the key events in this recruitment process will be the meetings in July between the shortlisted candidates and members of the University. A chance for them to see what we are really like and for us to start picturing people in the role. One of my next tasks is to start planning these events; the Crystal Maze seems like a good pattern from which to start!