Patrick Hackett: Our University’s values
Share your stories and experiences of what it means to be part of our University
When we asked you for your Big Ideas as part of Our Future, one of the most popular themes you talked about was ‘how we do things’. You mentioned our processes and systems, but you also talked about our University’s culture and values. Many of you said there was something distinctive about our University and felt proud to be a part of it – this was sometimes articulated as ‘Manchester-ness’.
I’d like as many colleagues as possible to get involved in helping us to understand more about this and uncover our University’s values by sharing their stories and experiences of what it means to be part of our University. As part of this work we’d also like your views on our University’s existing guiding principles and values – these are also outlined at the end of this message.
We will use what you tell us to uncover a single set of University values which will form a core theme of our next strategic plan. You can get involved by sharing your stories online. There will also be opportunities to discuss values in existing staff meetings and events taking place throughout May and June.
The more people that take part by sharing their stories and thoughts on our existing values, the more certain we can be that what results represents the whole of our University. All of your responses will be treated in confidence and anonymously. Decisions about the values we take forward will be made by the University’s governance groups, culminating in endorsement by the Board of Governors later this year.
Every organisation has values, whether it consciously decides to uncover them and live them or not. These values influence the way that we make decisions and work together to get things done. Where there’s a strong sense of shared values we can work more effectively, deliver our best, and as an organisation be more resilient during change.
Uncovering our values is just the first step, the next challenge will be bringing them to life across the whole University in a consistent way. Sometimes we will have to call out things that we see or experience which don’t align with our values and I’m not saying that this will be easy to do. But I do believe that it’s the right thing to do.
I hope that you feel able to get involved in our work on values. As ever, if you have any thoughts or ideas on this work please leave a comment here and I’ll get back to you or email me at patrick.hackett-REGISTRAR@manchester.ac.uk
Our existing guiding principles and values as outlined in the Manchester 2020 Strategic Vision
We will be guided in all our activities by our motto ‘Cognito, Sapentia, Humanitas’ (Knowledge, Wisdom, Humanity).
We will be led by the discovery of new knowledge, and aim to maximise the impact of that knowledge through education, innovation and delivering value to society.
We will be an independent and autonomous organisation that will work to uphold rigorously the principles of freedom of thought and speech and encourage tolerance of diverse views and beliefs.
We will be agile, flexible and adaptable but will value our rich academic heritage and diversity.
We will be an ethical organisation with exemplary policies, procedures and behaviours.
We will be committed to environmental sustainability, setting and meeting the highest possible standards across the full range of our activities.
I found this view point when looking for another about the Augar review. I was surprised to learn recently that certain technical posts are once again frozen, at least for now. Yet technical roles are vital to the running of the University in a number of areas – teaching, research and infrastructure. While those of us in technical roles appreciate that there are steps in the right direction (especially with the University signing up to Technician Commitment alongside the established Technical Excellence at Manchester network), such as recognising us as a distinct category of staff to other PS (admin) staff, and opening up more apprenticeships again. Yet our numbers have been squeezed for many years now and to date, still no clear and transparent structure for career opportunities and a heavy emphasis on contract working. What plans are there to change this going forwards?
I was interested to see this quote from the Augar review:
“Strengthening technical education – England needs a stronger technical and vocational education system at sub-degree levels to meet the structural skills shortages that are in all probability contributing to the UK’s weak productivity performance. Improved funding, a better maintenance offer, and a more coherent suite of higher technical and professional qualifications would help level the playing field with degrees and drive up both the supply of and demand for such courses.”
The point being that you really don’t need a degree, (or a PhD!) to be an outstanding technician as the skills are very different to those required for an academic career. It would be great to see Manchester taking it’s part in championing technical staff development which benefits academic staff and students alike.
I feel that wellbeing needs to be a main goal for the University. It is very much luck of the draw with managers. I currently have a very supportive manager. However in my old Department I witnessed a senior manager rolling her eyes when a colleague was having a mental health emergency. This is frankly unacceptable in 2019. Most of us will suffer with our mental health at some point in our lives, we have to be kinder to colleagues who are struggling today because not only is that the decent thing to do but also tomorrow that could be any one of us.
As a recently retired former university employee of some 18 years of service, I have to agree with the comments below regarding flexible working and more particularly the luck of the draw as to what your own department mental managers policy and attitude is to special leave. Towards the end of my time at the University, my manager was on my view inflexible with granting paid special leave to care for my elderly father who passed away just over 4 years ago at the age of almost 85. I was not allowed time off to accompany and drive him to various hospital outpatient appointments and had to either book annual leave or else take time off without pay. I think this is an uncaring attitude and surely flies in the face of the University’s ethos of compassion under such circumstances?
My previous manager was much more amiable and caring in his attitude and in the way he applied the special leave policy of the University which is left down to individual departmental managers to interpret the rules ie. some managers will be unreasonably strict in applying the policy and not show due flexiblity in certain cases. I wanted to raise this issue for current employees of the University,as it caused me added stress at an already stressful time
In this day and age a working class family requires that both parents work full time until retirement in order to provide for family life, so parents rely on schools and care takers to bring up their children, this is sad in 2019. Children should have some input and quality time with their parents in their upbringing. I appreciate it is not an employer’s responsibility in totality but if a child is only in school, average 190 days a year that is 175 days a year childcare and the average worker gets 21 days holiday per year that’s 100 to 150 days a year a child is away from its parent/s depending on whether you are a single parent or a couple.
We do have 5 family days per year extra, this is a drop in the ocean really, but that said, this entitlement is discretionary and differs from department to department dependant on who your line manager is,which is grossly unfair. Some get the full 5 days, some only get one every few years.
Its only recent times that both parents have to work full time to survive so surely employers need to adapt working to this requirement to allow parents more time off with their children (with the business being the priority obviously)
But if colleagues work together to ensure core times are covered to allow each other some relief to have time off fairly to have quality family time (play days, school concerts, parents evening) to leave early and come in late outside of the strict flexible working procedure already in place here, I think we would have a much more harmonious workplace, with a less stressed happier workforce.
In order for this to work we need less ridged line managers who trust their employees to work together to ensure service delivery and customer satisfaction is not neglected and time is taken off fairly and by priority but some of us have been here years and there is just no flexibility whatsoever.
Thank you for your comment. As a working parent I understand some of the challenges you describe. We do have a flexible working policy which is there to help colleagues who have a whole range of caring responsibilities but I acknowledge that this is sometimes applied in different ways across the University and we need to be more consistent in our approach. We will continue the conversation around flexible working as we develop the Our People Our Values strategy over the coming months.
We are aware that our flexible working policy isn’t always applied consistently; we received this feedback last year when we ran our Hive survey on family policies. To improve our approach we have introduced a range of new guidance for managers (available on Managers’ Essentials) as well as training course that runs regularly via our Staff Learning and Development team that addresses how to consider flexible working requests and then manage flexible workers. I am happy to discuss this further – please feel free to contact me at Gemma.Dale@manchester.ac.uk.
The issue of Pensions for staff on the UMSS scheme has been very unfairly dealt with. The change, which was made over the Christmas period menat that staff accrued at the rate of 1/100th as opposed to 1/80th. On the face of it this might actually sound like an improvement but in fact its a 20% reduction in the accrual value.
The issue is compounded as staff, quite often sitting next to each other who are on the GMPF scheme are accruing at a rate of 1/49th. This is effectively a 50% reduction in the benefits received by UMSS compared with GMPF.
At the next revaluation the deficit, which inst increasing may be revalued to the extent that this increase in the accrualrate ins no longer necessary yet there is no committment to reiview this. This is not the case with the Academic USS pension scheme where there is a firm commitment to reviewing the situation.
Thank you for your comment. The pensions challenge continues to be a major concern for all universities and sometimes we have to make difficult decisions to ensure that we are able to provide pensions benefits for colleagues now and in the future whilst at the same time taking into account the financial sustainability of these schemes. When we proposed the changes to UMSS we made a commitment to keeping a defined benefit scheme for current members; to continue to contribute at a rate of 19.75% of Pensionable Salary; and to protecting the pension benefits colleagues have already built up in the scheme.
I value having a job but at times not what this job does to me, I care a lot about our students and the experience they have while they are here at University but this causes lots of overtime, late nights and long days which cause stress and time off sick. Being a low grade and I have know idea when the restructure will finally get to me, it is like a cloud looming over.
Although the University already has a good flexible working policy this needs to be improved. Working from home is only made available to certain grades which is unfair. If this option was made readily available to all grades, depending on circumstances it would be openly welcomed. An element of trust comes into play and PS staff should be allowed to demonstrate this trust. As a single parent working part-time at the University, the policy does not really help with working conditions and lifestyle. Nor are there any opportunities available to gain a position at a higher grade.
Moving on I am constantly hearing that there are ‘perks’ whilst working at the University. I have been here nearly 8 years and have yet to experience any perks. The on-campus food outlets are ridiculously priced. The staff benefits/discounts which are offered are not great and I’d be interested to know exactly how many are actually able to use these.
If the University is not able to create an environment with its ‘values’ which motivates staff then how can senior management expect great performances from staff. I understand that it is difficult to please everyone having such a large workforce, but surely the majority should be satisfied with working here.
I absolutely second this comment. I don’t think differentiating between different grades of staff when it comes to working form home really meets the value of ‘We will be an ethical organisation with exemplary policies, procedures and behaviours.’ I wouldn’t say that’s exemplary. Nor do I think it’s ‘agile, flexible and adaptable’.
I really identify with this comment. I put so much effort into the job – I really want to make a difference. I have a disabled daughter at home who needs 24 hour care which means I only work part time hours. I would be able work more hours if working at home could be offered and there are limited opportunities for promotion despite the breadth of experience I have across the university and commercially. I wish the university would help others like us to achieve our true potential. I really love my job and am proud to work at the University of Manchester.
Would like to see @Patrick Hackett reply…
You will doubtless consider this to be provocative but I do think that the Manifesto for Better Governance has already done much of this work on values for you. I have been dismayed to hear senior leaders so crudely dismissive of the Manifesto – if you actually read it, it’s a very sensible and coherent document, which is not even particularly radical.
I had never heard of this document until reading this post. It does address some of the issues in the guiding principles and values described above. Has there been a formal university response to any of the points made? Will there be a response?
I don’t consider your comment to be provocative and I accept that the anonymous report reflects the values of some colleagues. The exciting aspect of this consultation with all staff is that, through the collection of our stories, we will identify the shared values of all our staff. Although anonymous, we have agreed to put the report on the agenda of our next meeting of Senate.
The values are hard to argue with as abstract statements but the question is how to ensure they are genuinely reflected in the everyday culture and practices of the institution. Sitting in Humanities, I see, amongst other things… a leadership culture that is intolerant of dissenting views, hierarchical, the very opposite of agile, and, in its worst moments, lacking in transparency and honesty. If there is a genuine desire to see values at the heart of our future strategy and plans, the shortcomings in senior leadership will have to be tackled head-on. I very much doubt that will happen.
I would like to raise the topic of fiscal sustainability. I don’t mind talking about the money side of it. I think we should have a statement about money/income/profit. We need to bring in enough money from all three faculties, to maintain and develop the University, so that it continues to compete. If we don’t, then we falter, we get overtaken and drop down the world rankings. Obviously the income/profit has to made “ethically” (however that is defined! 😉 and not excessively, (unless we used an “excess” for social good?) in line with our other values. If we omit “money” from our values and kind of turn a blind eye on the “filthy lucre” problem, then we lose so much. After all it is only money we are talking about.
Agreed we need a surplus to reinvest, but do we need to always grow? Is bigger better? Don’t the risks of failure also magnify? Last year the surplus was slashed by 50%. Two years ago we had a significant deficit. Sustainability should trump growth- we’re not generating profit for shareholders/owners.
Thank you for your comment. I don’t think it is possible to separate money from our values, which inform how we make and spend it.
“We will…” kicks the can down the road
“We are…” announces ownership, accountability and immediacy
Please be assured that our values are going to be a key part of our new strategic plan.
Challenge 1: publish the average salary of those with spouses at the university compared to those without.
Challenge 2: publish the ratio of the % of professors who have been supervised previously by someone at the University to the % of staff previously supervised by someone at the University
Thank you for sharing this link to a piece by Professor Dennis Hayes from the University of Derby. Colleagues can view this piece using their existing THE subscription or by registering to view a limited number of articles each month. I have to say that I tend to agree with pretty much everything Dennis puts forward – our University’s values should absolutely not be the product of ‘post it note’ exercises, working parties or tick box surveys. That’s why we’re not using any of these methods to uncover our values.
Instead we are encouraging as many colleagues as wish to contribute to this work by sharing their stories and experiences as well as their feedback on our existing values. Our values should absolutely reflect the thoughts and experiences of a wide range of colleagues who have chosen to be part of our University.
This is not the idea of senior leaders or a passing fad – it’s in response to the feedback that over 4,000 colleagues gave through the Our Future conversations last year. You said that you wanted to talk about our culture and values – so that’s exactly what we’re doing. I’d encourage you to take part by sharing your experiences at: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/MLXF53F We’ve had some great responses so far – including from our academic colleagues – and some interesting conversations have resulted about the ‘value’ or otherwise of values in a University like ours.
You haven’t supplied any contact details, but if you’d like to talk to me further about values and their place in our University offline, please do contact me at patrick.hackett-REGISTRAR@manchester.ac.uk and I’d be delighted to continue the conversation.
Since joining the University, one value I have noticed is that there is a culture of personal responsibility which, for me, is so important.
That is a good point – also in a perfect university it would be twinned with collective responsibility (blame), where we acknowledge mistakes and work to fix them with no finger pointing. It is the culture that allows you to make mistakes and fix them to become a better worker and person that always attracted me to university working.
We should be a force of good in the society – helping build knowledgeable workforce, instilling good morals and developing generations of graduates with a sense of social obligation/contribution/responsibility and being an exemplar in how the organisation is run and contributing positively to the local, national and global physical and social environment.
A. Thank you for your thoughts – please do get involved by sharing your thoughts on our values – click the banner on the homepage of StaffNet to have your say.
Gender pay gap
Lack of Diversity in senior roles
Mushrooming red tape
Chasing business in nations with atrocious human rights
Closing down debate on campus
Reneging on pay and pensions
It is difficult to respond to this comment, which is quite wide-ranging and in some parts unclear or arguable. I hope that colleagues will be clear that our focus on ‘our people, our values’ as part of our new vision and strategy sends a clear signal of our commitment to enhancing equality and diversity, tackling inefficiencies and enhancing effectiveness, building on our world-leading approach to social responsibility, and ensuring competitive reward and recognition for all our staff in a supportive and high-performing environment.
The principles and values are fine as they stand but how are you going to apply them? Without a way to realise them, they are simply words.
We have an opportunity to build our values into our new strategic plan, especially throughout the theme of Our People Our Values and our new people and organisational development plan. For example, one way would be to embed our values in the way that we recruit colleagues, another would be to use them as criteria in our reward and recognition and award schemes. This will take time and commitment at all levels. I’d also like to open up this conversation to colleagues to get your ideas and suggestions on how we bring our values to life.
Fair enough – it is good to know that there is a plan for embedding them within working practices rather than just having them. Thank you
I think the most important thing about values is that they are memorable. Whilst there is nothing wrong with what we have stated here, no one will ever remember 6 statements. We need to have 3-5 words that represent our values (albeit with more detailed descriptions to go with them) that people can decide if their personal values align with these or not.
I totally agree that our values need to be relevant to all colleagues which is why it’s important that everyone has the opportunity to get involved in helping create our values. They absolutely need to be memorable if we are to bring them to life in the everyday things that we do at our University. Thank you for your feedback.
You note that you plan to ‘bring these values to life across the whole University in a consistent way’. How?
I guess the key word that is being queried is ‘consistent’. So for me the response would be: The way in which we arrive at our shared values, i.e. by engaging with colleagues across the university in their identification, will give us a good start in ensuring that we respond to them in a consistent way across the university. We will build on this by ensuring that our policies and procedures reflect our values and are applied consistently across our university, ensuring fairness and equality of opportunity for example. It will take time and need commitment at all levels across our University. Importantly, we all, individually and collectively, will be empowered to call upon our values if and when we encounter issues and ‘call them out’. These are just some examples of how we will bring our values to life across the whole university in a consistent way. There will be other ways too and these will be identified through consultation and implemented by colleagues across our university.