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In my last blog I was railing against the volume of paper I was presented with for the Academic Staff Committee. Well, we have a breakthrough. Thanks to the hard work of Fiona Blackmore and Deborah Griffin in HR we ran a pilot using iPads to structure and view the information, and it was an astounding success. My thanks to Profs Juani Swart, Vaughan Hart and Gareth Price who volunteered to try this out, and thanks to Apple for the information that the iPad is only 9.4mm thick, compared to the 63mm of paper we previously enjoyed.

I enjoyed the ASC meeting as it gave me a real insight into the breadth of work our Lecturers are doing, and how the University assesses standards and progress in teaching, research and administration. From an HR viewpoint, a couple of observations:

  • One area for improvement must be objective setting. I am not sure that ‘undertake teaching’ (a generic example) is sufficient to guide a probationary lecturer in the standards required, or to assess them later in the year. I wouldn’t want to make this into an industry, but it was obvious from the discussion that a bit more definition might help.
  • It was interesting to see the challenges of workload management. I was surprised by the variation, particularly in teaching load across the 36 individuals which just shows how varied the work across the University is. One example was how those returning from a break (sickness, maternity etc.) sometimes took on heavy teaching loads quite quickly. Just an observation, but something I am keen to follow up and understand how we can give the best guidance to those who have the challenge of managing workload.

On a different topic, I have counted three different HR processes this week where I, as HR Director, have had to make a decision. Because the process says so; I must have been sick on the day HR Directors were trained in omnipotence. In at least two cases I reckon that others are far better suited than me to make those decisions so I was really glad to be asked to be part of Steve Egan's working group on process improvement this past week. Too many organisations continue to live with poor processes, and don’t ever get round to fixing them. This is a great initiative and I am keen to get Mark Ricketts and his team working with us on some of our HR processes. Any suggestions?

Two highlights from the last week. (1) Visiting the nursery, where a very small person clearly found a very tall person in a waistcoat far more fascinating than what she should have been doing. (2) Spending an idle 15 minutes in the library between meetings, where in the Engineering section I stumbled across a book titled “How to Build a Nuclear Bomb, and other Weapons of Mass Destruction”!

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