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Adjusting for the Differential Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic in Professional Services

Recognising that the pandemic has had an impact on us all, with differential effects, we want to continue to support colleagues to succeed in their careers and to be able to make a positive contribution to the future of the University. This page outlines the steps that the University is taking with immediate effect to mitigate against any detrimental impacts of the pandemic on career development in Professional Services, and parallels similar guidance developed for academic colleagues.

Progress against these actions is reported to and monitored by the Exeter Professional Steering Group, chaired by Dr. Astrid Wissenburg, which reports to the Professional Services Leadership Team (PSLT).

  1. Our approach will be flexible, recognising that a “one size fits all” solution is not appropriate, as the pandemic has impacted colleagues in many different ways (depending, for example, on their directorate, specific responsibilities, personal circumstances and stage of career)
  2. We strive to deliver our usual high standards of Professional Services support, even if the volume, scope and range of activity may have changed as a consequence of the pandemic.
  3. We will continue to apply this consistent and flexible approach over 2020-21 and the following 2 academic years, recognising that some of the impacts are likely to be experienced even after the pandemic is under control; we will also monitor potential longer term impacts.
  4. We will take account of best research, information and practice into the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on staff with specific protected characteristics to ensure our decisions are in line with our commitment to equality of opportunity for all.

To implement these principles, we are taking the following steps, with immediate effect. We will:

  1. Recognise Professional Services colleagues’ contribution to the University’s response to meeting staff and student needs during the pandemic; in particular for the support provided to Project Enhance and Project Restart as well as colleagues that have filled a gap left by others supporting elsewhere.  Ensure that colleagues’ contribution to the University’s response to the pandemic will be credited as part of a balanced portfolio of development and achievement.
  2. Continue to seek to fill vacancies internally before going to the external recruitment market.
  3. Recognise Professional Services colleagues who have been furloughed or, through best endeavours, have delivered essential work but in a reduced volume because of caring responsibilities.
  4. Prompt colleagues (through their probation review and the PDR process and, where appropriate, recruitment application forms when applying for vacancies) to include the full breadth of their contributions, including citizenship and community engagement, in their portfolio of achievements.
  5. Recognise the roles and responsibilities of leaders in Directorates and Colleges to provide feedback to colleagues, advise on career progression and the assessment of recruitment applications.  As part of the PDR process, we will provide written guidance and training to leaders and recruitment panels on differential impacts of the pandemic on colleagues’ normal working arrangements.
  6. Encourage leaders and colleagues to consider and to record impact in-year (for example through PDR) and to provide support and to make appropriate adjustments where possible, as part of mutually agreed goals.
  7. Continue to monitor the equality impact of the pandemic on Professional Services career development, including highlighting the importance of gathering retention data and information from exit surveys.
  8. Assess probation based on what has been realistically achievable in the periods which have been affected by the pandemic. In line with academic probations, probations in Professional Services will not normally be extended solely as a consequence of the pandemic limiting colleagues’ ability to undertake and demonstrate competence in the full range of expected duties.
  9. Regularly review and monitor the effectiveness of these actions through 2021 and make amendments as necessary.
  10. Review the Exeter Professional Development Framework to ensure it is fit for purpose and offers Professional Services colleagues a range of learning and development opportunities, as well as clearly defined pathways for progression.
  11. Develop a series of real life case studies of colleagues career pathways.
  12. Mirror the success of ‘HoD Engage’ (regular Academic HoD engagement/consultation forum chaired by the Provost) for PS Leaders.

The actions and principles have been informed by existing actions outlined in our institutional Athena SWAN Silver Action Plan (2018):

1a Establish a Professional Services Inclusivity Group, with voluntary Inclusivity Representatives drawn from all Services

1c Give annual presentations to College Executive Groups and Professional Services Leadership Team with HRBPs, highlighting College and Services’ Gender Pipeline, Progression and Recruitment Data, and previous and planned actions.

36b Promote engagement with Aurora Leadership Development Programme in all Professional Services and Academic Colleges

Develop Aurora Impact Measures Annually evaluate programme impact on participants and report to GEG

44a Complete Development Frameworks for PS staff in all Services, signposting the relevant training and development activities for each development stage

Promote completed Frameworks and opportunities such as apprenticeships through the Professional Services Leadership Team, PS Inclusivity Groups and internal communication channels

Monitor the impact of each Framework using targeted Service Surveys; PS progression data and uptake of development opportunities for staff in each Framework in PS Inclusivity Group

44b Enhance materials in our Management Know How sessions to include information on how to support and organise Secondments and Acting up opportunities; and fair access to development opportunities and bitesize training sessions

Monitor uptake of course and sessions, and secondments and Acting-Up opportunities annually in PS Inclusivity Group

Update the current EIA tool to provide more advice and examples for managers

44c Promote Gender-specific development courses internally, including Springboard, Navigator and Aurora

Monitor uptake and feedback from participants in PS Inclusivity Group