Future workforce – a chapter of the 2014 Annual Report of the University of Newcastle, Australia. Includes information about WHS and equity.

Future workforce

In 2014 we continued our success in attracting and retaining high-quality staff and leaders who have the appropriate capabilities to contribute to the achievement of our NeW Directions Strategic Plan.

A major focus for the year was ensuring that our new leadership and performance review frameworks were embedded into University life to support our staff performance culture. The launch of the Performance Expectations Framework has provided a clear alignment between individual goals and our overall objectives, enabling the achievement of broader University objectives through the contribution of all staff. Throughout the year there has also been a continued focus on wellbeing initiatives and strategies to support a respectful and collaborative workplace. Staff survey results indicate the success of these initiatives.

2014 highlights

  • Employer of Choice for Gender Equality (Australian Workplace Gender Equality Agency)
  • employee engagement continued above average compared to Australian universities benchmark group
  • the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) has highlighted our status as an attractive place to work and in 2014 was embedded in our recruitment activities to support the attraction of high-quality staff
  • Indigenous cadets were recruited as part of the Indigenous Employment Strategy
  • launch of UON Academy to support casual academic staff
  • conclusion of the enterprise bargaining process with staff voting overwhelmingly in favour of the new agreements 
  • smoke-free campus introduced as part of our commitment to providing a safe and healthy workplace for staff, students and visitors on campus.

2014 key figures

  • contributing to our activities throughout the year were 1,060 academics (FTE), 1,576 professional and teaching staff (FTE), 430 casual and sessional staff (FTE) and 1,485 conjoint appointments
  • 7,000+ applications to join our workforce
  • 3,300 online WHS training modules completed, including a new emergency procedures module
  • 400+ workstation and ergonomic assessments
  • 350+ workplace health and safety risk assessments, an increase of 20 per cent on the previous year
  • 39 staff acknowledged for excellence in the Vice- Chancellor's Awards for Excellence

Strategic performance

The Future Workforce Plan strategic priorities for 2014 were:

Performance planning and review supports our commitment to being a world-class university. In 2014 we consolidated implementation on a number of recent initiatives and introduced new frameworks.

Performance Review and Development (PRD) 

After the successful introduction of a new performance management framework in 2013, the University focused on embedding the PRD framework into the day-to-day work of staff and supervisors. Training and online systems have provided staff with the tools required to have quality conversations around performance, planning and reviewing progress. Results from the 2014 Your Voice Survey show a four per cent increase in overall staff satisfaction regarding performance appraisal, with some areas seeing significantly greater improvement.

Leadership Framework 

Our Leadership Framework, launched in 2013, describes the capabilities that we require of our leaders at all levels, from our Executive Committee through to our individual contributors. The framework is now in wide use and provides an effective tool to assist with the recruitment of leaders to ensure that staff joining the University have the necessary skills and capabilities to be successful in their roles. The Leadership Framework is also used as part of the new PRD process to encourage all staff to reflect on their behaviours as well as their performance.

Performance Expectations 

A key tool to support embedding a performance culture at the University is the Performance Expectations Framework. The Framework sets expectations for academic staff in research and innovation, teaching and learning, and service and engagement, and was piloted across the University during 2014. After consultation throughout the year it was found that these expectations have provided a clear path for staff who are aiming to apply for promotion and a useful tool to assist Heads of Schools to set clear expectations and performance standards. The Performance Expectations Framework for professional staff was also developed in 2014 for use in 2015.

We remain committed to providing the highest levels of health, safety and wellbeing for all our staff and students. 2014 activities included the development of a new Health and Safety Plan which was built around the four pillars of:

  • health and safety leadership
  • reducing key injury risks
  • managing injuries to reduce impact
  • benchmarking and learning from others.

We conducted more than 350 workplace health and safety risk assessment reviews on research activities, events and travel arrangements, which represented a 20 per cent increase on 2013. The risk assessments covered diverse subjects such as:

  • travelling to Ebola-affected regions to support the World Health Organisation in its fight to contain and control the epidemic
  • conducting research in biological and genetic manipulation of organisms
  • reducing greenhouse gas impacts.

Our Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate (LTIFR) has reduced to 3.28 which is a 32 per cent improvement on the previous year. The strong result is a factor of our focus on safety and the actions taken to minimise the risk of incidents and injuries. For further information about WHS at the University please refer to p131 of the Appendices.

Promoting health and wellbeing

On October 8 we celebrated National Mental Health Day with a relaxing program of wellness activities. The University developed and coordinated the event for 36 other tertiary institutions across Australia and New Zealand, with our staff managing logistics and assisting other universities by sharing activities and supplying templates and resources. On the day staff and student volunteers ran a variety of activities providing information and resources on mental health and wellbeing. At Callaghan we held an acknowledgment to country at Wollotuka including a walk along the Birabahn Cultural trail to the Brennan Room where stalls and activities included yoga, massage, meditation and Tai Chi. At the City campus staff received free massages and students a healthy, free BBQ. Staff and students at our Sydney location enjoyed a meditation workshop while our Central Coast campus community was treated to a wellbeing expo.

We continue to show success in attracting and retaining outstanding staff and leaders who have the appropriate capabilities to meet the challenges of the changing Australian tertiary education sector. Twelve key senior staff appointments were made in 2014 with the majority of employment offers coming from first-round recruitment processes, indicating that the University continues to be an attractive place to work for high-quality candidates. We also show great success in staff retention and engagement with the 2014 Your Voice survey reporting a higher than average result for Employee Engagement, compared with our benchmarked Australian universities.

Throughout the year we embarked on a broad range of organisational change processes to achieve alignment with our strategic goals. These changes resulted in the achievement of increased capability as well as desired efficiencies and streamlining in work areas.

Enterprise bargaining was another important focus with our staff voting overwhelmingly in favour of three new enterprise agreements for academic, teaching and professional staff – a strong endorsement of the positive outcome for the University and for all staff. The new enterprise agreements provide some increased flexibility for the University to support a performance culture and the required staffing model into the future, whilst also providing competitive conditions to attract and retain staff.

Senior Staff Appointments 

  • Andrew Boyle Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Head of Discipline 
  • Sally Chan Professor of Nursing and Head of School, Nursing and Midwifery
  • Peter Davis Professor of Construction Management
  • Paul Dunn Chief Financial Officer
  • Kevin Hall Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation)
  • Deborah Hodgson Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation)
  • Sanjay Kalra Chief Information Officer
  • Jennifer Martin Professor and Chair of Clinical Pharmacology
  • Eileen McLaughlin Pro Vice-Chancellor (Interim), Faculty of Science and Information Technology
  • Kate Morton Director, Business Process Improvement
  • Peter Radoll Professor of Information Systems and Dean, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education and Research
  • Geoff Whitty Global Innovation Chair for Equity in Higher Education

Looking forward

In 2015 we will focus on the following strategic priorities in relation to developing our people:

  • piloting the Performance Expectations Framework for professional staff, to ensure there is clear alignment between individual performance and our strategic objectives
  • finalisation and embedding of the staff engagement and communication framework
  • piloting a job rotation/secondment program to build professional staff capability and career opportunities
  • implementation of a succession planning and talent identification process to support the development of researchers, leaders and key specialists
  • rolling out programs based on building skills and capability in research and leadership at all levels (from Executive Committee to Emerging Leaders) which will use a new workforce development platform, as well as other development models such as mentoring and online learning resources.