UHR Conference 2016 – the changing face of work

20 May 2016

I spent Thursday 19th May at the wonderfully run UHR Conference 2016 in Brighton. The conference brings together the Higher Education sectors dedicated HR community to discuss the key issues impacting our Universities. The Grand Hotel was indeed a grand setting for the event and I took away a great deal from the event:

There is real innovative thinking going on in the HE sector. Many of the workshops and discussions dealt with issues of change and pushing forward a sector which has historically relied so much on government funding. Universities of the future will continue to be major anchors for cities, regions and in some instances, the nation. The HR functions at the aforementioned have a key role to play in helping organisations transition through change.

Major reform is taking place to address inequality and diversity imbalances. We heard about the great work taking place at institutions such as the University of Sheffield where hiring processes are being designed to capture a far wider candidate pool. The issue is often given lip service but it was clear from the UHR conference that people truly feel very deeply about the subject and are doing something about it.

The closing plenary delivered by diversity expert, Simon Fanshawe, was utterly superb. Simon’s lens on all the issues he covered was incisive and helped throw some light on key working practices all Universities (and all organisations for that matter) should be cognisant of. His takeaway point about hiring the best person for the team, not the best person from the interview was discussed extensively after and was genuinely thought-provoking for many in the room.

And finally, the people I met on the day all really care about what they do. There was a widely felt sense of pride in the roles the HR professionals are playing in university life and it was great to see so many people sharing ideas and experiences. The sort of buzz which can rarely be manufactured was present throughout and reinforced my own views that the HE sector is a great place to be. The sort of energy which comes in playing a role impacting the lives of thousands was great to experience first-hand.

As an executive search firm, we have a key role to play in finding the best talent for our clients. Alongside the points discussed at UHR about gender/race diversity, I would also extend that to the diversity of an individual’s background. The fresh thinking you get with different experiences and skills gained from other sectors can combine to great effect. 

Which leaves us with another of Simon’s points to consider…let’s work out how and why we are different from one another and put together complementary backgrounds / views /skills /experiences to help build great teams. 

Gin Bhandal is a Consultant in the Education practice at Berwick Partners. He regularly works with Universities to appoint senior leaders tasked with delivering transformational change across the sector. 


Categories: Education Recruitment

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