OD Programme Advisor
Case Study: London South Bank University
Developing local accountability at LSBU
London South Bank University (LSBU) is a vibrant, cosmopolitan university with over 18,000 students, of whom 70% are mature students, most of whom live within South London.
The university’s vision is to be recognised for transforming lives, communities, businesses and society through applied education and insight. They’ve been awarded Silver for teaching excellence under the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), and are the only university to be awarded University of the Year for Graduate Employment for two years in a row (The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018, 2019).
In recent years, LSBU’s broader performance has been increasing year on year, with a 3% increase in overall student satisfaction scores from 2018-19 (National Student Satisfaction Survey) and a climb of 34 points in the Complete University Guide (CUG) league table.
LSBU is perhaps also unique in that they have recently begun to operate as a group, which includes two technical academies and a further education college, with the goal of positively impacting 1 million lives through education, business and community engagement.
The Group’s leaders have been finalising their 5-year corporate strategy 2020-2025, and wanted their latest employee survey to assess how engaged the whole Group is at the start of this cycle.
Says Adnan Bajwa, Head of OD and Engagement,
Engagement is a golden thread, included in business planning, reporting, and stated in our corporate strategy. It is key for us to create an environment which attracts and positively engages the best staff. Critical to this are our EPIIC values; the ‘how’ we do things around here and the ‘what’; communicating our strategy and vision, led by our Vice Chancellor.
When considering their latest employee survey programme, the Group Executive wanted to understand:
- Are our people on board with the Group vision?
- Where do we need to focus to improve employee experience and engagement across the Group?
- How do we benchmark against other similar organisations?
- What employee engagement metrics should we put in place during this strategy cycle 2020-2025?
Samantha White, OD programme advisor, leads the LSBU survey programme. Sam saw the task this year as a balance between understanding employees’ support for the longer-term plan, whilst recognising the need to support their day to day experience in the shorter term.
Executive workshop delivered by PI to support leadership action
LSBU recognise the critical role of senior leaders in ensuring that findings from the survey are translated into real improvements across the organisation. People Insight partnered with the internal LSBU OD team to design and deliver a workshop to support this key group. A range of sessions and activities combined to provide key insights from the survey, share best practices from inside and beyond the Group, actively engage senior leaders in the issues and brainstorm potential ways forward.
It was a significant commitment of leadership time, but the workshop was well attended with very good participation, creating real insight and energy. Vice Chancellor Professor David Phoenix, who spoke at and participated in the workshop, felt that it had been an important and powerful session, reminding leaders of the important role they play in positively shaping local culture.
The LSBU employee survey programme developed with People Insight
People Insight were appointed via a formal procurement exercise. Said Sam,
People Insight presented a great bid for the employee engagement work;their enthusiasm for and expertise in the HEI sector was clear. We felt we could work well with the people we met straight away. What stood out was the survey results dashboard as it is so visual, and in line with our strategy to become more digitally enabled.
People Insight provide full implementation of LSBU’s employee survey programme.
The questionnaire was carefully designed by one of our business psychologists, to ensure the Vice Chancellor’s questions could be answered, and feedback would be clear and actionable. We ensured that the majority of questions could be compared against our substantial HEI benchmark. In addition, we mapped and imported previous survey results from another provider to enable historical comparisons.
The online survey was issued to the mailing list provided by the University with appropriate data controls to ensure that individual staff could not be identified. Timely communications and automated reminders helped LSBU achieve an increase in their survey response rate of 11%.
Another feature of the results dashboard is the iDeck – the instant presentation generator that turns results into a PowerPoint deck. This makes it quick to communicate results in team meetings. Said Sam,
The iDeck is such a time saver! My team no longer have to pull together countless presentations. Line managers can do it easily, and get on with sharing results and action planning with their teams.
Whilst local communication and discussion of team results is key, it’s also important to communicate an organisation wide overview of the survey results. People Insight provided a visual results infographic for the LSBU staff intranet, which provides an at a glance overview of the key results quickly after the survey closes. Sam says,
We’ve been transparent in sharing the results infographic and all the open text comments word clouds on our intranet, framing it as ‘your data’ which has really helped with credibility.
LSBU are delighted that their response rate is up 11% points and their engagement score has improved by 5% points. Said Sam,
Whilst we have been awarded TEF Silver for our teaching standards, our engagement question scores compared favourably with the TEF Gold standard which we are very pleased about.
Looking at why the scores have increased, Sam cites the work they’ve been doing on line manager development. There has also been a significant rise in pride about the organisation, as people hear more about mission, the ambition of the group and the forthcoming strategy. Considering the Vice Chancellor’s objectives, the survey has demonstrated they are moving in the right direction, and provides a clear benchmark to measure engagement improvements against the 2020 strategic plan.
Taking action following the survey
In the university sector, taking action at pace can be a challenge. However, where we are seeing increased local accountability, some great actions are happening.
- Introduced the staff engagement forum – reviewing the survey evidence and discussing what works to enhance engagement
- Launched a monthly forum including updates from the Dean and a senior management team Q&A
- Converted a disused lab to a staff social hub where they can focus on well-being, games and activities, which has been particularly successful
- Celebrated staff achievements with events in the social hub
- Introduced 5 Mental Health First Aiders in the School to provide support for people’s mental health and wellbeing
In particular, the School of Applied Sciences focussed on 2 priority areas of engagement to improve: leadership and inclusion – which have improved by 17 and 16 percentage points respectively. This has been achieved through a number of activities as illustrated here.
What’s been key to the success is a structured action plan, that is strongly led, revisited regularly and visible to all.
Now that progress has been made on leadership and inclusion, the action plan has evolved to focus on morale, wellbeing & work life balance and how to manage problem performance.
Sam is optimistic about the next stage of the employee engagement programme. Reflecting on the achievements over the last year,
We were very pleased with the response rate increase, helped by the greater emphasis we put on pre-survey communication this time. I believe we are going to carry on improving our score for ‘I believe action will be taken as a result of this survey’ because of the way we are communicating and empowering local leaders. Feedback from deans, directors and line managers shows they feel the results belong to them, helped by using the dashboard and iDeck.
What has it been like working with People Insight?
We’ve really enjoyed working with People Insight… They were incredibly supportive throughout and kept me on track whilst I was juggling a range of priorities. I felt our project was in a safe pair of hands! Our consultant’s expertise in the HEI sector and in employee engagement has been really welcomed by our team.
Samantha White, OD programme advisor – LSBU