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Case studies:

Developing collective leadership at Cardiff Metropolitan Uni

collective leadership, People Insight
“We’ve had an incredibly positive experience with People Insight, and that’s genuinely because the dashboard gave us such a huge amount of data. We’d never had that level of analytics at our fingertips before.”

Vanessa, Deputy Director People & Services at Cardiff Met

Cardiff Met’s impressive scores




response rate


‘Leadership’ theme

Webinar replay

About Cardiff Met

Cardiff Metropolitan University is a modern university with over 12,000 home students and 1600 core staff, with casual and associate tutors supporting this core group. Cardiff Met celebrate strong graduate outcomes, with 98% of graduates in work or further study.

They have been awarded ‘UK & Ireland University of the Year 2022’ by the Times Higher Education and recently topped the People & Planet University League, the first Welsh University to do so.

A focus on collective leadership

Vanessa White, Deputy Director People & Services at Cardiff Met, is responsible for People Strategy & Organisational Development as well as staff wellbeing and staff policy.

In 2018, Vanessa and a new small team launched a revised OD function which has since grown to a team of seven. Many of the team joined from the private sector and they quickly gained a reputation for having ideas and getting them done.

A successful early programme for Deans and Directors helped build their team’s credibility and since then, Vanessa and her team have been focused on developing collective leadership across the University.

> Learn how different styles of leadership influence employee engagement

2022 survey outcomes

Cardiff Met’s most recent engagement survey achieved an engagement score of 86% (13 points above People Insight’s HE benchmark) and a participation rate of 68%, one of the best the University has seen.

This was the first full survey since a highly positive pulse survey during the Covid pandemic. The continued positive results were a pleasant surprise to Vanessa and her team who thought the post-Covid impact and adjustment, plus a return to predominantly working back on campus, may cause engagement to dip.

Scores for leadership

Cardiff Met’s survey results revealed a score of 56% for the theme ‘Leadership’, which measures how staff perceive senior leaders, and how confident they feel in their vision and leadership. Initially, Cardiff Met felt their score was quite low but soon realised that their score was well above People Insight’s sector benchmark.

There were some brilliant scores within the leadership theme. For example “Senior leaders make the effort to listen to staff” scored 59%, which is 10 points above the sector benchmark.

But their survey results also revealed clear areas for the University to focus on. For instance, just 48% of staff agreed with the statement “I believe action will be taken as a result of this survey” (3 points below benchmark).

Sharing their results

Cardiff Met kicked off their post-survey programme by sharing results dashboards with key postholders across the University including Directors and Deans, as may be expected, as well as areas like Athena Swan, Research & Innovation, Health & Safety, and Environmental Estates, that could take on staff feedback and make important changes.

To explore their survey results in depth, Cardiff Met also held a session with stakeholders across the University. They were joined for this by Oliver Davidson, Senior Consultant and Organisational Psychologist at People Insight, who helped Vanessa frame the results, answer queries from stakeholders, and prepare for action planning.

> Learn how People Insight’s consultants can support your survey process.

Actions to build on positive leadership scores

1. Leaders Exchange

Cardiff Met’s Leaders Exchange is a forum, held every other month, which enables senior leaders across the University to connect, to network, and to develop collective behaviours. During Covid, the sessions happened virtually but have now returned to face-to-face.

Critical issues, such as student retention, are brought to Leaders Exchange to discuss and explore invites ideas from across the University, rather than just the areas with an immediate impact on the student experience. Guest speakers and guest keynotes are also brought in to start conversations and spark ideas around focus areas like ED&I.

2. Development Programmes

Cardiff Met’s internal development programmes have been running since 2018, to support and develop leaders at different levels. Leaders are encouraged to ask for feedback and build self-awareness and emotional intelligence so the development modules focus on current topics such as compassionate leadership, as well as offering 360 exercises and psychometric tests.

Building on the theme of collective leadership, all Deans and Directors were asked to attend the first programme regardless of their prior experience so they could connect and develop as a group.

3. Insights

Cardiff Met encourage staff at all levels to go through the Insights personality test, a form of psychometric testing based on the psychology of Carl Jung.

Over 60% of Cardiff Met’s colleagues, from Vice Chancellors to Deans to team members, have been through the Insights process which gives them a shared narrative and a way of quickly understanding each other’s strengths. If conflict arises, Insights provides a safe entry into these conversations and a shared language to use.

4. Manage at Met

In April 2021 Cardiff Met launched their ‘Manage at Met’ programme to deliver essential manager training on a range of essential topics including wellbeing for leaders and managers at all levels. Whether you’re a new line manager or a Vice Chancellor you are expected to go through Manage at Met.

By making the wellbeing training mandatory, the University hopes to help managers look after themselves and lead wellbeing in their teams. The programme is made up of 13 essential modules for managers, broken down into bitesize sessions. The sessions are completed online, and managers are automatically enrolled and sent reminders about outstanding modules to remove any barriers to taking part.

Modules include content around situational leadership, non-directive coaching approach, values based and compassionate leadership and leading hybrid teams, as well as upskilling managers around the HR side of management such as managing poor performance, supporting attendance at work, and disciplinary and grievance procedures.

Learn more about Cardiff Met’s approach

Listen to the full story of Cardiff Met’s approach to leadership in our webinar ‘Leadership in Higher Education, it’s complex’:

Watch the webinar

View the slides

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