In a sector with entrenched issues and a history of huge structural change, the work undertaken by City, University of London left judges hugely impressed – not least by the way organisational development (OD) was at the forefront of the organisation’s response to poor staff survey results and serious engagement issues.
The OD team was heralded for its dedication and ingenuity, its “palpable” passion and its innovative approach to change. By reinventing the university’s people proposition under a new organisational development framework, it has successfully turned the engagement issue around and created a vibrant, close-knit community of employees into the bargain.
Getting there has, naturally, been far from smooth. From 2016, a huge recruitment drive took place as the HR directorate’s remit and capability were expanded, against a shifting organisational backdrop. And yet a number of highly successful and innovative projects were launched, which were to have a transformational effect.
Develop@City, for example, was introduced as a gateway for staff to receive structured development opportunities, at every level of the organisation. What started as a flagship engagement event has become an annual programme of learning geared towards development, wellbeing, community and creativity.
A refreshed induction process, which includes a new welcome pack and staff handbook, tripled the number of employees who were formally onboarded and has led to 80 per cent of those employed for less than six months recommending City as a great place to work.
An internal coaching network has been developed and a mindfulness project has reached hundreds of staff and students. CityForum, a staff discussion community, was created to increase leadership visibility and foster dialogue. A number of groups and networks were set up, from LGBT+ to City Gardeners, while a staff mentoring scheme linked people from across the university to help and support one another.
The returns on the team’s hard work have been numerous. Over three years, the number of employees who would recommend City as a great place to work has doubled. The OD team have been recipients of City’s President’s award for contribution to Equality and Diversity. And they are regularly approached by other organisations hoping to learn from their success.
What began as a rebranding of OD and an extension of the HR directorate has ultimately reached all areas of the institution and has created an invigorated workforce that is engaged, involved and actively advocating the university – a significant improvement on life just a few short years ago.