Professional Staff Census - Q&A
Next Monday, May 21st, will see the commencement of the Professional Staff Survey. This process collect information on the work performed by Professional Staff across our university, and the percentage of time spent on different tasks.
Many members have raised concerns about the census - Who is running it? How will the data be collected and validated? What purpose will this information be put to afterwards? How are the staff performing the Census meant to manage the extra workload?
Given the general lack of information which has been provided about the process, Julie Hayford, NTEU Branch Vice-President (Professional Staff), put some of these questions directly to University management.
Below is the complete set of questions asked by Julie and the answers provided by Jonathan Pheasant, Director of the Office of Services and Resources.
Our union still feels that this is a matter for concern. We encourage NTEU members to continue sending us your questions, feedback or concerns about the Professional Staff Census process.
- How was this initiative first developed? (i.e. where did the idea come from, how long has it been around, why did the University choose to conduct its census though Uniforum?, does every university that conducts a staff census do it through Uniforum? Is every university required to conduct a staff census?);
- Are all universities members of Uniforum?;
- How has the census led to administrative efficiencies within universities that have undertaken the census? Do you have a list of those universities?;
- What benchmarking strategies/outcomes have emerged from the census at other universities? I am particularly interested in the benchmarking aspect of the census exercise as our website states that: “UniForum gives universities the opportunity to benchmark their service delivery against other similar institutions, to learn more about where, how, and why their service structures and models differ”,
- I notice that there is no requirement for Census Respondents to validate their data, they are merely encouraged to do so. Are there any other tools/strategies for the validation of data, to ensure that information is correct? Will it be possible for professional staff to see the census report for their own area?
Then, as a follow up...
On Wednesday, I attended the third census briefing session so that I could get a better idea of what the census involves logistically and what it is intended to achieve. At that session and in your response to me you have said that: “it is simply a first step in informing the general approach each will take to identifying improvement opportunities. Other sources of qualitative and quantitative data will be considered as well, and we will also actively consult with staff to incorporate their views”. Are you able to say what those other data sources will be? In the briefing session I understood that the census was not intended to provide information on staff satisfaction and productivity and that this would come from other sources. I’m assuming that the most recent Staff Satisfaction Survey might be one of those sources, but are you able to elaborate on how staff will be actively consulted, and how productivity (does this include staff workloads), will be gauged?
How was the Professional Staff Census initiative developed?
UniForum is a subscription-based service offered by Cubane Consulting. It involves the application of a well-tested methodology for capturing data regarding the distribution of all university support services against a comprehensive Activity Framework. UniForum has been in operation for four years.
Adelaide joined this year to gain a clearer picture of how and where its support services are delivered across the institution. The information obtained from our participation in UniForum will be used to inform the three reviews announced by the Vice-Chancellor late last year—the Administrative Services Review, the Teaching Operations Review, and the Review of the Cost of Research Delivery—all of which are focussed on finding ways to improve efficiency across the University.
I should add that the Census will not be the only source of data considered under the reviews - it is simply a first step in informing the general approach each will take to identifying improvement opportunities. Other sources of qualitative and quantitative data will be considered as well, and we will also actively consult with staff to incorporate their views.
All member institutions will follow the same methodology (developed by Cubane) when completing the Professional Staff Census.
Are all universities members of UniForum?
No. The following institutions are part of UniForum in 2012: Melbourne, Monash, UNSW, Sydney, QUT, UQ, Auckland, Griffith, RMIT, UTS, UniSA, ANU, Flinders, Otago, VUW and Adelaide.
How has the Census led to administrative efficiencies within universities that have undertaken the Census?
Universities have chosen to join UniForum for a variety of reasons and obviously use the resulting information in different ways depending on their individual circumstances and objectives. Some recent outcomes at other universities have included programs for the continuous improvement of service delivery; business case support for investment in systems and skills upgrades for service delivery teams.
Benchmarking Strategies / Outcomes
One of the additional strengths of UniForum process is that it provides opportunities to conduct sectoral benchmarking across a range of different factors. Adelaide, as a new member in 2012, has not been privy to any of the specific benchmarking work completed to date by other institutions. However, I am aware that benchmarking topics have included HR services, Facilities management, Procurement and IT services. Each year member institutions have a say in what topics we would like to discuss - these are yet to be determined for 2012.
Validation of Data
We are utilising a number of strategies to ensure the data obtained under the Census is as accurate and representative as possible. We will be providing all Primary Contacts (some 37 professional staff members from across the University) with progress reports at appropriate intervals during the Census, so that they can review the data that is being submitted and follow-up anything that may need double-checking. We are also actively encouraging those professional staff members responsible for completing the Census (Census Respondents) to consult with colleagues directly if they are unsure about what activity allocations should be submitted.
Ultimately, all of the data will be viewed and analysed at an aggregate level, not at an individual level. This approach has proven to be robust across the other participating institutions so I don’t anticipate data validation will be a concern for our University.
Then, answering the follow up...
There are a variety of existing data sources that we will need to look at a part of the process. Talking specifically about the Administrative Services Review (as responsibility for this review sits with me), satisfaction-related data sources could include the most recent ‘Your Voice’ survey, the recent S&R ‘Service Experience Index’ survey, information from surveys undertaken as part of the Student e-Experience Program, etc. There is a huge amount of qualitative and quantitative data already out there.
Regarding productivity, this is a far more complex factor. More thinking needs to be done on how we would gather and understand the issues. Given the timeframes, our attention has been on the process associated with the Professional Staff Census. My point at the briefing session on Wednesday (and at the other sessions) was to attempt to allay any concerns that data gathered through the Census process would be used in isolation. This is clearly not going to be the case.