UvA strengthens HR policy

12 December 2017

The UvA’s HR policy can be strengthened following the adoption of policy papers on annual consultations, career development policy, academic leadership and strategic staff planning.

Sander Nieuwenhuys

Why these policy documents are important

In the past period, these policy papers have been developed in close cooperation with the faculties and shared services, and in frequent consultation with the representative advisory bodies. The key objective is to ensure a professional HR policy aimed at attracting, retaining and developing employees (and their talents), thus enhancing education and research.

Geert ten Dam, President of the Executive Board: ‘Maintenance was overdue, so to speak. The necessary steps have been taken in recent years and these policy documents provide a framework for further improvements. The policy is based on investments in personnel policy, more attention for teaching in careers, guidance, and creating the right conditions for people to carry out their work and pursue their personal and professional development as effectively as possible. It’s also about good employership: what employees can expect, for example in the annual consultations. We take the interests of both the organisation and its employees into consideration, and these plans give concrete form to this.’

Plans

  • Improvement of annual consultations: In order to support supervisors and employees and encourage them to conduct annual consultations, the UvA will be launching or intensifying various initiatives in the years ahead. The new format for annual consultations is geared towards the future, focusing on topics such as work pressure, mutual feedback and personal development. The quality of the consultations will be improved through training and coaching as well as digital tools (e.g. for 360-degree feedback). 
  • Leadership development for academic staff: Good supervisors work with their employees to provide an inspiring environment and an appealing vision for the discipline, and promote and monitor the proper implementation of the UvA’s personnel policy. An onboarding programme is being developed for all new supervisors, a training programme entitled ‘Leadership in academia’ will be launched and supervisors will be better facilitated.
  • Career development policy: In order to attract and retain talented, highly educated employees, it is essential to offer attractive career prospects. The aim is to create a better balance in terms of the value placed on education and research, and to enable employees to take control over their own careers. The UvA facilitates this by offering training programmes and courses, career advice and career events, as well as by providing transparent information on appointment and promotion criteria, (internal) vacancies and other development opportunities.
  • Strategic Staff Planning (SSP): Strategic staff planning provides support to achieve a desired staffing scenario (both as regards the quality and quantity of staff) in a complex and dynamic environment like that of a modern university. It helps supervisors and employees to anticipate changes. Three pilots will be launched at faculties and service departments.

How the policy papers were developed

After the HR-Agenda was adopted in 2015, the development of the policy papers began. In these policy papers, five priorities have been specified in further detail. Between October 2016 and September 2017, there were regular and thorough discussions with policy officers in faculties, representatives of the employees’ organisations (UCLO) and the representative advisory bodies (COR). Round-table discussions and individual meetings with employees and supervisors were conducted as well. All these efforts generated valuable input and a broad base of support for the policy documents.  Five policy papers were eventually submitted to the Central Works Council; four of these were mostly met with approval, while one was not.

Ten Dam: ‘After careful consideration of the additional wishes and conditions, we were able to satisfy the Central Works Council's wishes on as many points as possible. We then adopted these four policy documents, because we feel it is very important for the entire UvA to begin implementing this policy. We would have also liked to adopt the fifth policy document on an appropriate balance between permanent and temporary staff.’

Temporary – permanent

The policy paper ‘Temporary and permanent staff: On the path towards an appropriate balance’ was not approved by the Central Works Council and was therefore withdrawn.

To ensure an appropriate balance between temporary and permanent staff, the UvA has already taken the necessary measures in the recent period and will continue to do so despite the withdrawal of the policy document. For example, the UvA has opted to reduce undesirable forms of flexibilisation and invest in the career prospects of staff with temporary contracts. In principle, the UvA offers employment for an indefinite period of time, unless a temporary employment is deemed necessary. Decisions to grant temporary appointments must be duly substantiated. The UvA has also explicitly committed itself to observing the maximum percentage of temporary employment contracts for the job categories of professor, associate professor, assistant professor and lecturer (22%) as stipulated in the Collective Labour Agreement, and has now fulfilled this commitment.

Implementation

The plans will be implemented in keeping with the way in which the HR-Agenda was developed: through close consultation and collaboration between the HR policy department and the P&O departments of the faculties and services. The first of these discussions have already taken place, and their content, and the implementation schedule, will be shared with the organisation as soon as more details become available.

Published by  University of Amsterdam