People and Culture in 2022 

It seems a bit late to be saying it, but welcome back! It’s hard to believe we’re coming to the end of the first month of 2022, having already welcomed our students back onto campus and navigated another round of Government announcements relating to the global pandemic. While restrictions are easing, Covid-19 continues to impact lives, workplaces and working practices – do take your time to adjust as we gradually return to normal campus life.  

Here in HR, one of our major areas of focus this year will be the development of a refreshed People & Culture Strategy for the University. The last two years have been tough for us all but, amongst all the difficulties we have endured, we have collectively shown an enormous amount of resilience, adaptability and flexibility. We have discovered that where and even when you do your work are less important than we thought previously. We have an increased admiration for working parents, carers and front-line staff. We have learned to talk about our mental health and we have learned that what really matters is being kind, caring and looking out for each other.  

The way we did things before will not be the way we do things in future. The world has changed and the world of work has changed. There is, therefore, no better time for us to consider what good looks like in terms of the culture of the University and for the people who work here.  

There is, of course, still plenty more to improve as we head into the year. Workload and Wellbeing remain major issues for many – my thanks to all of you who completed our recent survey on this, which closed last Friday. We are currently looking through the results ahead of focus groups on the areas of most concern, before supporting directorates and divisions to understand their findings and develop associated action plans. A new Wellbeing Toolkit will also launch in the coming weeks, pulling together all of the support and guidance available to help staff wellbeing. 

Teams across the University are also feeling the wider pressures affecting the sector, which include the important issues being discussed as part of the ongoing national industrial action taken by UCU. We continue to have constructive dialogue with our local UCU colleagues on both the national picture and their areas of concern locally, and will provide regular updates on the discussions and any future developments. We remain in a competitive environment as a University and, where things are within our control, we will need to be open to change so that we keep ourselves on the right course for the future. We have already made real strides in this and I would encourage you to join the Vice-Chancellor and the Finance team at Friday’s Staff Webchat to hear more about how your hard work made a difference over the last year. 

Finally, making sure staff have meaningful ways to engage with how we work at Kent is what underpins all of this. Throughout the year, we will look to create more opportunities for staff to come together – whether it’s getting key updates and a chance to give feedback on University performance and major projects through our staff webchats, celebrating successes through our Staff Recognition Awards, or just having a chance to meet others on our beautiful campuses for a catch-up. Our annual Staff Conference will also return so we can all connect up our different areas of activity and celebrate the fantastic work across our community.  

There is much for us to build on after a challenging year and I look forward to what we can all do together as things open up in the months ahead to make 2022 a great year for Kent.

Martin Atkinson | Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development