Staff Experience Survey 2018 results

Thanks to everyone who completed the 2018 Staff Experience Survey (6,673 in total), we have an overview across the organisation: what staff value about working here, and where they would like to see improvements. The survey, launched in 2016 as a new biennial study, was sent to all members of staff in the four academic divisions and in University Administration and Services (UAS), the Bodleian, the History of Science Museum and the Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum.

Following the 2018 survey, many of you will be aware of your own departmental plans to help take forward actions identified from the responses received. Now that many departmental action plans are being delivered, we felt it would be useful to share the overall findings with you, together with a few examples of the work being carried out to help make improvements.

Read the full Staff Experience Survey 2018 Report. 

Expand All

The rate of job satisfaction remained at the same high level as reported in 2016 by respondents. 86% reported overall satisfaction with their job, 91% would recommend working at the University to a friend, and 84% would be happy to recommend working in their own department. We are committed to monitoring these satisfaction rates regularly, and working towards improving them even further.

The majority of respondents reported that they take time to consider their career development, feel comfortable discussing their development needs with their manager or supervisor, and that they have opportunities to take on new responsibilities and to develop new skills.

65% of respondents had undertaken a Personal Development Review (PDR) within the previous two years (two-fifths of people who had not had a PDR said that this was because they were new to their role). However, only around half of the people who had a PDR found it useful and we have work planned to improve training and the resources available to support both managers and supervisors and staff have more productive PDR conversations.

Personnel Committee has recently approved a new set of high-level principles for University PDR schemes which all schemes will need to abide by. Currently being developed below these overarching principles are separate schemes for academic, research and for professional and support staff. The scheme for research staff will be developed as part of the University’s work on the new Concordat. In addition, a pilot study – involving departments in MSD, Finance and IT – is exploring the use of online tools to see what benefits they may bring to the PDR process.

IT Services has introduced an online system called Actus – Performance Management System. This provides a system that not only supports PDR processes, but is set up with templates for probation (both mid-term and end-term) and other staff management processes, including 1:2:1 meetings. It also manages objectives (individual, group and departmental) and development needs, providing senior managers with easy access to progress reports. The team reports an increase in the number of PDRs completed this year.

The administrative team in the Department of Psychiatry has produced new guidance around the PDR process for senior researchers, to better understand the purpose of the PDR and how to prepare appropriately.

The new Focus on People programme will also provide clearer frameworks for professional colleagues, helping to extend professional networks and develop clearer career paths.

As in the previous survey, managers and supervisors were rated highly for valuing staff contributions and for providing helpful feedback. Three-quarters of respondents agreed that their manager or supervisor supported them to think about their professional development, and 68% that they were encouraged to take up career development opportunities.

The new Focus on People programme will also include a leadership and management strand. This will provide support for new managers and supervisors and enhance the resources for existing managers and supervisors to help enable benefits for all employees.

Around 40% of respondents reported that they were responsible for leading or managing staff. Management confidence was high across all areas with the exception of the lower 67% confidence rate reported for applying HR policies for managing or advising staff.

As a result of the HR Futures work, the HR Policy team has designed a new online format for University policies that reorganises them, breaking them down into tabbed sections. The tabs provide information about who the policy is for and what it does, together with a step-by-step guide to using the policy, FAQs, resources and links to further information.

In all of the areas surveyed across the University, there was an increase of recent recruits reporting that they found the induction to their own department useful (up overall to 62%– 6% higher than in 2016). The perceived usefulness of the induction to the University across the areas surveyed had fallen by 8% to 49%.

Future work will include developing our induction material. And, as an example of how this is being addressed in one professional service area across  the University, a training framework for all HR staff  is being developed that will include a better and more integrated, central induction programme.

This section of the survey included questions about whether respondents perceived the management and decision-making to be clear and transparent, both in their own department and centrally. 58% stated that processes were clear in their department, 44% the University.   

The University aims to be open about its decision-making processes. Agendas, minutes and decision notes from Council meetings are available for all members of the University to view on the Council website at (behind SSO). Over the last few months the Public Affairs Internal Communications team has been working with the Planning and Council Secretariat to raise awareness of this website and to publish key decisions from Council meetings on the Staff Gateway.

In addition, progress from the University’s Strategic Plan (2018-23) is a new regular feature in the monthly issue of Blueprint Bulletin, which is mailed to all staff.

If there is any information you find hard to locate, or if you have any suggestions about how information might be better shared, please contact with your comments. 

26% of respondents had experience of mentoring by someone other than their line manager in their current role, and of those 84% found it useful. There are various mentoring and professional development schemes available to members of the University. A number of department and divisions offer their own schemes. An example being GEMS,  a department-wide mentoring scheme open to all staff and DPhil students at the School of Geography and the Environment. Please do check what is available to you locally.

University schemes include:

An overview of Mentoring at the University is available on the Professional and Organisational Development website.

18% of staff stated that they have felt unfairly treated in the workplace in the last year, with 12% reporting that they have experienced harassment, including bullying.

Our Personnel Committee has set up a new working group to address this issue. The group will look at our relevant policies and procedures, reporting mechanisms and support structures, and also explore how we might seek to change our culture.

Some aspects of the staff working environment and culture were given very positive ratings by respondents. These included being able to be themselves at work (91%), having supportive colleagues (93%), and feeling integrated into their team (91%). Less positive was the feeling that there is a fair and transparent way of allocating work in their area (64%).

Our Human Resource policies and processes provide the framework for departments and faculties to support their people and to respond to the ever-changing external environment, and we strive to make continuous improvements.

We’re always seeking to make Oxford University a great place to work. From 1 January 2020 we are abolishing the qualifying service requirement for our contractual family leave benefits (maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental). All employees, regardless of how long they have worked for us, will be entitled to our generous contractual leave and pay schemes. This will be particularly beneficial for staff on fixed-term contracts who move around the University.

We hope this will make us a more attractive employer, helping with our Strategic Plan commitment to attract, recruit and retain the highest calibre staff.

Please ensure that you do take a few minutes to have your say in the 2020 survey. Your insight is critical for building on our successes and for shaping plans to help make the University a great place to work.

Together with our commitments to staff in the Strategic Plan and the University’s new Focus on People programme – announced by the Registrar in October 2019 to support and develop those in professional and administrative roles –we are working continuously to improve the experience of working at Oxford for everyone.