Yesterday’s UCL Professional Services Conference on the theme of ‘Working in Partnership’ was attended by around 600 staff from across UCL’s central Professional Services divisions, Offices of Vice-Provosts and many Faculties and departments.
The keynote speech was given by former England international rugby player Maggie Alphonsi MBE. Maggie was part of the World Cup-winning England team in 2014 and is arguably is one of the most well-known names in women’s team sports. Her candid and engaging talk spanned from childhood in South East London, to reaching outstanding sporting success for England and being part of the team named BBC Sports Personality Team of the Year in 2014. Maggie highlighted her motivations for success, and how she had set goals at different stages of her life. She spoke about taking away lessons from losing two World Cup finals to finally claim the trophy as a member of a highly-performing team. Maggie defined High Performance Teams for the audience, and presented different models on team performance, including Patrick Lencioni’s “5 dysfunctions of a team” and the Team Evolution Curve. Having a completely different perspective provided from outside HE was certainly thought-provoking and helped to think differently about team-working in a UCL context.
Each participant in the Professional Services Conference had been asked to complete a questionnaire on Belbin Team Roles (http://www.belbin.com/about/belbin-team-roles/) and colleagues were then grouped with colleagues whose preferred roles are different to their own. The lunchtime session was spent meeting colleagues from other parts of UCL, and working as teams to answer questions on how to improve UCL (for instance wellbeing, compliance with regulations or improving cross-UCL communication).
Award for GOSH-ICH Library refurbishment project
As the final part of the conference, the Provost and Vice-Provost (Operations) took to the stage to present 5 awards for Professional Services staff. The five categories were “Working in partnership across PS teams”, “Sharing good practice”, “Process review/system improvement”, “Improving efficiency” and “Improving service user satisfaction”.
It was brilliant to see the award for Improving service user satisfaction, which recognises improvements in the satisfaction levels of service users such as students, staff or visitors, go to the team involved in the refurbishment of the GOSH-ICH Library (as a highlight of PCs for Students). Congratulations to the colleagues involved from Library Services (Jay Woodhouse, Ricky Estwick, Phil Watson, Collette Lawrence, Grazia Manzotti and the ICH Library team), but also Estates, ISD (Tim Burles) and ICH IT.
The award recognises the impact which the refurbishment has had, with tremendously positive reactions from library staff and users (ranging from “It looks fantastic!” to “Wow” and “[…]” (awe-struck silence)). Grazia described the outcome as the result of the refurbishment as “amazing – we have had really good feedback, we even had even some people screaming when they came in as they couldn’t believe how nice it is”. Usage numbers for the library are substantially higher than in previous years. The library now attracts more students, as part of a Library-wide strategy to promote the wide range of libraries on offer in Bloomsbury.
In terms of evidence for the impact of the work undertaken last summer, there are early indicators showing much-improved user satisfaction. For instance, the Student Experience Survey in 2018 shows marked improvement from the previous year in the NSS-style question on IT provision (+9% to 77%). The New to UCL survey indicates similar improvements, as the number of complaints relating to study space dropped from 10 negative comments in the autumn of 2016 to 3 in 2017.
Overall, this project exemplified the creativity and resourcefulness of the professional services staff involved. It also illustrates their collective dedication to improve the student experience with limited resources. This project was more than the sum of its parts, thanks to colleagues such as Tim Burles and Jay Woodhouse working jointly to pool resources between ISD and the funding granted by the CESB to Library Services. The delivery of over 500 new study spaces in advance of the New Student Centre opening in early 2019 has been a major boost to current students’ experience, and has placed UCL in a much better position to deliver the “outstanding student experience” set out in UCL 2034.
More information, including the breakdown of other sites where the 500 PCs were rolled out is available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/news/2017/oct/15-increase-ucl-study-space-2016-17
The Provost presented the award to Grazia as representative of the project (pictured above). Following the event, Paul Ayris passed on his congratulations to all concerned. David Price, Vice-Provost (Research) also congratulated the project team on this great news.
The awards ceremony was followed by a Panel Q&A session where the Provost, Rex Knight, Helen Fisher (Faculty Manager at The Bartlett, currently on secondment in the UCL East Team), Collette Lux (Director of Communication & Marketing) and Fiona Ryland (Director of HR) took questions from staff. The questions covered gender equality among senior UCL staff, the costs and impact of the TOPS programme, mentoring for UCL staff and tips from the panelists on how to carve a successful career in Higher Education professional services. On the latter, the Provost’s advice was “pick up the phone, rather than email” and Helen Fisher recommended taking ownership of one’s own career, and Rex Knight suggested defining what success means to you and setting goals to achieve that, in an echo to the keynote from Maggie Alphonsi.
Hopefully participants who attended enjoyed the half-day conference, and I know that Library Services colleagues will continue participate in the Professional Services Conference and continue to be recognized for the excellent work which Library staff do day-in, day-out.