The impact in the workplace of unacceptable behaviours, such as bullying and harassment, is well known - increased levels of absence, staff turnover, and lower staff morale which can reduce productivity and damage staff wellbeing. The effects of such behaviours are harmful to all concerned, potentially expensive for institutions and carry the risk of serious reputational damage. That is to say nothing of where such issues impact on the student experience, wellbeing and outcomes.
The higher education sector is not immune to such behaviours. In October 2019 the EHRC published its inquiry into racial harassment in publicly funded universities in Great Britain. The report revealed that racial harassment was a common experience for students and staff (24% of students from an ethnic minority background said they had experienced racial harassment; 1 in 20 students said racism had made them leave their studies). In January 2020, the Wellcome Trust published a report about research culture in which nearly two-thirds of researchers surveyed reported that they had witnessed bullying or harassment, and 43% reported having experienced it themselves. Just one in three reported feeling comfortable speaking up about this, with many doubting appropriate action will be taken.
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Advance HE has developed an offer to help institutions in addressing bullying and harassment, promoting dignity and respect and building inclusive culture that works both strategically and with individuals on the ground. Aimed at navigating the issues in a way that is both supportive and challenging, we support institutions in transforming culture by maintaining a golden thread of ‘demonstrating integrity’ as central to the overall goal of the work programme.
As the membership body of and for the higher education sector and hosts for the Equality Charters, Advance HE has the deep contextual understanding of the issues and is set up in order to be able to help institutions address issues of dignity and respect strategically. We recognise that in order for institutions to succeed in demonstrating integrity, issues need to be considered in the round and interventions cannot be undertaken simply as a ‘tick box’ exercise. We specialise in working with managers and staff at all levels to recognise and understand the core issues, articulate the transformation desired and co-create the development and solutions necessary for lasting, embedded change.
Our approach to supporting you in developing a strong and healthy organisation recognises the complexities involved in defining, measuring and attempting to change ‘culture’. Our approach is based upon an understanding that it is not static, can be difficult to define, can be expressed and interpreted differently across the organisation, is rooted in personal and professional identities, involves power balances and is present and socialised at every level in an organisation.
Our Transforming Culture Cycle illustrates the support that we can provide to institutions across higher education. This does not need to be undertaken in its entirety, and depending upon the initiative and the fit with other development activities being carried out by the institution, different elements may be selected as either stand-alone or in combination with others.
Bullying and harassment audits
The sensitive nature of bullying and harassment means that many institutions find it difficult to obtain information from staff regarding their experiences. As a neutral third party, Advance HE’s bespoke research on bullying and harassment provides institutions with invaluable insight into the prevalence and impact of bullying and harassment in their institution, as well as recommendations for how to improve staff perceptions and experiences.
Our workshops are designed to help participants to navigate their way through the issues in a way that is both supportive and challenging, with a focus on understanding legal and organisational parameters, and then moving beyond legal compliance to embed equality and diversity in management practices, and develop behaviours that build an inclusive culture.
In addition to building participants’ knowledge of their rights and responsibilities, the workshops aim to bring equality and diversity issues to life through discussions, personal reflection and interactive exercises. There is a focus on skills development and practical application with the encouragement for participants to safely share their experiences and develop action plans.
Our workshops are designed to deliver the following learning outcomes:
- a clear understanding of what constitutes bullying, harassment and victimisation
- developing an organisational approach to dignity and respect at work that is informed by legal obligations, institutional values and the wellbeing of staff and students
- understanding the expectations of managers and staff in relation to dignity and respect at work, and the policies and processes that support them
- ensuring managers and staff understand their role and responsibilities in tackling inappropriate behaviour, and supporting colleagues and students who have experienced or witnessed bullying and harassment
- supporting the development of a positive and inclusive culture, with ‘respect at work or on campus’ at the core.
TestimonialWe were looking for something a bit different - not an exploration of culture with a report and recommendations, or an off the shelf short training/development programme but a longer term, bespoke piece of work that would enable my School teams to become empowered and skilled in exploring their own culture and developing it themselves with our support.
We felt that Advance HE’s combined expertise in inclusion, culture, education and leadership made them unique in the sector and most likely to be able to deliver what we were looking for. When I spoke with the team there, they listened to our needs, learned more about our context and designed and delivered this programme. Having worked with them for over 12 months now I have learned that they also bring a flexibility and responsiveness to the context making this not only a bespoke and fit for purpose programme from the start but one that has evolved with our changing needs.
Professor Sherria Hoskins
Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science and Health, University of Portsmouth