3.2 Supporting the competence development and well-being of the staff

Auditeringsgruppens bedömning

Aalto has well-functioning procedures for identifying and supporting staff competence development needs

Aalto has systematic, diverse and well-documented procedures for identifying and supporting staff competence development at the institutional and individual levels. The University Preview process was mentioned in the interview on staff competence and well-being as a central process for identifying new needs at the institutional level. The bi-annual My Dialogue process is the primary tool when identifying individual staff development needs.

The usefulness and central place of the My Dialogue process was emphasised in the SER and several interviews during the audit visit. For instance, during the deans’ interview, interviewees pointed out that the My Dialogue process is where staff members are explicitly encouraged to discuss competence development needs and that they are systematically supported. In the staff workshops, this was mostly confirmed. However, some staff had a few critical remarks about the user-friendliness of the supporting software. Some emphasised that informal dialogues with supervisors are equally important for developing competence in the My Dialogue process.

With regard to individual staff competence development, Aalto aims for the so-called 70/20/10 model, in which 70% of learning takes place on the job, 20% happens through learning from others, and 10% is learning in formal settings. On the intranet, one can find an overview of the various formal staff training options, which cover a broad range of relevant topics. These options are open to all Aalto employees and cover development needs for all staff categories. It was also underlined strongly during the staff competence and well-being interview that Aalto treats all employee categories on an equal footing when it comes to acknowledging and supporting competence development needs.

The following processes, procedures, and fora are also supportive of staff competence development: the Tenure Track career system for academic staff, research leaves (sabbaticals) for tenured academics to develop their competences further, and the Educational Leadership Forum. The latter is an event for the development of educational leaders, such as programme directors and heads of majors, offering possibilities for interaction and networking to strengthen the management and development of degree programmes.

Pedagogical competence development has been identified in Aalto’s SER as an essential need. There is a Pedagogical training web page designed to support pedagogical competence development. It lists basic compulsory and elective ECTS-giving courses, e.g. for course design, teaching practice, sustainability in teaching and doctoral supervision. During the staff competence and well-being interview, the interviewees also emphasised that pedagogical training is one of Aalto’s main tools for formal competence development. Three hundred teachers per year go through pedagogical training. There is institutional support for pedagogical questions, discussions and events. Many teachers have taken more than the required minimum pedagogical ECTS credits. Responses from staff workshops confirm that the teachers appreciate the availability of pedagogical development courses and programmes. Time available for individual competence development was raised as a problem.

More generally, Aalto’s Human Resources (HR) services support all kinds of staff needs, including competence development. There are also several examples of tools for internationalisation which serve to develop the staff’s global competencies. Finally, the Competence development index is a useful web page which collects information on all the processes, procedures and tools available for identifying and following up on staff competence development needs. Various forms of professional training, personal coaching services and mentoring opportunities are provided. It also enables individual staff to request feedback from colleagues on one’s strengths and enhancement areas.

The SER also refers to a future competencies project which has led to the identification of five future competency areas found to be crucial for Aalto as a learning organisation: working together, insightful expertise, learning agility and creativity, achieving excellence, and empowering leadership. However, it is unclear how explicitly these are linked to the current portfolio of training options and support services for competence development. Aalto should develop its portfolio of staff training options and their support services for competence development to ensure that these essential future competence areas are explicitly covered and supported. 

Aalto has clear, transparent, and fair procedures for staff recruitment

Aalto has clear, transparent, and fair procedures for recruitment, and career paths for development after recruitment. The SER states that Aalto is committed to ethical recruitment, treating all applicants equally and fairly, and all the policies and procedures in researcher recruitment are aligned with the European Commission’s Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers and the HRS4R Charter and Code. These claims are convincingly documented on the web page Recruitment at Aalto, where one finds a detailed description of the recruitment process, including a section on Ensuring equality. It also contains a comprehensive handbook on quality and diversity in recruitment with sections on equality, diversity, unconscious biases, prearrangements to support equality, institutional policies for various career paths and various support materials. This excellent source of information contributes significantly to promoting fairness and transparency in staff recruitment. There is also a webpage describing how academic leadership is recruited with an open search in a transparent and communal manner. Fairness and transparency in career development are supported through institutional policies such as the Tenure Track and Lecturer career paths.

Aalto has systematic and diverse procedures to support the well-being, equality and non-discrimination of all staff categories

Aalto provides an impressive and diverse set of procedures, services and fora for supporting staff well-being. Staff well-being is referred to as a key development area in the SER, and the importance of well-being was also emphasised strongly in several interviews during the audit visit, from top management on down. For example, recruitment to ensure sufficient capacity in well-being support services was explicitly mentioned as important in the interview with deans.

Several tools are used for monitoring staff well-being at Aalto. Examples are the biennial staff well-being survey, individual pulse surveys such as a monthly survey on hybrid working, workplace surveys every five years and a well-being survey for doctoral students. The aforementioned My Dialogue process also includes well-being aspects. This process was emphasised in several interviews as perhaps the key procedure for discussing well-being aspects with individual staff members and making individual follow-up plans.

The webpage Wellbeing at work index provides information on healthcare services, perks, and employee benefits including sports/training opportunities and other practical aspects of well-being. Other relevant support services include the Wellbeing desk – a newly launched low-threshold service point for employees. It provides advice and guidance on work well-being and ability via online information, physical meetings and events. The Wellbeing Desk is one of the services offered under the more comprehensive project Oasis of Radical Wellbeing, designed to be an accelerator of well-being for students and employees in Aalto.

Aalto’s staff well-being services have an impressive level of ambition and broadness of scope. However, a challenge may be that not all services are well-known to all staff members. In some cases, services may not be well-matched to the essential needs of staff members. During the audit visit, staff workshop summaries highlighted the need for more practical services and actions for well-being. Examples given were the need for better support for conflict management and handling of difficult situations, more explicit guidelines for workload management and leadership development considering human aspects more.

There also seemed to be a perception among some staff members that staff well-being is not prioritised on the level of student well-being. These concerns should be investigated to ensure well-functioning communication of the available services and the best possible alignment between services offered and the needs identified.

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is generally an area where Aalto has strong strategic aims and ambitions. EDI is also Aalto’s self-chosen evaluation area in this audit, and this topic is therefore treated in more detail under Chapter 4. Overall, Aalto takes their EDI responsibilities very seriously and has many well-functioning procedures and tools in place to enhance equal and non-discriminatory treatment of staff and students.