How can a traditionally staid, conservative industry embrace change? HRD talks to Griffith University to find out
The tertiary sector now dates back several millennia, arguably starting with the É-Dub-ba scribal schools of Ancient Mesopotamia (c. 2000-1600 BCE). Since those humble beginnings, it’s drastically expanded – education is now arguably valued now more than at any other stage of human history.
However, it would be fair to say that over the course of centuries the tertiary sector has also acquired a reputation for being somewhat conservative, and slow to embrace change. But at Griffith, a university that has a proud history of innovation, there are concerted efforts afoot to not only defy this reputation, but actually change it.
Universities have an obligation to be centres of learning on every front, including in their workforce – and HR has a crucial role in driving a continuous learning culture, says Kristal Lowe, Head of HR Strategy & Innovation.
“As an industry, we’re facing increasing external competition where we’ve traditionally had none,” says Lowe. “Online providers are making big advances, funding is tightening, and accordingly there’s pressure to look for new revenue streams and maximise existing ones.”
But Lowe is loath to paint an image of doom and gloom – after all, more market competition can also drive a more user-centric approach from providers, she notes.
“Our core business is built around student needs, but we realised that needed to be better reflected in our organisational development approach,” says Lowe. “Not only do we need to ensure that we’ve got the most up-to-date courses – we need to make sure staff are up to date on delivering them to our digitally savvy students.”
A key solution to this dilemma came in the form of the Capability Development Framework. Launched in 2018, the Capability Development Framework is an innovative digital organisational development system which provides users with customised development journeys, based around their current capability and career development needs.
“It’s highly individualised program,” says Lowe. “During the prototyping phase we undertook detailed user research. The user insights and stories we gleaned gave us a clearer idea of how we could better construct the Capability Development Framework and deliver better outcomes for the university.”
This prototyping phase was also crucial for “selling” numerous members of the faculty on the benefits. Lowe’s team clearly demonstrated that developmental tasks and learning could be effectively incorporated into staff’s daily workflow, rather than being needlessly time-consuming outside of work hours.
“There was a bit of scepticism at first,” admits Lowe. “We’re not a typical corporate environment, so tension can arise when you bring more corporate elements into these workforces.”
The data and analytics collected by the program also provide insights into how to focus staff development to support critical university priorities. Lowe and her team also demonstrated how staff could use the Capability Development Framework as a tool to support their own career goals and development.
Thanks to their user-centred design, reception among staff has been highly positive. It’s been less than a year since the initial rollout, and bigger things are still planned for the Capability Development Framework’s future. Ultimately, the university is pursuing an ecosystem of adaptability and continuous learning, notes Lowe.
“Looking ahead, I’d like to see even better integration between staff learning and student learning,” says Lowe. “It’s an opportunity for better synergy between the two, with a greater focus on the two groups learning together.”