Sheffield Hallam University - Hive Customer Story

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Innovating a University’s approach to employee engagement

Established in 1843, Sheffield Hallam University is one of the UK’s largest and most progressive Universities.

From humble beginnings and specialist subject areas, the Uni now attracts over 30,000 students and has a workforce of 4,300 employees across academic disciplines and departments.
Academic Departments
Credit: Image taken from Sheffield Hallam University website

By partnering with Hive, the Uni want to modernise their approach to engagement and provide all of their people with a voice as they navigate organisational change and deliver on the ‘Hallam Deal’.

Developing the Hallam Deal

Sheffield Hallam believes that “success is not about institutions or equipment, but about giving individuals the opportunity and support they need to make a difference”. The Hallam Deal – initiated in 2017 as part of a three-year People Strategy – reflects what the University offers employees, beyond pay and benefits, in return for their commitment, passion and dedication to delivering outstanding student experiences. The deal encompasses five core areas of employee experience:

  1. Where you work (the working environment)
  2. Working together (with respect and fairness)
  3. The job you do (the challenge and interest) 
  4. How you get rewarded (for your commitment)
  5. The opportunity (to achieve your potential)

Transitioning away from the annual survey

Like many higher education institutions, Sheffield Hallam previously relied on infrequent engagement surveys to gather employee feedback but, as part of the Hallam Deal, the Uni pledged to take a more effective and considered approach to employee engagement. 

Never one to shy away from innovation, the Uni’s HROD team sought a digital employee feedback platform that would drive employee voicechoosing Hive for its flexibility on survey questions and supplementary People Science support.

“We recognise that employee engagement plays a vital part in delivering on our people strategy - also supporting our wider goal to become the UK’s leading applied university. Hive provides the perfect platform for our leaders and our managers to listen to our people and understand their work expectations; helping us to respond to employee issues and ideas far quicker than we ever could before."

Sarah Swales, Assistant Director of Human Resources & Organisatonal Development, Sheffield Hallam University

Creating organisational readiness for employee surveying

Higher education institutions often find there are cultural challenges to overcome when introducing organisation-wide technologies, and so Sheffield Hallam’s HROD teamAssistant Director of HROD, Sarah Swales, and HR Manager, Kelly Cooksonworked with Hive’s People Science team to identify organisational blockers to employee surveying.

This involved:

  • Discovery sessions with the Uni’s board and Senior Leadership team; Hive’s Director of People Science, Ryan Tahmassebi, presented on the purpose behind employee surveying and facilitated discussions around the Uni’s previous employee surveying experience, also setting the goals for more frequent surveying.
  • Action-planning workshops with managers and Heads of Departments; Ryan’s team upskilled managers in analysing Hive employee feedback and creating effective feedback action plans.
  • Survey question mapping against the Hallam Deal; Ryan’s team helped the Uni’s HROD team to map the questions in their survey to the five categories of the Hallam Deal—writing the questions with a familiar brand tone and language.

A survey strategy to measure success

By the end of 2018, Sheffield Hallam had already made huge headway delivering against elements of the Hallam Deal, and with Hive’s support, could now measure and assess the impact of their initiatives. 

The Uni’s first Hive survey launched in March 2019. The HR team encouraged employee buy-in with a creative communications campaign including video content and reported positive survey response rates over a two week period. 

“We're keen to build momentum and energy for employee surveying. Off the back of our first survey, our Leadership team have been discussing strategic organisational changes, while managers and Heads of Departments have dived deeper and will be taking key insights back into their teams for discussion. Our main focus now is on implementing two or three positive changes as a priority, as opposed to a long list of isolated actions.”

Sarah Swales, Assistant Director of Human Resources & Organisatonal Development, Sheffield Hallam University

Seeing the difference

Leaders and managers are now in the process of analysing feedback from across the Uni’s workforce – segmenting the data by faculty, department and division, but also drawing out organisational trends in line with the Hallam deal. 

Top-line positive results include:

  • Consistently positive scores around line-manager behaviours - important, given the role line-managers play in creating a positive employee experience.
  • Employees feel comfortable being themselves at work - indicating a positive working atmosphere and working relationships with teams.
  • Employees feel trusted to achieve what is expected of them and feel a sense of personal accomplishment in their daily work - key drivers in enabling employees to feel proud to work for the University.
  • Positive sentiment was reported in relation to cooperation and teamwork within teams, which will help the University shape positive team dynamics and high-performance.
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Credit: Image taken from Sheffield Hallam University website

Survey results have, of course, also indicated areas for improvement and the HR team are now having follow-up conversations at leadership, management and wider employee group level. 

Sheffield Hallam is an organisation that has taken time to create the right conditions for surveying by engaging stakeholders from the outset and setting a solid survey strategy. Hive look forward to tracking Sheffield Hallam’s journey as they continue to implement positive change.