According to staff perceptions based on a University staff survey, there was limited clarity and transparency regarding the promotion process in the University. Women anecdotally suggested that there was limited understanding about promotion process. The lack of transparency might prevent individual staff from applying for promotion. Research suggests that women are much less likely than their male peers to ask for promotions (Babcock and Laschever, 2003). Considering that a) women are less likely to apply for positions when they do not fulfil all the criteria and b) might be less encouraged from senior staff (often men occupy these positions), women were less likely to submit an application/ less likely to ask for help or the right questions.
Workshop to enhance transparency about the selection/promotion process and the criteria for promotion
The objective of the ‘Demystifying the Promotion Process’ workshop was to provide academic-led information about what is needed for promotion at each academic career stage (process and required paperwork). The speakers at these events included the Pro-Vice Chancellors, Chairs of Faculties and members of the University Promotion Committee.
HR team responsible for promotions along with equality and diversity team, gender experts to ensure that the content is not gendered. Senior academic buy-in from those on relevant committees. Budget for refreshment/lunch for participants because it facilitates informal conversation
Resources for developing a questionnaire and analysing data immediately and a few years after the event would be useful to investigate whether it is worthwhile and useful to participants.
Events have been running annually while in 2018/19 a new Promotions process was introduced and a ‘Promotions Explained’ event was held on 11 May 2018, supported by guidance on the website. This replaced the annual ‘Demystifying Warwick Promotion Process’ workshop, to inform and guide on process/criteria. Hosted by the Provost and members of Warwick’s Promotion Committee, the event format has evolved following feedback from attendees. Based on feedback, information was requested for Teaching Focussed and Research Focussed staff, which has subsequently been included since the 2016 event. In order to assess impact, attendance is monitored by gender, to ascertain if some attendees go on to submit for promotion and their subsequent success rate. Since the beginning of these events, 191 staff have attended– 93 female and 98 males. A high promotion success rate has been noted amongst attendees (of 39 attendees submitting for promotion, 35 were successful).
Recruitment, career progression and retention
Type of action
University of Warwick
Higher education institution
Action level of implementation
All staff interested in promotions and mentors in terms of their role in supporting junior staff.
This event requires liaison between HR, senior leadership team and members of the committee(s) for academic promotions. It is important to establish and decide the content and the format of such an event depending on the needs identified through the audit. Individuals responsible for this event should identify potential career pathways (e.g. academic/teaching only/research only) and career progression levels (for example from research fellow to senior research fellow or associate professor to full professor) where necessary. Then identify and invite in advance individuals in the institution that participate in such decisions to provide clear information for different pathways and levels along with senior HR person. Time should be allocated for questions and answers and individual slots (one to one or small group) depending on needs of the participants. Moreover, faculty representatives to ensure that disciplinary differences are taken into consideration.
We have developed a questionnaire to understand the benefits of people participating in the event a few years after attending the workshop to understand perceptions of staff about the event and the discourse around the promotions process. The questionnaire included a few statements in relation to the workshop and open ended questions to enable respondents to elaborate on their views and experiences of the event. We provided around 10 days to fill in the questionnaire and then send a reminder to increase response rate.
Communication about this event at university wide level is of paramount importance for its success. It is advisable to have departmental administrators (HR and/or Head of Department) forwarding information to staff for this event. Encouragement from the Head of Department to attend would be useful. We communicated this action as part of responding to the survey results about lack of clarity and transparency, the University has decided to run this event to enhance information about the promotion process and enable participants to get an insight and raise questions in relation to this process.
Long term outcomes/impact
More staff are successful in getting promoted.
Staff are more aware of the promotion procedure and hence are better prepared to put themselves forward for promotion and have better chances of being promoted.
Creating an open space to ask questions without feeling embarrassed within and beyond the event.
Moreover, a higher proportion of staff replied that the academic promotion process is fair which may be a result of this. We also expect that greater transparency in the promotion process will lead potentially to greater trust towards the institution and its processes.
Staff may not think it is necessary especially if the information is published but there is space to ask questions senior members.
Be clear about the benefits of attending such an event and ensure that you get and respond to feedback from participants.
- Staff Survey (by gender over time). The survey (N=28 respondents) showed that most respondents who attended the event to get a better understanding of the promotion process in terms of ‘how the system worked’, what were the criteria and what was expected from an application. Many participants found the event helpful in gathering information, understanding and learning about the promotion process but also to guide them into taking active steps towards promotion (e.g. talking to their line manager/HoD; starting to thinking about it). Reflecting back about the usefulness of the workshop, they reported that it provided useful facts and in some cases it encouraged attendees to apply for promotion, feeling more confident about their CVs. A few reported actual results of being successful in their promotion process as a result of the workshop. The analysis of the responses in the open-ended questions showed a negative discourse around promotions, being perceived as a rather opaque process with limited alignment between what is communicated centrally and what is taking place across departments. The survey provided recommendations that have fed into the new promotions process and addressed some of the challenges linked with the previous promotion process.
- Data on participation to event/promotion applications/successes by gender
- Attendees who applied for promotion each year and their success rate compared with non attendees and by gender
- Data on interest for the workshop over time
- Qualitative data (could become part of the staff survey see number 1): Is the event useful? Why? What is missing? Is there a gender element? What do women/men thing about the process and what are their recommendations?
Tips/strategies – Lessons learnt
It is important to establish and decide the content and the format of such an event depending on the needs identified during an assessment or diagnosis of the situation in your institutional context. Individuals responsible for this event should identify potential career pathways (e.g. academic/teaching only/research only) and career progression levels (for example from research fellow to senior research fellow or associate professor to full professor) where necessary. Then, identify and invite in advance individuals in the institution that participate in such decisions to provide clear information for different pathways and levels, along with senior HR person. Ensure that you evaluate the workshop directly after it takes place and a few years after to investigate whether/how it was useful in terms of applying for promotion and whether they were successful. Ensure that the structure, content of the workshop addresses the aim and remains timely and appropriate. We made sure to allocate a lot of time for questions and answers, as well as individual slots (one to one or small group), depending on needs of the participants. Moreover, faculty representatives ensured that disciplinary differences are taken into consideration.
Monitor whether there is demand for and tweak accordingly based on the needs of the targeted participants. For example, in one event we did breakout groups to target sub populations e.g. Staff who gave had a career break. But the event needs to be flexible depending on demand. You could consider organising small discussion groups by type of promotion. Explore why not enough people attended, whether part of long term goal of this event is achieved. Furthermore, it is important to take into consideration logistic issues such as whether room is big enough or there was enough food/coffee.
Potential participants should be invited well ahead of the planned date, which should be set to fit in with the annual promotion cycle. We chose to invite all academic staff as either interested in being promoted or in supporting junior colleagues. Reminders closer to the date were also sent to all academic staff via heads of department.
This event has been replicated by departments which hold their own demystifying event on top of this university wide event which allows them to provide discipline specific advice.
The negative discourse collected in the open-ended questions of the survey showed that despite the improvements and general success of the workshop, it is not the complete solution to the dissatisfaction with the promotions process. Further qualitative work suggested that the biggest issues arose in disciplines/departments without effective career mentoring so the encounter with the promotions process was the first time individuals had been encouraged/required to show their progress in an academic career.