Human resources development at the University of Konstanz

1. Our objectives

Since its foundation as a reform university, the University of Konstanz has stood for top-level research, excellence in teaching and study, internationality and interdisciplinary collaboration. With its more than 2,000 full-time employees, the university is one of the largest employers in the region. Approximately 200 professors, more than 1,000 early career researchers and academic staff as well as approx. 1,000 academic support staff live and shape our “Culture of Creativity”. At the University of Konstanz, we place high value on performance, but we also actively look after our staff. As an employer, we support our employees in various ways to help them carry out their work in research, teaching, administration and the technical support services to the best of their abilities. We value our staff members’ contributions, promoting their professional development and providing them with the freedom to fulfil their true potential. In all of this, we make sure to apply the principles of equal opportunity and diversity.

As laid out in our institutional strategy “Culture of Creativity”,which received funding through the German Excellence Initiative, we at the University of Konstanz are committed to promoting our early career researchers, to ensuring equal opportunity and providing family support services, as well as to upholding the ideal of institutional creativity and to maintaining a meaningful conversation with the public. We ask a lot from our staff members as we implement these goals. This challenge, however, comes with special opportunities for our employees to realise their potential. As our mission statement makes clear, we are committed to recruiting and promoting highly qualified students, junior researchers and staff. As a university, we strive to react to social change by adapting our structures to current challenges, which means that our employees deal with complex situations and conditions that demand both flexibility and creativity. Our employees are required to be highly motivated individuals, to identify strongly with the university and to accept responsibility for their work. As an employer, we are in turn called upon to provide our employees with a stable professional identity that promotes life-long and self-guided learning. In addition, we strive to create research and working conditions that are conducive to promoting good health. At the University of Konstanz, we take into account various life situations and requirements (e.g. of women in academia, international researchers, employees with family responsibilities, employees with illnesses), applying the principles of equal opportunity and sustainability to our social and institutional processes.

Our human resources development strategy is aimed at all academic or academic support staff working at the University of Konstanz. It defines our conception of human resources development, including relevant target groups and actors, and identifies fields of action as well as appropriate measures. Here, we largely exclude the university’s central task of educating future academics and administrative staff. Further information about these areas is available in key university documents such as the Code of Practice for Effective Teaching, the University of Konstanz’s Code of Practice for Doctoral Researchers and the Konstanz Code of Practice for Researchers between Doctoral Studies and Professorship. In the academic sector, our main objective is to create favourable general and financial conditions for our (early career) researchers, mainly because their global recognition depends above all on their ability to carry out top-level research.

2. Our vision of human resources development

2.1 General understanding of human resources development

Human resources development at universities aims to provide (continuing) education to all university staff members. It encompasses all concepts, measures and instruments used to educate, advance and further develop our staff members’ competencies. The services we provide to that end are guided by competency models, oriented towards the present and future as well as planned to meet actual demand and satisfy the needs of various target groups. They have been developed on the basis of data and evidence. Human resources development helps both the university and its employees realise strategic and individual development objectives. (Continuing) academic education is provided by our departments and the university’s research institutions as well as our facilities dedicated to promoting our junior researchers. The individual line managers are responsible for the development of their teams and staff members working in the academic support services. At the University of Konstanz, all members of staff can rely on two central human resources development units: Academic Staff Development, which is responsible for the university's academic staff, and the human resources development unit for the academic support services.

The University of Konstanz is guided by established standards (such as the Kodex für gute Personalentwicklung an Universitäten (code of practice for human resources development at universities)) and has adopted a structural as well as individual approach to developing its human resources.

Human resources development works on three levels:

Organisation: Human resources development creates structures and shapes processes. These structures and processes promote collaboration and creativity, ensure that scope for development is transparent and available, all the while guiding and structuring collaboration both in thought and action. Creativity is (also) a result of conversations that go beyond hierarchies and divisional boundaries and take place between academic and academic support staff. At the University of Konstanz, we think of ourselves as an employer that accommodates and brings together various academic and professional cultures.

Senior staff: Human resources development assists professors and senior academic support staff with establishing a culture for themselves and the staff (on fixed-term or permanent contracts) in their care that allows them to reach their goals, evolve and work. Here, too, the tools envisioned by human resources development can help develop suitable structures (structured selection of personnel, staff feedback talks, team structures). If there are specific challenges such as conflicts among team members, it can provide advice and support.

Staff: Human resources development supports all staff members in fulfilling their duties - including and especially in the area of work organisation - and offers various continuing education options. If required, all staff members can rely on support with their individual career development and life-long learning goals, for instance through continuing education programmes to help them tackle new professional challenges.

Successful human resources development on these three levels recognises that staff members are involved in both professional and private activities. It supports senior staff and employees in creating equitable conditions and flexible structures that support all staff members in their specific life situations and, at the same time, help allocate tasks in an adequate manner.

2.2 Responsibilities

Human resources development is one of the Rectorate's strategic fields of action. The Rectorate determines our orientation, both strategy and content-wise, and provides adequate means for human resources development in the academic areas and academic support services. The Rectorate thus directly impacts our university’s leadership and collaborative culture.

The senior staff is composed of academic staff members in leadership positions as well as senior academic support staff. They are responsible for promoting their staff members in line with their potential and for defining learning processes in their teams.

All staff members are responsible for developing their skills portfolio as well as relevant learning processes for their current and future tasks. As an employee, you are best placed to identify and communicate your continuing education needs.

Most academic and academic support staff work in the departments and internal university institutions dedicated to research and the promotion of junior researchers. On this level, we can identify current and future challenges staff members are likely to face and communicate them to the responsible persons in human resources development.

The university’s two central organisational units for human resources development provide advice and support to individuals with leadership responsibilities as well as to institutional units. They advise staff members on their continuing education needs and offer university-wide human resources development services and impulses.

3. Organising human resources development

At the University of Konstanz, we have many years of experience in the area of human resources development, which we consider to be an integral part of our organisational development. We have two central organisational units dedicated to human resources development that are responsible for devising a university-wide human resources development strategy which is oriented towards the university’s objectives and priorities and that work together closely to implement the human resources development concept based thereon:

Our Academic Staff Development unit (which is part of the Division of Academic and International Affairs) is responsible for our academic staff members. Typically, it is the departments, the university’s research institutions and the institutions dedicated to the promotion of early career researchers who provide academic as well as continuing education. To supplement these options, we have developed a human resources development concept that combines individual and structural approaches to supporting both individuals and the entire university, its institutions and senior staff. On the individual level, we assist researchers and scientists at all career stages in developing their transferable skills relative to their current responsibilities (beyond their research duties in the narrower sense) and provide support with taking future career steps. We support individuals who pursue careers in academia as well as careers in industry and society.

The university’s central human resources development unit responsible for our academic support staff (part of Human Resources) seeks to support senior staff, staff and trainees in developing their competencies. In doing so, they take the current and future challenges within the individual work areas as well as the staff members’ individual needs into account. In addition, they support recruitment processes as well as measures to promote our staff's professional development. On the organisational level, this unit actively devises and shapes conditions for the organisation of work and the working climate at the University of Konstanz.

In all quality assurance matters, both of these central human resources development units work closely with Quality Management and are part of the University of Konstanz’s Quality Management System. Quality assurance tools, evaluations and transfer instruments are used regularly to monitor the quality and effectivity of the implemented measures and to develop them further as needed.

With regard to their concepts and measures, both central organisational units follow a strategic approach to human resources development. They work closely with the departments and research institutions as well as with senior academic and academic support staff. They further coordinate collaboration with all other units involved in continuing education as well as individual human resources development measures (e.g. the university health initiative “Gesunde Uni”, Career Service, facilities funded under the German Excellence Initiative, Research Support, the Communication, Information, Media Centre (KIM), the staff council, our doctoral programmes and mentoring programmes, the Office for Equal Opportunity, Family Affairs and Diversity and the Welcome Centre). This serves to assure the quality of our human resources development measures and ensures that they are efficient and dovetail with each other.

Below, we outline some of the target group-specific fields of action, measures and tools that we have identified. Taking part in our individual measures is usually voluntary.

4. Target groups

4.1 Early career researchers and non-professorial academic staff

Our early career researchers are comprised of the university’s doctoral researchers, post-doctoral researchers, academics pursuing a Habilitation, junior research group leaders and junior professors (with and without tenure track). Earning academic qualifications and pursuing an academic career is at the heart of their activities. Graduates with a doctorate or Habilitation on permanent positions fulfil key functions in research and the university's self-administration structures. They all make important contributions to the university's research, teaching and self-administration activities. In turn, they have access to sophisticated and target group-specific human resources development services geared towards all career and qualification levels. We have developed various support measures and programmes especially for teaching staff, researchers on their way to a professorship (the advancement of women), internationally mobile early career researchers, researchers with family responsibilities as well as academics interested in pursuing alternative career paths. All of these target groups also highly value our university didactics courses. Since these target groups tend to be highly international, some programmes are also offered in English.

4.2 Academic support staff

The academic support services are comprised of all staff members working in the university’s central administrative and technical services (university administration, staff units and central institutions) as well as in various decentralised areas (faculties, departments and institutions funded under the Excellence Initiative). During the last fifteen years, the University of Konstanz’s areas of activity have undergone dramatic structural change. Our academic support staff are responsible for extensive fields of action that continue to diversify even more. They support our academics in various administrative and operational processes and actively shape university structures and processes. In addition, they support researchers, teachers and students by providing information, advice and various services. Carrying out these challenging tasks requires proven expertise in various subject areas, a particularly high degree of service orientation and the ability to keep up with continuously changing requirements. Our human resources development measures are aimed at all academic support staff - irrespective of salary bracket or contract duration. They have been tailored to the individual needs of trainees, staff members and senior staff and their respective focus areas.

4.3 Senior academic and administrative staff

Human resources development assists senior academic staff (such as professors, junior research group leaders) and senior academic support staff (e.g. divisional directors or heads of service areas) with building up, leading and even restructuring their respective teams. It can provide advice and support in case of conflict and unexpected challenges. Senior staff have access to coaching and peer mentoring as well as special training opportunities tailored to their individual needs.

Our professors have a decisive influence on the University of Konstanz as regards research, teaching and self-administration. To help them perform their various duties, we provide specific human resources development services for leadership tasks, academic self-administration and teaching. Besides, there are various programmes (“Freiräume”) that enable our scientists and researchers to successfully pursue larger projects and to develop and implement new ideas. Our “Professur am See” (professorship by the lake) programme helps newly appointed professors settle in quickly, meet their colleagues and take part in university life.

5. Key topics and measures

Human resources development comes into play when new candidates are recruited and accompanies them throughout their time at the university. We are also responsible for the university’s organisational culture as well as the structural issues and processes associated with human resources management.

5.1 Recruiting new staff

5.1.1 Recruiting and selecting new staff

The University of Konstanz’s success depends to a large degree on finding suitable candidates to master unique challenges in research and teaching as well as in administration, the technical services and research management. At the University of Konstanz, we strive to increase the number of female academics (promotion of women), international researchers and applicants interested in areas that receive fewer applications by using active recruitment strategies. Needs and target group-based human resources development measures increase the University of Konstanz’s visibility and appeal as an employer both in Germany and abroad.

The measures and instruments we use include:

  • providing advice to senior staff and university facilities on designing staff selection processes as well as on assessing leadership and social skills in selection processes (“wertschätzendes Berufungsverfahren”),
  • providing training on staff selection in the context of our human resources development strategy for senior staff,
  • implementing assessment centres for key positions in the academic support services,
  • implementing quality assurance measures through the “Wertschätzendes Berufungsmanagement” (respectful appointments management) working group

5.2 Working with new employees and creating a welcoming atmosphere

To ensure that new staff members can commence work as soon and effectively as possible, they should be thoroughly introduced to their new tasks, if possible at their new work location. Typically, the research teams or divisions take care of this themselves. As a part of its welcoming and communication culture, the University of Konstanz promotes networking between new staff members within the university and informs them on its broad spectrum of services in the various areas.

The measures and instruments we use include:

  • welcome events and talks, e.g. for newly appointed professors and international early career researchers,
  • coaching and team development measures for newly appointed professors,
  • career portals for doctoral researchers, post-docs and newly appointed professors.
  • introductory events, welcome talks, introductory training schedules and progress talks conducted in the middle of the probation period for academic support staff.

5.2 Helping staff develop further

5.2.1 Continuing education

In terms of continuing education related to a staff member’s current area of responsibility or to future tasks or positions, the University of Konstanz offers comprehensive training in the areas of research, teaching, management, administration and the technical services. Various formats, qualified coaches, demand- and target group-oriented services as well as transfer management make for effective learning and long-term success.

The measures and instruments we use include:

  • target group-specific seminars and continuing education programmes,
  • information on the higher education system and career options,
  • the “Baden-Württemberg-Zertifikat für Hochschuldidaktik” (Baden-Württemberg certificate for university didactics) as well as additional certificates and programmes.

5.2.2 Career planning and development

Changing one’s job or area of speciality or accepting additional responsibilities can be challenging. Human resources development is here to help. Support with planning their careers is of particular importance to early career researchers, especially as it impacts their ability to reach their professional goals.

Our measures and instruments include:

  • seminars, lectures and “Kaminabende” (fireside chats) on academic careers in Germany and abroad as well as in industry, society,
  • coaching and career advice, mentoring, the opportunity to sit in on classes,
  • advice and support for early career researchers undergoing application and appointment procedures,
  • information regarding staff feedback talks,
  • human resources development retreats for the academic support services,
  • conflict solution services (e.g. through information, advice, coaching, ombudspersons),
  • performance assessments for civil servants working in the academic support services.

5.2.3 Leadership and management responsibilities

The university supports senior staff in performing their leadership responsibilities both in relation to university self-administration and in relation to leading research teams or administrative units.

The measures and instruments we use include:

  • advising junior professors and junior research group leaders on topics such as selecting staff, assigning roles, time and and self-management,
  • providing continuing education and coaching for newly appointed professors, early career researchers with leadership responsibilities and senior staff in the academic support services,
  • offering advice and support for professors on topics such as leadership, committee work, structural teaching development and diversity,
  • implementing accompanying measures (e.g. advice, team development) for merging existing working groups as well as advising team members on conflict resolution,
  • providing staff selection guidelines and information regarding staff feedback talks.

5.3 Saying goodbye to staff and ensuring knowledge transfer

Employees who have worked at the University of Konstanz for several years have also shared their knowledge and provided their energy to ensure the university’s success. When they leave the university, the experiences they gathered in their divisions and teams should be preserved - not simply because we value and wish to recognise our departing staff members, but also because we need to provide their successors with enough information for a smooth transition into their new role.

The measures and instruments we use include:

  • advice for senior staff members on knowledge transfer,
  • moderated handover consultations,
  • information, continuing education and advisory services for departing staff members (e.g. the “alternative career paths” programme, transition into retirement).

5.4 Occupational health services

We believe that we can help our staff members realise their full potential by providing them with excellent working conditions and structures. Since 2005, the university’s occupational health services have supported staff members in making self-determined choices to improve their health behaviour by offering individual services. In addition, they strive to improve the structural conditions in the workplace to promote staff members’ health. The overall aim is to incorporate health into all strategic and operative university structures and processes.

The measures and instruments we use include:

  • holistic health and safety measures (e.g. lectures, courses and workshops dealing with various issues),
  • improving workplace conditions (e.g. by providing training on healthy leadership and recognising and preventing harmful stress in the workplace).

Passed by the Rectorate of the University of Konstanz on 17 May 2017.