Published without fanfare or the usual Staffspace banner, the staff survey is finally out. Grim reading it is too — for the senior mismanagers. Even they can find little to spin from these predictably terrible results. The only good news is the majority of staff find their colleagues a decent bunch overall, and we want to make the University a success. Well, of course we do: our jobs depend on it, and the students depend on us.
The bad news is no surprise to anyone, except perhaps the shower who run Kingston, and probably even they are not that naïve. Only 18% overall believe the SMT provides effective leadership; no doubt the respondents who think they do are the SMT themselves and lackeys like the associate deans. This is a whopping 28 points below the rest of the HE sector, notoriously mismanaged in many institutions. That is remarkably damning of Kingston and must be a huge contributor to our present predicament of declining reputation and student recruitment. The SMT gets bad marks all round — for vision, visibility, involving staff in the big changes taking place. Only 16% of staff believe the changes implemented are for the better.
Across the “teams” of the university, employee engagement is noticeably lower for faculty staff, especially SEC which trails columns of red figures. The disastrous leadership of that faculty has clearly had an impact. Figures plummet all round on the senior leadership questions. DARE holds the distinction of a fat zero for those who think the bosses are effective, but figures are low across the University. Even HR only musters 12%. As noted after the last staff survey, having to dispense the maltreatment of employees on the orders of management has its impact. Finally, an optimistic 34% believe this survey will lead to action. Bearing in mind the lack of action after the last, this is optimistic indeed.
The conclusion of the survey is distressingly clear. The senior management of Kingston are incompetent and a liability. Academic staff have been criticised for poor teaching satisfaction scores. In the last NSS, Kingston received a score of 70%. Even the lowest scoring parts of the University are way above their leaders’ rating of 18%. Imagine what would happen if the NSS scores were that low. HR would go into overdrive: lecturers subjected to competency hearings, warning letters issued, departments closed down.
The coming restructuring aims to cut out the poorly rated departments. Let’s start with the senior management then. Without good leadership Kingston will continue to decline. Who should go first? Certainly the hopeless deans of SEC and Business, and the obnoxious and arrogant McQuillan. Perhaps Spier, new in the post, could be given for the time being the benefit of the doubt, despite his association with Surveying; Dave Mack will no doubt mould himself to the VC. But the majority should follow Eales-Reynolds in a quest for new opportunities, preferably not in HE.
Yet we know what will happen. The SMT will mutter platitudes about improving their communication, or simply pretend the staff survey said something else. They will want to hang on to their high salaries, continue to blame the staff for management failures, and demonstrate the spite of infant bullies. They will reach their (bad) decisions, informed by metrics of choice, then pretend to consult, then see it through anyway. The Board of Governors who oversee them? Well, those non-exec directorships take up quite a bit of time, and there are those other absorbing positions in their personal portfolios. 18% we have. Going down.