Human Resources Strategy for Researchers (HRS4R)

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hr excellence

We at the University of Vaasa recognise that our strength and success almost exclusively depend on the work contribution of our staff. All our results are directly based on the input of our skilled and committed researchers and teachers and the experts working in the university support functions.

Therefore, we focus on the well-being of our staff and develop the working environment. We want to create a working environment that supports research, embraces diversity and promotes equal opportunities for all staff members. When we see room for improvement, we will take action.

Strategy – better working conditions for researchers

The University of Vaasa has endorsed the common European recommendations and principles for HR practices aiming at better working conditions for researchers. This set of principles is set out in the EU Commission's recommendation: The European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers.

  • The European Charter for Researchers addresses the roles, responsibilities and entitlements of researchers and their employers. The goal is to ensure that everyone contributes to the production and sharing of knowledge—and to the career development of researchers.
  • The Code of Conduct for Recruitment seeks to improve recruitment practices by making selection processes as transparent and fair as possible.

To align our practices with the European charter and code, we have implemented the Human Resources Strategy for Researchers (HRS4R) programme. The HRS4R programme is a solid foundation for organisational development and has helped us identify our strengths as well as development areas. The process has been very rewarding. In addition to being an excellent tool for organisational development, the HRS4R development process will further enable us to create the best possible working environment for our staff. Therefore, we have chosen to call our HRS4R action plan Developing a Sustainable and Attractive Research Environment.

As recognition of aligning our policies and practices with the European charter and code and our commitment to implement fair and transparent recruitment and appraisal procedures, we were awarded the HR Excellence in Research logo.

The path towards the HR Excellence recognition

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The HRS4R process

The Human Resources Strategy for Researchers is carried out in five steps:

  1. Conducting an internal analysis to compare practices with the principles of the charter and code
  2. Developing and publishing an action plan to illustrate how the strategy is adopted.
  3. Acknowledgement by the European Commission: the right to use the HR Excellence in Research logo.
  4. Implementation of the human resources strategy and a progress report based on self-assessment. Publication of an updated action plan (at least every two years).
  5. External assessment of progress (at least every four years).

The first three steps of the strategy work

The University of Vaasa was accepted to the 4th Cohort of the EURAXESS Human Resources Strategy for Researchers in September 2012.

To ensure long-term success, it has been vital to communicate with and involve the stakeholders. From the outset, several members of staff representing a variety of functions and roles have been involved. The steering group, consisting of the rector, deans and directors of the University Services, has taken an active role in the process. The group has approved the initial project plan as well as the resulting action plan. Furthermore, an advisory group was established at an early stage to execute the project plan, carry out the data collection and analysis as well as prepare the action plan. The advisory group consists of managers of quality and research as well as, in a key stakeholder role, researchers at various stages of their research career. The work of the advisory group has been led by the HR Director and coordinated by HR Services.

Internal analysis

In addition to mapping relevant legislation, guidelines and internal practices, the data collection consisted of

  • expert interviews with deans, the Director of Graduate School, professors and specialists in study administration.
  • HRS4R survey: Developing a sustainable and attractive research environment, the survey was aimed at all researchers and consisted of open comments and 31 questions based on the charter and code.
  • well-being at work survey. The results of this regular survey (most recent from October 2013) were taken into account as considered relevant and applicable to the principles of the charter and code.
  • graduate school survey. The graduate school conducted a survey for internal development purposes in spring 2013. The survey was targeted at all doctoral students.

The internal analysis revealed that a majority of the practices are already in line with the principles of the charter and code. Nevertheless, areas that need further strengthening and/or development have been identified and summarised in the action plan. Following step three of the HRS4R process, a description of our approach and the action plan were submitted to the European Commission for evaluation in June 2014.

Implementation of the human resources strategy 2015–2017

The period following our initial submission of the HRS action plan (2015 –2017) has been a time of big decisions and changes in the operational environment. The University of Vaasa has addressed challenges by clarifying its profile, reallocating resources, and developing the organisational structure and networks. The University of Vaasa aims to operate as a profiled, financially efficient, high-quality independent institution.

ln the self-assessment report, we discuss the challenges we have faced during the implementation period of the HRS4R action plan and our solutions to building a stronger, more future-proof university. We also describe our plans for the near future: the world is changing and we are making major investments in development.

Self-assessment and a revised action plan

The internal review and the revised action plan have been compiled by the HR Services during Q2–Q4/2017, in cooperation with representatives of the relevant process owners (the management group of the university, the graduate school, research services, marketing and communication services, and education services). The HRM strategy including the revised HRS4R action plan has been approved by the management group and the board of the university.

Our revised HRS4R action plan is based on our current organisational strategy 2017–2020 which lays the ground for all university operations. When creating the new strategy for the University of Vaasa, a new collaborative way of working was introduced, and several strategy workshops for the staff were held 2015–2016. The participation rate in the workshops was very high, and staff members from all personnel groups attended the sessions actively. HR management and staff wellbeing were among the recurring themes in the strategy workshops. In addition to the results of the strategy workshops, the basis of the internal assessment and the revised action plan included a separate HR Vision 2020 workshop that was held in Q4/2016. Also, other findings and surveys were included as input in the internal assessment and revised action plan when identifying the key development areas.

Identifying the key development areas

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Open and Transparent, Merit-based Recruitment (OTM-R)

Open, transparent and merit-based recruitment (OTM-R) is an important component of the Human Resources Strategy for Researchers (HRS4R). OTM-R ensures that the best person for the job is recruited, guarantees equal opportunities and access for all, facilitates developing an international portfolio (cooperation, competition, mobility) and makes research careers more attractive.

In connection with the internal review process, the University of Vaasa has carried out an initial review of the current system. Using the OTM-R checklist as a self-assessment tool, we have assessed to which degree our current practices are OTM-compliant and identified where improvements could be made.