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Training and development: Cutting edge strategy for managing change at a transforming university

Kogi Naidoo
Training and Development Unit
Massey University, New Zealand
In this paper an attempt is made to showcase practice at a large university strategically managing change and transforming as a consequence of recent mergers which resulted in extensive restructuring and several challenges, viz. being multi-campus offering flexible delivery modes. The University is facing issues of, e.g. decreasing budgets, staff cuts, and decreasing student enrolments. Managing in this scenario is further complicated by the demand for efficiency and effectiveness, maintaining standards, while simultaneously striving for quality academic programmes and increased research outputs. In dealing with the challenge of managing the diverse human resource capital (at varying stages of growth and development), the University provides the infrastructure and learning environment to support staff to develop personally and professionally to enhance institutional performance. Strategically managing the challenges of change (internal and external) are in keeping with the principles of the theories of Senge, 1990 and 1994 (learning organisation), Goleman, 1998 (emotional intelligence and competence), and Thackwray, 1997 (pay forward and responsive evaluation). There needs to be support and development opportunities in all key performance areas of staff and ongoing review to meet their needs. The challenge for the University is keeping staff motivated to continue learning and improving.


Higher education institutions in New Zealand are currently facing several challenges which include rationalisation of the tertiary sector, funding reductions, lower student enrolments, and staff cutbacks. Most institutions have been conducting internal reviews to manage strategically and maintain quality education and research programmes. Universities also need to meet the requirements of retaining the defining characteristics of universities as laid down in the Education Act, 1989 and amended (1 July 1995). Institutions facing these challenges and responding to change successfully need to be continually looking out for new and dynamic strategies to support change from the personal (individual) to the institutional (systemic) levels.

This paper explores how training and development as one strategy can be used to support and manage staff, institutions' most valuable resource. The research training and development programme at Massey University is focused upon to illustrate how change can be managed and supported. In the paper the following are focused upon:

The paper contains a general overview of contextual perspectives, viz. background, strategic management and current challenges, and more specifically the research training and development programme. With this being a newly implemented strategy, it would be premature to reflect on the long-term outcomes of the initiative. The paper concludes with useful pointers and strategies for managing change.

Contextual perspectives: Background, strategic management and current challenges

Massey University was originally an agricultural college. It is now renowned for being a provider of professional and vocational residential and distance education, and the delivery of relevant education and research. The strategic decision to merge with the Palmerston North College of Education, Wellington Polytechnic, and set up the campus on the North Shore resulted in accomplishing the goal of providing university education, research and community services on a nationwide basis, viz. becoming a multi-campus, multi-mode university. The following were key points for these strategic initiatives. The University would be: The merger and other progressive developments including maintaining the defining characteristics of universities (Education Act, 1989) pose the following challenges, among others, to the University Management: To meet some of these challenges the multi-campus management structure was recently instituted. The fundamental principle underlying this structure is that the campuses and colleges will all share "parity of esteem" as opposed to being main and satellite campuses. The new structure is an integrated model with three main lines of responsibility. The college line is responsible for teaching, research and community service, the campus/regional line for reflecting local need, infrastructure and co-ordination, and the central line/office of the Vice Chancellor for policy, co-ordination planning and monitoring.

Massey University is currently engaged in a major repositioning exercise, a review that is being conducted openly. In the last two years there has been a decline in student enrolments at one of the three main campuses in a small proportion of the 3,300 papers on offer. There has been increased student interest in some programmes and papers and a decline in others. The net effect of this trend has been the mismatch between staffing levels in areas of growing student demand as compared to those where the interest and enrolments have decreased. The main driver of the repositioning exercise is making cost savings from the relatively over-resourced areas to reinvest in areas of high student need. The carefully planned process allows sufficient time and opportunities for consultation to engage constructively with the challenges faced. There are indications that in order to make the cost saving and strategically manage the changes in enrolment trends, some staff will have to be redeployed to growing areas, e.g. research. Others will regrettably lose their positions to fund improved and more equitable services in areas that presently have unacceptably high staff-student ratios.

With limited financial resources, changing student needs and decline in students' interest in some areas and a steady increasing demand in others, strategic decisions and choices have to be made by the University Management. While one accepts that no finality has been reached yet, the mixed reactions to the issues being dealt with and upsets that may have resulted add further challenges for the Massey leadership, viz. ensure that Massey continue to attract students, ensure that the integrity of current and revised academic programmes are not compromised, hope that the strategic decisions taken are appropriate ones and that the staff, the University's most valuable resources whose morale may have been lowered, is very quickly improved.

Theoretical perspectives

Massey University can be described as fulfilling Senge's (Senge, 1990) definition of being a learning organization. The three elements in the context that create meaning and perspective are vision, values and integrity; dialogue; and systems thinking (Senge, 1990, pp xii). Applied to the Massey context the vision and values underpinning the operations are spelled out in the University Charter. Extensive consultation with the relevant stakeholders occurs on an ongoing basis (dialogue). The implementation of the multi-campus management structure is in accordance with Senge's definition of a system, viz. "a perceived whole whose elements 'hang together' because they continually affect each other over time and operate towards a common purpose" (Senge, 1994, pp 90). The use of Senge's leadership team learning agenda (Senge, 1994, pp 90) to manage change effectively is evident in, e.g. the strategic workings of the University Research Committee as detailed later. According to Senge (1990), the five disciplines that underlie learning organizations are systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, building shared vision, and team learning. It is only when institutions are operating in accordance with these principles that they will "learn" and "can continually enhance their capacity to realize their highest aspirations" (Senge, 1990, pp 6).

The University management of its human resource capital may be regarded to be in keeping with Goleman's (Goleman, 1998, pp 26-27) emotional intelligence and competence theory. The "emotional competence framework" for "personal" competence (how we manage ourselves) includes self-awareness, self-regulation and motivation, and "social competence" (how we handle relationships) includes empathy and social skills. Critical factors for success in the work environment are staff's personal qualities such as initiative and empathy, adaptability and persuasiveness, resilience and initiative and optimism and adaptability. What Goleman is advocating is a shift from the conventional view that success in the workplace assumes just intellectual ability and technical know-how, but is driven by cognitive and emotional intelligence. Employers can use the theoretical framework provided by Goleman to underpin the philosophy for human resource review, training and development. The research and development programme at Massey University demonstrates Goleman's theory in practice.

With regard to evaluating the impact and effectiveness of training and development programmes, Thackwray (1997) advocates a broad and flexible approach for higher education training and development, viz. an approach that incorporates the "pay forward" and "responsive evaluation". Responsive evaluation emphasizes quantitative data derived from a variety of sources, e.g. "bums on seats and number of courses" and "happy sheets", reaction sheets using numerical scales to monitor reaction to training and development activities (Thackwray, 1997, pp 53). These benefit the institution's capacity to learn and change. In this way the training does not become an end in itself. Instead the emphasis is placed on the process of wider long-term institutional change rather than the immediate return on financial investment.

Training and development at Massey University

The Training and Development Unit (TDU) policy and programmes

The TDU was established at the end of 1994 to co-ordinate staff training and development activities and advise on policy and strategy to contribute to achieving the goals of the University. Other pressures for the University to support staff were, among others, a changing and more diverse student body, increasing demands for institutional accountability to deliver quality academic programmes, and a concerted effort to attract students to choose university education over polytechnics. The University's commitment to supporting all staff is stated in the TDU policy:
Massey University is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence and committed to providing a learning environment in which staff are well-qualified, culturally aware and sensitive, provided with opportunities for personal and professional development and supported to achieve these objectives. As an institution of higher learning, the University acknowledges that it is part of its core business to develop the skill and knowledge of all its members, including its staff, and it has an obligation to provide a structured staff development programme. It is only by enhancing the contribution of every staff member to the goals of the University that the organisation as a whole can thrive. The purpose of staff development is, therefore, both to enhance organisational performance and to provide opportunities, encouragement, and support for staff to develop their careers in the University and enhance their personal and professional profiles in relation to the academic and wider community.
In the light of the TDU being a relatively new unit, many of the policies and programmes are still in the process of being developed and/or reviewed. The Unit and its programmes are part of the University's national shared services with an institutional focus to all its initiatives. Institutional committees monitor the key activities and training programmes of the TDU which are generally guided by staff needs. The TDU training programmes may be broadly classified into three main areas in terms of the TDU training consultants' specialisation/ focal areas, viz. teaching development, management development (includes induction), and research training and development programmes. With regard to teaching development programmes staff taking a prerequisite minimum number of modules can qualify for credits towards the TDU Certificate in Teaching Skills and/or the TDU Certificate in Flexible Learning and Teaching. The management development programme includes several management-related training courses and seminar sessions. These include induction sessions, a residential leadership programme for heads of department, and introductory programmes to management and administration. The research training and development programme focuses on the development of research skills and awareness raising of University research policy and its implementation.

One of the University's strategic goals is to "recognise, reward and value quality academic and general staff". The University is committed to the development of the full potential of its staff. To support staff in dealing with the pressures of transformation and demands for improved performance, staff members are encouraged to participate in the performance review and planning process thereby enabling the University to enhance its teaching, research and community service. Support for training and development is provided by the TDU to enable staff to fulfil their expectations in terms of their accountability and development goals.

The Research Training and Development Programme

The research training and development programme is reviewed in this section to demonstrate the University's commitment to the support of its human resource capital at the University. The background to the programme, the current context of transformation and change, strategic management, and reflections on how the programme meets the needs of staff are focused on. There has been a series of seminars and workshops organised in consultation with the University Research Committee (URC). The recent changes and growth of the University has necessitated the appointment of a training consultant to meet the development needs relating to research. The following are areas covered in the research development programme implemented across all campuses and colleges: Research is in the portfolio of the Deputy Vice Chancellor who also chairs the URC. The following are some, among others, of the recent initiatives of the management of the research portfolio, viz. restructuring of the research management function, college submissions of strategic plans for research, and the URC strategic planning exercise. The process has also focused on the research outputs and support provided. Hence, the inclusion of the TDU in the process. To maintain consistency and efficiency across the colleges and campuses there is close collaboration between the TDU and the URC. Based on the current programme of seminars and workshops, feedback from participants and inputs from the members of the URC and other related committees, viz. regional research committees, the Ethics and the Doctoral Research committees, templates for the core programme are in the process of being approved. To add to the core programme, all regional research committees have been requested to present their needs. The research training and development programme will thus be fulfilling the requirements of providing a consistent, yet tailored service to all campuses and colleges. Until all campuses and colleges have a significant core of experienced researchers who could fulfil the roles of presenters, mentors and leaders there will be need for the inclusion of experienced researchers from developed areas.

Reflections on the Training and Development Programme

Although many of the training opportunities provided by the University are voluntary and are there for the taking, there are various induction programmes and some academic training sessions that have the endorsement of the Academic Board. Newly appointed academic staff now need to have training in PhD supervision, staff embarking on research involving human participants, a session on Human Ethics, and staff employed in teaching posts to complete a modular programme of at least 30 hours unless exempted by senior Management. As a consequence of the implementation of the training and development policy, Academic Board decisions and individual, college and staff initiative more staff members have been benefiting from the training and development activities.

The TDU's activities have generally had positive impact on the University's pursuit of excellence. Staff members achieve enhanced performance through the performance review and planning process. Linking evaluation and development with the individual department, college and University planning and performance is in keeping with the principles of Senge's (1990) "learning organisation" theory and Goleman's (1998) "emotional intelligence" and "emotional competence framework". This enhances the contribution of every staff member to the goals of the University. This is achieved by the University commitment to providing a learning environment in which staff are well qualified, culturally aware and sensitive, and are provided with opportunities and support for the achievement of their personal and professional development objectives. Although it may be difficult to prove that any training or development has actually resulted in any of the benefits claimed, it is crucial to link the training and development actions to individual, departmental or institutional outcomes. The data from responsive evaluation should deal with processes and outcomes and can be quantitative and qualitative, summative and formative. According to Thackwray (1997), evaluation is considered effective when actual outcomes are congruent with, or improve on, planned outcomes.

With specific reference to the strategic management of research training and development a collaborative approach to support this programme has been adopted. It is envisaged that there will be ongoing monitoring of the programme by the TDU, obtaining feedback from staff (the extent to which the session has been satisfactory and met their needs), and the URC, viz. the fulfilling the needs of the University (e.g. increasing research outputs). The programme in this form is new and will therefore have to be monitored and amended on an ongoing basis to be effective and relevant to staff needs in their changing contexts. The fact that the TDU is working collaboratively with key University committees and managers shifts the role of the Unit from being a support Unit to fulfilling a strategic management function by working with staff through the committee and college structures. This management operation is in keeping with the theories of Senge, 1990 and 1994 and Goleman, 1998.

The current research training and development programme has been favourably received by staff as reflected in the feedback received from staff, viz. ratings and evaluative comments on the extent to which the sessions have been worthwhile, recommendations for change and requests for further training. The programme:

Having a research training programme that meets the needs of staff will result in more staff engaging in research, greater research outputs, generation of revenue through contracts and consultations, more innovations and discoveries, improved career prospects, and attraction of international scholars and researchers, among other spin-offs. In the current context of Massey, there are increased pressures on staff to produce more research outputs with little relief on present teaching loads. The support for research training and development will therefore need to be extended from the current programme to include other development strategies, e.g.: In terms of the theoretical perspectives of Senge (1990 and 1994), Goleman (1998), and Thackwray (1997), it is evident that Massey University is being strategically managed. The Management is strategically investing in the development of staff, the institutions' most valuable resource to facilitate the achievement of the University and staff goals. The TDU is playing a pivotal role in assisting staff meet the challenges of change as a result of mergers, financial cutbacks, reviews and increasing expectations and demands for accountability in terms of teaching and research commitments. Although the TDU programme might be viewed as a strategic initiative top-down from management and other formal structures (committees), there are opportunities for collaboration with staff on the design of the programme and sessions. Also, a large part of the programme remains voluntary and the decision to participate in the programme is left up to individuals. At the personal (individual) level, the annual performance, review and planning process assists staff to develop in order that they are able to perform their functions efficiently and effectively. It is staff commitment to their own development and output that would result in increased efficiency, effectiveness and thus offer quality research and education programmes.


The paper has focused largely on the management of staff development at Massey University, and in particular on the research development programme. What is evident from our experience is that there are different agendas operating simultaneously, viz. that of Management (while being supportive of staff, expecting efficient and effective delivery of service) and that of staff (wanting to feel valued and supported). With the pressures of change, e.g. the current context of repositioning, inevitable tensions are created. The TDU has to tread carefully and remain neutral so as not to be serving the interests of Management against that of staff or vice versa. This delicate balance can be maintained only if the goals of the University are kept in perspective and not clouded by the impact of change.

The following are some key points/strategies that may support change from the personal to the systemic levels in higher education institutions. From the personal level, staff need and value:

From the systemic level, Management has the expectation that staff will: The programmes of the TDU, its structure and function like the rest of the University operations need to be monitored and reviewed constantly in order that the service provided remains relevant and continues to strive to fulfil the University goals. Functioning as a national shared service and implementing the present programmes may be satisfactory now, but as the demand for more individual consultations and department/campus-based activities increases additional services of the training consultants will be required. There may also be the need to change the current programme to be tailored to more effectively meet the needs of the participants that register on courses. In order that the training programmes and management strategies remain relevant, there is need for the systematic collection and analysis of feedback from staff to inform the design and delivery of such initiatives. The Massey experience demonstrates clearly that institutions responding to change successfully need to be continually looking out for new and dynamic strategies and endeavours to deal with the challenges from the personal (individual) to the systemic (institutional) levels.


Goleman, D. (1998). Working with Emotional Intelligence. Bloomsbury, London.

Senge, P. M. (1990). The Fifth Discipline: The Art of Practice of Learning Organizations. Doubleday, New York.

Senge, P. M., Kleiner, A., Ross, R. B., Smith, B. J. (1994). The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization. Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London.

Thackwray, B. (1997). Effective Evaluation of Training and Development in Higher Education. Kogan Page Limited, London.

Author: Dr Kogi Naidoo, Training and Development Unit: Massey University, New Zealand
Phone 0964 6 350 5799 Ext. 2220 Fax 0964 6 350 2255 Email

Please cite as: Naidoo, K. (2001). Training and development: Cutting edge strategy for managing change at a transforming university. In L. Richardson and J. Lidstone (Eds), Flexible Learning for a Flexible Society, 527-535. Proceedings of ASET-HERDSA 2000 Conference, Toowoomba, Qld, 2-5 July 2000. ASET and HERDSA.

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Created 15 Oct 2001. Last revised: 29 Mar 2003. HTML: Roger Atkinson
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