Dr Bliss Furtado and mgr Natalia Proń-Nowak, the Head of Human Resources at the NCU Dr Bliss Furtado and mgr Natalia Proń-Nowak, the Head of Human Resources at the NCU Campus life

NCU strategy: 'People' with successes

— Żaneta Kopczyńska
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An open and transparent system for hiring people from home and abroad, a guide for those interested in working at the NCU, e-recruitment, training, expanded development opportunities and an HR Excellence in Research award - a year and a half after the start of the implementation of the University Strategy, we check what goals have been achieved in the 'People' area.

Let us recall that at the beginning of 2022 the University begins to implement a new Strategy, adapted to contemporary challenges. The document sets out the University's main goals for the coming years and the operational objectives needed to achieve them.

They are both ambitious and realistic. They are not just vaguely defined dreams. The point is to implement the Strategy step by step, so that the vision of our university set out in it becomes a reality - explained Prof. dr habil. Andrzej Sokala, NCU Rector.

Five main strategic objectives have been set: 'People', 'Learning', 'Education', 'Governance' and 'Relationships'. After nearly a year and a half, we take a look at what progress can already be seen in the individual strategic areas. The first area we look at - the key area that ties the others together - is 'People'.

Development of the University community

- The university is people; all our activities are focused on people. We are committed to making the university a true community, created by its entire community. We know that valuing and promoting the potential that is in people will ensure the university's continuous and sustainable development - explained Prof. dr habil. Beata Przyborowska, Vice-Rector for Student Affairs, chair of the People area team, when introducing the document. The group leading the activities in this area includes Prof. dr habil. Kornelia Kędziora-Kornatowska, dr habil. Aleksandra Derra, NCU Prof., dr habil. Rafał Haffer, NCU Prof., dr Marzena Ruczyńska, mgr Natalia Proń-Nowak and mgr Magdalena Szwajda.

Prof. dr habil. Beata Przyborowska, Vice-Rector for Student Affairs, chair of the People area team fot. Andrzej Romański

Amongst other things, the team has set itself the goal of ensuring the best possible working conditions and individual development focused on the opportunity for the systematic improvement of competences and the creation of clear promotion paths, improving the system of periodic employee appraisal so that it is fully objective and transparent.

The scientific bloodstream of the University

- If we were to look at the functioning of academic staff in universities a decade or two ago and compare it to the status quo today, it is very clear that they were characterised by a different kind of experience - says Natalia Proń-Nowak, the Head of Human Resources at the NCU.

Natalia Proń-Nowak, the Head of Human Resources at the NCU fot. Andrzej Romański
We did not use to have international research projects in almost every faculty, and now we can identify researchers in every single faculty who have such experience. We did not use to have several hundred research projects running at the same time, and now we have them. Professional support, commercialisation of knowledge and research results is our daily work. The world has changed, so we had to find ourselves in it: understand it, know its weaknesses and strengths, set goals and act - adds Natalia Proń-Nowak.

Let's get to know each other

One of the priorities in the 'People' area is to develop the University as a professional and attractive place to work.

Since the NCU's researchers have been increasingly successful in obtaining external research funding and directing large international research projects, and the University is functioning in the complex international alliances and associations (EUA, YUFE, YUFERING, YERUN, COARA), it has become clear that more and more staff with unusual competences will be needed.

A diverse working environment stimulates development, therefore, we wanted to turn to the European and global research space in our search for staff - adds Natalia Proń-Nowak. - In order to grow, we needed to recruit people from abroad in the same professional manner: get them interested and facilitate the recruitment process. This is a strategic objective combining the areas of 'People', 'Science', 'Education' and 'Management'.

A group of experts from each area involved in the employment process was assembled. The work resulted in two professionally prepared and implemented employment procedures for academic teachers (Polish citizens and foreigners).

They are fully transparent, available in Polish and English on the University's website and - most importantly - have been approved by the European Commission.

Mgr Natalia Proń-Nowak, the Head of Human Resources at the NCU and Dr Bliss Furtado fot. Andrzej Romański

As the Head of Human Resources emphasises, having learnt from experience, the procedures themselves are usually not very graceful for academics. Therefore, another initiative that was taken at the NCU was the development of a guide for prospective employees.

We wanted to show our University what is important to us, what we focus on, what initiatives we are involved in, who works here and what they do. It is also a form of presenting the NCU's offer, i.e., what we can offer to foreign researchers interested in working here - explains Natalia Proń-Nowak.

The launch of the e-recruitment system on 1 January 2023 can also certainly be counted among the successes.

These initiatives are already producing tangible results. These include the increased recognition of the NCU (not only in the country, but above all abroad) among those interested in higher education. In turn, open and transparent recruitment works to increase the internationalisation rate. The know-how of our University is an important reference point for our strategic partners in this respect.

European quality label

At the end of 2015 NCU was the first university and seventh institution in Poland to receive the prestigious Human Resources Excellence in Research award. The award is one of the activities of the European Commission as part of the Human Resources Strategy for Researchers, aimed at increasing the attractiveness of working conditions for researchers in the EU.

In order to win the HR Excellence in Research award, the NCU had to conduct an internal analysis and check the extent to which its functioning is consistent with the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers. On the basis of the findings, an HR strategy and an action plan were then prepared to identify the most important shortcomings with a description of specific actions leading to their elimination.

On the one hand, it is hard work and commitment, but on the other hand, it is also a guarantee - a sign telling the entire academic community that we are worth cooperating with, it is good to be employed by us, and we are capable of conducting research. It is a kind of academic ISO - adds Natalia Proń-Nowak.

An action plan for three and six years has been prepared - the HR Excellence in Research award is granted on a time-limited basis.

The biggest test came six years later - in July 2022.  The European Commission conducted an audit at the NCU. Representatives from both the Toruń and Bydgoszcz parts of the University and representatives from all career stages took part in the evaluation.

In November 2022, following the audit, the NCU was awarded an outstanding rating by the European Commission.

Thanks to these results, we have delivered more than 90 training courses (including a considerable number in English) for academic teachers - adds Proń-Nowak. - NCU has established cooperation with the world's most important training providers in applying for Horizon Europe funds and presenting research results to various audiences.

A holistic approach

- We make sure that we bring together all the aspects that affect our employee's performance. However, we will not build a good career path for academics if we do not talk to them about their experiences. Human beings and their competences are our most valuable resource. Knowledge will follow. And this strategic goal - I think already with great success - we are trying to achieve to the fullest - says Natalia Proń-Nowak.

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