Putting people first - exploring the impact of staff training to support the transition towards an innovative university

Pauliina Mattila
Swinburne University

Tiina Tuulos
Swinburne University

Nicola Howard
Swinburne University

Abstract
In the increasingly changing world universities are challenged more than ever to provide relevant education and research whilst being connected with the society and industry. Demand is growing for new multidisciplinary industry-engaged educational programs and curriculums that equip graduates with creative problem-solving, critical thinking and skills for the future (E.g. World Economic Forum). In addition, numerous universities shape their strategies to become more agile, resilient, innovative, entrepreneurial and connected as a response to the changing needs of education and research. One approach for any organisation to increase internal capability, introduce new ways of working and become more innovative is through staff training. However, there is still limited understanding on what participants learn and take away beyond immediate feedback surveys as well as how staff training and professional development efforts can be delivered to ensure long lasting impact. Participants might not realise how they can translate the newly learned skills and approaches to their day-to-day work, and the learning might actualise weeks or months later (see e.g. Buczynski & Hansen, 2010). Furthermore, often professional development and capability training is not available for everyone across the organisation and particularly in universities professional staff are neglected.

Therefore, the goals of this study were to investigate the approach by trainees towards professional development, learnings and application in the their daily work. We explored this topic through a single case study and with two control groups: individual staff members participating and entire team trainings. Participants were asked to map their attitudes towards trainings prior to commencement and fill a survey post training about the impact. Results indicate that the participants were able to identify a number of tangible elements that they can apply in their daily work and a high percentage of participants acknowledged significant change in their mindset and increased confidence in the ability to learn new practices. Research findings suggest that training can have immediate strong effect in staff’s confidence and ability adopt new practices in their daily work. For fundamental changes team alignment and management approval need to be established. The results extend the understanding the role of capability development in supporting universities’ efforts in becoming more innovative specifically through practical implications on program content and delivery and required organisational support.