Promoting good conversations at work

Expand All

Approved by Personnel Committee October 2019.

A key component of the University’s success is our collective willingness to support every member of University staff in achieving both their work goals and their potential. A regular conversation in which each member of the University can, as appropriate to their staff group, grade and work environment, reflect on their successes, ask for and hear constructive feedback, agree appropriate personal and work related goals and any development needs associated with them, and discuss their career aspirations, is vital to creating a culture in which all our people feel that they are valued.

We therefore:

  • support the entitlement of every member of staff to a personal, career or professional development review on a regular basis; 
  • expect our leaders, managers and supervisors to arrange regular review conversations with staff; and
  • enter into these conversations with openness, trust and integrity and respect all parties’ dignity during these conversations.

We expect that:

  • both parties undertake thoughtful preparation for these discussions;
  • both parties agree to support outcomes as agreed; and
  • follow up conversations are organised as appropriate so that colleagues are supported to reflect on achievements and feedback and seek further guidance or advice as needed.  

Professional and support staff not in their probationary period[1] have an annual Personal Development Review (PDR) conversation with their line manager or nominee (e.g. their day to day supervisor), supported by regular one-to-one meetings throughout the year. For staff on fixed-term contracts a different pattern may be more appropriate depending on the length of the contract.

Research staff have regular Career Development Review (CDR) conversations following guidelines to be agreed by the Research Staff Steering Group.

Academic staff who have been reappointed to retirement[2] will be offered the opportunity to have a conversation with an appropriate colleague on an agreed regular basis to reflect on and seek support and guidance on their career goals.    


[1] Professional and support staff in their probationary period are covered by the probation procedures.

[2] Academic staff in their initial period of office are covered by the IPO procedures.

Approved by Personnel Committee October 2019

All departments/faculties are expected to have in place a scheme for Personal and Professional Development Review (PDR) for their professional and support staff based on the overarching statement and the principles below. Each department/faculty is free to set up its own scheme or schemes relevant to its own staff but these principles should underlie all schemes.

1. All staff are entitled to participate in a productive personal and professional development conversation at least once a year.[1]

  • This conversation should be facilitated by a reviewer who will be their line manager or nominee e.g. the staff member’s day to day supervisor if this is not the formal line manager.
  • Staff who are in their probation period do not take part in PDR: the probationary period has its own robust review process which departments/faculties are expected to follow.

2. Regular in-year reviews, at least monthly, in the form of one-to-ones with the line manager or another senior colleague, should be held.

  • These ensure that PDR objectives remain relevant, are being met or amended where necessary and are appropriately supported (see POD’s one to one resources).

3. All staff who undertake this reviewer role should be equipped with the skills, knowledge and understanding sufficient to do this effectively and with confidence (see POD resources for reviewers).

4. The purpose of PDR is to ensure that staff know how well they are performing, and are supported and developed so that they are effective in their current role. However, PDR is not just about tasks and targets.

  • It should take a broad look at the individual and at the development and support they need to be effective.
  • It should enable each individual to define their own career aspirations.
  • It should enable each reviewee to identify their contribution to the University’s success by aligning their work objectives in a meaningful way to those of their team or group, their department or faculty and the University.

5. The annual PDR discussion, facilitated by the reviewer, will include these components:

  • A look back over the past year
  • Celebration of successes and feedback on areas for change/improvement
  • A look ahead over the coming review period, the setting of work and any associated personal objectives, and any learning and development or adjustment/assistive solutions needed to achieve them
  • An opportunity for reviewers to hear feedback on the work environment, what works well and what could be improved
  • An offer of a discussion of short and/or long term career aspirations if the reviewee wishes, and the offer of appropriate suggestions and support with any agreed career development plan.

6. The process will be focussed and streamlined.

  • The process of preparing for the annual review, recording agreed objectives and priorities and any changes to them should be as streamlined as possible. It is the quality of the conversation which is paramount and the process should be the minimum necessary to support that (a sample form is available on the POD resources for reviewers webpage).
  • PDR records are confidential and must be kept appropriately and in line with the GDPR regulations.
  • Reviewees should know what records are being kept, how and why.

7. During PDR, the principle of ‘no surprises’ should be followed.

  • This means neither the individual nor the manager should introduce anything substantial not already shared during preparation for the meeting when the topics for discussion are agreed.
  • In particular, PDR is not the place for the reviewer or reviewee to raise negative feedback for the first time: any concerns about either’s work or conduct should be discussed in a timely manner through regular discussions as issues arise.
  • During a PDR conversation additional topics may emerge for discussion e.g. a job description that is no longer accurate and needs revising or a revised working pattern. If necessary these topics should be noted and discussed either in an extended PDR meeting or in a separate discussion, depending on the circumstances.

8. There will be no direct link between the review process and probation, salary, promotion, or discipline, for which separate procedures exist.

  • Issues relating to these separate procedures should be dealt with as they emerge and should not divert the focus of the annual PDR discussion. 

See POD’s PDR essentials for further guidance.

Who is responsible for what?

Reviewers are responsible for (see POD’s PDR Reviewer role resource):

  • Arranging PDRs for all eligible staff (see POD’s Preparing for the PDR resources)
  • Ensuring that timely and effective feedback is provided during the year in regular one to ones
  • Contributing their review and assessment of the performance of the individual since their last PDR
  • Leading a constructive conversation that agrees objectives for the coming year (see POD’s Agreeing objectives resource)
  • Agreeing any appropriate support/infrastructure required to enable the reviewee to achieve agreed objectives
  • Agreeing relevant learning and development needs and the reviewer’s and reviewee’s contributions to fulfilling these
  • If appropriate, supporting reviewees in creating a career development plan (see POD’s Learning and development and Career conversations resources)
  • Ensuring that an agreed written record of the meeting is created
  • Agreeing any amendments to PDR objectives during the year

Reviewees are responsible for (see POD’s Reviewees resources):

  • Reviewing and assessing their own performance since their last PDR
  • Listening to feedback and considering it objectively
  • Proposing and agreeing objectives and priorities for the coming year (see POD’s Agreeing objectives resource)
  • Putting any agreed personal and career development plans into action (see POD’s career development resources for reviewees and the learning and development plan template on POD’s PDR Essentials webpage)
  • Offering constructive feedback on the working relationship and the working environment

Heads of Department/Faculty Board Chairs are responsible (through the head of administration and finance/departmental administrator where relevant) for monitoring and improving the effectiveness of their schemes, for ensuring that every member of professional and support staff has the opportunity to participate in an effective PDR process, and for ensuring that reviewers fulfil their responsibilities effectively. It is the responsibility of the department or unit head to ensure that those who manage staff are able to carry out the PDR process effectively for their reviewees and are doing so.

HR Business Partners in University HR will support departments in the implementation and updating of PDR schemes and in the monitoring of compliance with these principles through the HR Policy Team’s annual HR Audit (see POD’s Making PDR work in your department resources).

The Professional Development team in POD will support the development of skills needed by reviewers to carry out PDR successfully (see the POD website).

[1] For staff on fixed-term contracts a different pattern may be more appropriate depending on the length of the contract. Guidance on support for staff coming to the end of a fixed-term contract is available.


Approved by Personnel Committee October 2019, amended November 2021

  • All departments/faculties should have arrangements in place to enable academic staff who are appointed to retirement to have a productive career development conversation with an appropriate colleague (not necessarily the head of department/faculty board chair) on a regular basis.
  • The aim of the conversation is to help the member of staff reflect on their own work and career development needs.
  • Conversations should be open-ended, exploratory and non-prescriptive, with a focus on individual reflection.
  • The conversation will in no way infringe the academic freedom of the individual member of staff.
  • Heads of department/faculty board chairs are responsible for: (i) ensuring that every member of academic staff is given the opportunity to participate in an effective career conversation at appropriate intervals; (ii) ensuring that appropriate processes are in place to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their arrangements; and (iii) reviewing the effectiveness of their arrangements on a regular basis.
  • Departments/faculties can agree how often academic staff should be offered the opportunity to have a career conversation but a conversation must be offered at minimum once every 5 years, and an annual conversation may be useful for some staff (e.g. staff taking or returning from an extended period of leave or with particular personal circumstances).
  • Members of staff should be able to request that their head of department/faculty board chair arrange a meeting which could be with the head of department/faculty board chair or with another senior colleague at any time.
  • Associate Professors should be able to request a three-way conversation with the individual Associate Professor, their department/faculty and their senior tutor about their workload at any time.