About the University of Exeter
Exeter’s mission is to use the power of its education and research to create a sustainable, healthy, and socially-just future. Its people team has been working with Marshall E-Learning for more than a decade, creating bespoke, impactful e-learning courses for its 7,000-strong workforce.
- Exeter wanted to create an e-learning course to help people managers better support the wellbeing of their teams
- The course needed to be grounded in evidence, reflect the guidance of the HSE related to managing stress at work, and be in tune with the specific pressures of the higher education sector
- The ‘Supporting the mental wellbeing of your team’ course co-developed by Marshalls and the University of Exeter is a major part of the university’s employee wellbeing programme, which won the 2023 UHR Award for Wellbeing
The University of Exeter prioritises employee wellbeing, actively encourages and supports its people to be healthy and well at work, and implements an annual colleague wellbeing plan. But it was becoming evident – through employee surveys – that stress and stress management was becoming an increasing concern for many of its people. “Stress is an economy-wide issue, not just an ‘Exeter’ or ‘higher education’ issue,” says Christian Carter, the university’s head of organisational development. “And while there’s a consensus that it’s an issue, there is a diversity of opinion about how to address it.”
Exeter is committed to delivering high-quality, evidence-backed support. Its wellbeing group – which includes representatives from across the university, including HR policymakers, staff representatives, and academic experts such as psychologists and psychiatrists – decided that, rather than purchase a generic e-learning course, it would be more appropriate to create bespoke content. “There wasn’t anything out there that spoke to the pressures our colleagues are facing, working in the higher education sector,” says Carter. “Plus, I really wanted to drive the project from an academic-practitioner perspective, and apply their real, up-to-date, evidence-based knowledge to the project. We had the chance to use their research and clinical expertise so, we thought: ‘let’s grab that opportunity’.”
Collaborating with Marshalls – experts in creating e-learning content for higher education institutions
The university naturally turned to Marshalls – a long-term e-learning partner of more than a decade – to make this project a reality. “We said to Marshalls: ‘we think this is a gap in the provision of wellbeing training in the higher education sector’, and they agreed,” said Carter. “And Marshalls agreed to develop this together in collaboration, in a non-financial way: we supplied our academic and higher education knowledge, and Marshalls supplied their digital and content-creation skills.”
The ’guiding light’ for the course’s content, says Carter, is the Health and Safety Management Standards, which sets out the areas of work design which, if not properly managed, are associated with poorer employee wellbeing and, therefore, lower productivity. They include drivers such as workload quantity, autonomy and control, relationships at work, and how organisational change is managed. Advice offered in the course focused on practical examples and interventions, with one of Exeter’s psychologists creating and recording role-play scenarios of tricky employee-manager interactions. “They were based on real cases, real human interactions,” says Carter. “I think, for many managers, that’s the sort of content that makes the training really real.”
Targeted at people managers, the course took around six months to develop, and went through several iterations before launch. It was crucial that the course was appropriate for all types of manager, adds Carter. “The interesting and wonderful thing about higher education is the diversity of the workforce – people in virtually every profession work in a large university, from technicians to finance to lawyers, academics, and hospitality staff, to name a few. Developing a product for a diverse range of people is quite a challenge, and not one that any old training provider could do it. That’s why Marshalls’ experience in working with the higher education sector was invaluable.”
Making a difference to hundreds of managers
Exeter is on a journey to get as many of its 1,500 people managers to complete the course as possible – one that Carter is realistic might take as long as two years. “It’s a commitment, to encourage them to complete the programme. But I believe it will make a positive difference.” The programme is still in its early stages, but results so far have been encouraging; 33% of the 731 colleagues enrolled to date (summer 2023) have fully completed the course.
“With any working relationship, there has to be an element of trust,” says Carter. “We put our trust in Marshalls and are delighted with the content that we worked together to create.”
Need bespoke e-Learning content? We can help
With more than 20 years’ experience in creating e-learning content, Marshalls is the perfect partner to help you create high-quality courses that move the dial on key initiatives and are in tune with what your people need to know. Contact us today to share your challenges and discover how we can help solve them.
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